Curriculum and Standards Documents in Virginia


Any curriculum is to adhere to appropriate standards published by authorities in the spheres. Sometimes, curricula are based on several standard documents published by national, state, or county agencies. The synthesis of two or more guidelines to academic program elaboration may improve educational outcomes if done efficiently. The effectiveness of such endeavor dependence on the adequacy evaluation of existing standards and appropriate choice of criteria for curriculum selection (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2017). Additionally, it is vital to consider the community, for which a curriculum is created. The present paper offers an overview and critical analysis of two sets of standards provided by the Virginia Department of Education (VDoE) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) for English classes in the 3-5 grades cluster. Two measures are evaluated and synthesized to create an optimal educational program for this cluster of students in Jacox Elementary School.

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Overview of Standards

National Council of Teachers of English

Standards for the English Language Arts published by NCTE (1996) are a result of an extensive collaboration of thousands of stakeholders in the US. The document discusses the importance of having standards for learning and provides a conceptual framework for evaluating the curriculum. It includes a description of what all K-12 students should know and be able to do with the English language. NCTE (1996) elaborates twelve educational standards that promote equity and excellence for all learners through equal access to resources, adequate teacher staffing, and safe and well-equipped schools. In short, the document offers a broad overview of standards for curriculum selection in public schools in the US.

Virginia Department of Education

VDoE provides a set of documents giving specific suggestions concerning curriculum selection and elaboration in Virginia public schools. These publications include a holistic overview of all skills and knowledge that is to be acquired in the course of the third, fourth, and fifth grades (VDoE, 2017). The curriculum is based on developing skills of oral communication, reading, writing, and research. While overviewing the core principles of the curriculum, it also provides specific week-to-week pacing for teachers to follow in order to ensure the best educational outcomes. In short, VDoE (2017) provides a sequential curriculum for all the grades, including the cluster of interest.

Community Description

The efficiency of educational programs may differ depending on the community. It is evident that schools with higher academic performance require a more advanced curriculum than schools with lower academic achievements. Therefore, it is vital to have in-depth knowledge of the people, for whom the curriculum is meant. The present paper aims at describing the best curriculum suitable for an elementary school in a poverty-stricken area in Virginia. The curriculum needs to be modified to meet the needs of the community.

Jacox Elementary is a school in Norfolk, VA that serves 718 students in grades kindergarten through five (“Jacox elementary school,” n.d.). The school serves exclusively African Americans and no whites, Asians, or Hispanic are enrolled (VDoE, n.d.). The percentage of students achieving proficiency in language arts is 48%, while the division is 66% and the state passing rate is 78% (“Jacox elementary school,” n.d.). In 2018, there were 172 disruptive or disorderly offenses committed by students, and 20.28% of students were chronically absent (VDoE, n.d.). The behavior may be due to witnessing crimes on a daily basis (“Jacox elementary school,” n.d.). The majority of students qualify for free lunch, and school activities are limited to basketball and “girls on the run” (running to release stress) since all funding comes from the state (“Jacox elementary school,” n.d.). The building was opened in 1949 and currently requires constant repairs. In short, the school operates in a problem neighborhood; therefore, the standard curriculum proposed by VDoE needs to be altered to reflect the characteristics of the area.


Similarities and Differences

The standards discussed in the documents have several similarities that need to be appreciated. First, both standards promote equity of education for all students regardless of their race, social status, or well-being. The documents emphasize the importance of all students achieving proficiency in the English language disregarding their economic, cultural, or linguistic background. Second, the materials are to be considered as recommendations and guidelines that teachers should use while creating an academic program. The standards are not dogmatic and may be modified if it is required to ensure the best learning outcomes. Third, both VDoE (2017) and NCTE (1996) focus on four essential competencies, including reading, writing, research, and oral communication. However, despite the abundance of similarities, the two documents are structured differently since they have contrasting purposes.

