local community, community priorities, state mandates and assessments, local and state educational system structures, and local history of educational practices and programs. It is important for the committee to become familiar with this context, particularly with local, state, and national standards. Other policy documents, such as goals, mission statements, course requirements, and curriculum guides, should be considered carefully in the initial part of the design process. In addition, the committee should not only study current practices, customs, and beliefs about education in the local schools but should compare these to the educational research literature on best practices in teaching, learning, and curriculum design.
As the starting point in the development of an improved curriculum program, a district needs goals and a set of standards to guide the work of the curriculum program design committee, particularly in the important areas of creating a framework and selecting the core instructional materials.
The previous section of the report, "Components of Coherent Mathematics and Science Education Curriculum Programs," lists criteria for goals and standards and indicates how national standards provide guidance for districts that are writing their own. In recent years, most states have adopted mathematics and science goals or standards (CCSSO, 1997). It is important for the design committee to base its work on state policy since that policy determines the extent to which state goals and standards must be used locally. Some states require local districts to follow the state standards, while others expect the standards to be used as guidelines only. In some cases, state content standards guide a state's assessment program. In these cases, districts — and their curriculum program design committees — will likely choose to focus on those standards so that their students will perform well on the state assessments.
Where local or state-level standards do not exist or where state standards are optional or do not meet the criteria for high-quality standards given in the previous section of this report, design committees may want to use national standards. Many districts and states have used the following national standards as the basis for their own standards:
The Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for Mathematics (NCTM, 1989);
The Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics (NCTM, 1991c);