Curriculum Quality Standards for School-to-Work: A Guidebook

Publication February 1997

While other fields at the secondary level have rapidly embraced national curriculum standards and goals, school-to-work programs continue to vary widely in content, scope, and methodology across the nation. At present, the notion of establishing “national standards” in this content area has focused largely on developing industry skill standards.

Yet, in today’s changing world of work, critical evaluation of curriculum is a helpful step toward realizing national goals for education (such as those outlined in Goals 2000) and in fulfilling the vision of new and emerging vocationalism (e.g., Tech Prep, youth apprenticeship, and career academies). Standards for curriculum and instructional products, encompassing appropriate student outcomes and highly effective instruction, would establish important benchmarks for products used by schools and postsecondary institutions in implementing school-to-work initiatives.


The National Consortium for Product Quality (NCPQ) is a project funded by the National Center for Research in Vocational Education and directed by the Center on Education and Work, University of Wisconsin-Madison. The NCPQ has been established to accomplish a twofold mission: (1) to develop, research, and implement school-to-work instructional material standards and (2) to develop a national review process by which voluntarily submitted materials can be reviewed, evaluated, and nationally disseminated.

Using information from curriculum practitioners nationwide, the NCPQ Curriculum Quality Standards for School to Work guidebook before you is designed to assist practitioners in examining curriculum products, adapting materials, or creating original curriculum. Through research and technical assistance, the NCPQ strives to improve curriculum design and practice. By discussing the focus areas of the Standards, and by documenting good examples that are currently in practice, we hope to provide a richer foundation for your efforts to integrate curriculum design, content, and use. Successful implementation, and subsequent meaningfulness to the learner, are essential components in the process of curriculum development and evaluation. Bearing this fact in mind, we intend this guidebook to present a connected or integrated approach regarding curriculum development and curriculum evaluation.

NCPQ Services

The NCPQ provides research-based evaluation and technical assistance for local, state, and national developers of curriculum and instructional materials. Its members assist in curriculum networking, identifying curriculum search sources, and reviewing submitted curriculum or printed instructional material. The NCPQ Standards and Indicators provide developers with an essential tool for evaluating both new and existing materials for content, instructional strategies, assessment, and equity and diversity considerations. When curriculum developers submit materials to the NCPQ for formal review, they are assured of a high-quality third-party review and evaluation of materials. The submitted materials may also have the opportunity to progress to a national review, receive awards, and gain valuable exposure via inservice, curriculum networks and organizations, and NCPQ Product Profiles and newsletters.

The NCPQ was formed to serve the education field by advancing curriculum design and practice through meaningful research and technical assistance. National use of the NCPQ Standards, and the opportunity to apply these standards to a host of instructional materials, will help create a positive interface of curriculum design, content, and program use. In the end, that successful interface is critically important to the ultimate beneficiaries of our work: our students.

Dougherty, B., & Ellibee, M. (1997, February). Curriculum quality standards for School-to-Work: A guidebook. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research in Vocational Education.

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