NCTE (1996) aims at providing a theoretical framework and key principles, on which every curriculum should be based, while VDoE (2017) offers detailed information about how English classes are to be planned weekly. The concept provided by VDoE (2017) is grade-specific, while NCTE (1996) proposes standards applicable to all grades regardless of proficiency level. At the same time, VDoE (2017) frequently updates its recommendations, while the document elaborated by NCTE (1996) has not been revised since its elaboration. These differences can help us appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of the two papers.

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Strengths and Weaknesses

The primary advantage of the Standards for the English Language Arts by NCTE (1996) is that it is universal for all grades. Therefore, teachers do not need to be acquainted with numerous publications to know and understand standards for English classes. The document is applicable to any situation and can be used for all grades, schools, and communities. Additionally, the document recommends an extensive annotated list of literature for further research, including standards for learning English in various areas around the globe and resources for teachers. However, the document needs to be revised, since some of the information may be updated. For instance, there are many more relevant resources available for educators that are coherent with modern reality. Moreover, the universality of the document may be considered to be a disadvantage since there is an increased danger of misinterpreting key concepts. In short, the distinguishing characteristics of the publication by NCTE (1996) may be considered both advantages and flaws.

The standards proposed by VDoE (2017) are very specific, which can be seen as a strength and a weakness at the same time. On the one hand, the guideline provides much detail, which may help the teachers to elaborate a well-rounded curriculum for average schools. On the other hand, these standards can be inapplicable for schools with increased or decreased academic progressed. For instance, the standard needs to be heavily modified to suit Jacox Elementary, since the area is economically disadvantaged with increased risk to students’ life and safety. However, the documents can be synthesized to meet the needs of the community of interest.

Synthesis for the Community

From the discussion presented above, it becomes evident that the standards need to be combined and modified to produce an “ideal” curriculum. Even though it may seem contradictory, the best curriculum should be universal and specific at the same time (Bilbao, Lucido, Iringan, & Javier, 2008). While elaborating an academic program, teachers should consider seven criteria for curriculum selections, including self-sufficiency, significance, validity, interest, utility, learnability, and feasibility (Bilbao et al., 2008). Therefore, the curriculum should include instructions and suggestions about weekly lesson plans, and, at the same time, principles concerning how the curriculum should be modified to meet the need of a specific community. Similar to the document, elaborated by NCTE (1996), an ideal curriculum should include explicit examples of activities together with a list of additional resources for teachers. In brief, the perfect curriculum should embrace all the advantages and exclude all the weaknesses of the two documents.

It is also worth mentioning that the introduction of a biblical worldview would be advantageous for Jacox elementary school. Christian education benefits students by offering them a broader and healthier perspective on the world than their peers. It may help by giving hope of salvation and bring meaning to the life of students, who face violence every day. Religious principles will help the children to understand that everyone should study “so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17, The New King James Version). In brief, an ideal curriculum should be based on Christian tradition to ensure the best educational and psychological outcomes.


There no ideal standards that suit all the educational facilities around the globe. Therefore, the quality of education depends on the teacher’s ability to analyze and combine various standards. Jacox Elementary is an explicit example of schools that need a customized approach to curriculum elaboration. Apart from the principles mentioned by the standard documents analyzed in the present paper, the community may benefit from the introduction of biblical worldview into the academic program.


Bilbao, P. P., Lucido, P. I., Iringan, T. C., & Javier, R. B. (2008). Curriculum development. Quezon City, Philippines: Lorimar Publishing, Inc.

Jacox elementary school. (n.d.). Web.

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National Council of Teachers of English. (1996). Standards for the English language arts. Web.

Ornstein, A.C., & Hunkins, F.P. (2017). Curriculum: Foundations, principles, and issues (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Virginia Department of Education. (2017). Norfolk public schools English curriculum 2019-2020. Richmond, VA: Virginia Department of Education.

Virginia Department of Education. (n.d.). Jacox elementary. Web.

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