Time Machine Tuesday: Education Standards, Yesterday and Today

The Colorado Department of Education issues academic standards, or descriptions of what should be taught in Colorado schools in each grade level.  These standards are a key component in curriculum development and student assessment.  They are nothing new, however.  A century ago, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (the old name for the department) issued their Course of Study books that outlined — sometimes in great detail — what should be taught in each subject at each grade level.

In our library you can trace the evolution of public school curriculum in Colorado through the Course of Study and, later, Academic Standards publications issued by the state education department.  While reading, writing, and math have always been important, it is fascinating to see how other subjects are emphasized at different points in time.  For instance, the 1912 Course of Study includes subjects such as agriculture, cooking, hygiene, industrial arts, nature study, sewing, and even “humane education” and “good roads” (“…the school boy and girl should be impressed with the importance of good roads, and be given an understanding of the elementary principles of road administration and construction.”).

You can view many of these publications online:

For background information see Colorado Academic Standards:  History and Development, which examines the standards since the passage of the standards-based education law in 1993.

Excerpt from the 1893 Course of Study