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Informing Grades 1-6 Mathematics Standards Development: What Can Be Learned From High-Performing Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore?

Abstract

"The United States is embarking on a historic policy reversal as it moves toward developing common education standards in reading and mathematics. Supporting this movement is the U.S. Department of Education's $4.3 billion Race-to-the-Top (RttT) competition under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the Common Core State Standards Initiative sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. To inform these efforts, this report examines one approach to internationally benchmarking mathematics standards for grades 1-6 against the composite standards of three high-mathematics-performing Asian countries: Hong Kong, Korea, and Singapore. The U.S. common standards movement offers a unique opportunity to address a well-documented weakness found in many State mathematics standards: many topics are taught in a single grade and many topics are repeated over several grades. This topic spread has led to the well-known characterization of U.S. elementary mathematics curriculum expectations as "a mile wide and an inch deep" (Schmidt, Houang, & Cogan, 2002). The move to common internationally benchmarked standards offers an opportunity to model U.S. standards off of those of high-performing countries such as Singapore, which offer a more coherent and focused set of expectations. The composite Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore standards developed in this report present one effort to internationally benchmark grades 1-6 mathematics standards against high-performing nations."

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