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How the Subject-Area Sections Are Structured

As described previously, standards may be procedural or declarative statements or may be statements that describe broader categories; they may be taken directly from draft documents or may have been constructed inductively or extrapolated from an analysis of the documents in the subject area. The benchmarks in this document, however, are all statements of declarative, procedural, and contextual knowledge taken from a wide range of national reports. In most cases, these benchmarks are organized under the standards at four levels:

  • Level I = K-2, or primary
  • Level II = 3-5, or upper elementary
  • Level III = 6-8, or middle school
  • Level IV = 9-12, or high school

However, in some areas, either because of the nature of the content or source materials, the levels are identified somewhat differently. Because of this, the level identifications are best understood as indicators of relative difficulty, rather than strictly equivalent to a range of grades. Attention should be paid to the parentheses following the levels to identify the grade range. For example, in the case of U.S. History, there are three levels identified:

  • Level II (Grades 5­6)
  • Level III (Grades 7­8)
  • Level IV (Grades 9­12)

Whereas in the standards for history at K­4, there are two levels:

  • Level I (Grades K­2)
  • Level II (Grades 3­4)

In this example it should be clear that Level II is a relative description, defining grades 3­4 for history in the early grades and grades 5­6 in the U.S. history standards.

The standards are organized and reported in the 13 categories described in the previous section. Each standard within a category is numbered consecutively (the numbering sequence has no significance and was done for ease of reference). The benchmarks are listed immediately under each standard and presented by level (I-IV). A set of codes, called a citation log, appears flush right and just above each benchmark and standard. A key for the log appears at the bottom of each page, so that readers are provided with the following information: the cognitive character of the benchmark (whether it describes declarative, procedural, or contextual knowledge); a page number citation for each instance in which the information was found in reference and supporting documents; the nature of that citation (whether the information was found explicitly stated or could be implied from other statements); and finally, in the case of duplicates, where very similar benchmarks can be found within the same subject area.

To illustrate:


5. Understands the concept of regions

Level I (Grades K-2)

BD (GE,115;EI,13;NI,35;TI,10;DI,4.1.2)

  • Knows areas that can be classified as regions according to physical criteria (e.g., landform regions, soil regions, vegetation regions, climate regions, water basins) and human criteria (e.g., political regions, population regions, economic regions, language regions)

"Understands the concept of regions" appears as the fifth standard in the geography section, and the benchmark shown is from Level I. Just above the benchmark, and flush right, is the abbreviation "BD," followed by the "citation log": (GE,115;EI,13;NI,35;TI,10;DI,4.1.2). A key like the following is provided for each subject area:

Codes (right side of page:) BD=Benchmark, Declarative; BP=Benchmark, Procedural; BC=Benchmark, Contextual
1st letter of each code in parentheses
G=GESP: National Geology Standards
E=JCGE: Guidelines for Geographic Education
IE, IG=Int'l Bacc.: Environmental Systems, Geography
N=NAEP: Item Specifications in Geography
T=GENIP: K-6 Geography: Themes, Key Ideas
D=Duplicated in another standards
2nd letter of code
E=Explicitly stated in document
I=Implied in document
Page number of cited document
or, for duplicates,
Standard number & level of duplicate

The key identifies "BD" as a benchmark that describes declarative knowledge. Within the parentheses that follow "BD," there a number of documents cited, separated by semicolons. The first code, GE,115, indicates that the information described in the benchmark can be found explicitly stated (E) in the National Geography Standards (G) on page 115; the second citation, EI,13, indicates that the same information, although not explicitly stated, is implied in (or, can be inferred from) material on page 13 of the Guidelines for Geographic Education. Similarly, the same information can be inferred from two additional documents, the NAEP item specifications and K-6 Geography (full citations for all reports are found in the bibliography). The last piece of information "DI,4.1.2" indicates that another benchmark contains very closely related information. In this case, that particular benchmark is under the standard number 4, at level 1, and is the second bulleted item.

Additionally, when the idea expressed at the standard level has been identified in supporting documents, that information is provided in parentheses, flush right, just above the standard statement. In the example above, the idea that students should have a general understanding of the concept of regions is found (GE,115) in the Geography Standards document on page 115.