What do kids learn in school?

by Carol Kocivar | September 4, 2023 | 1 Comment
featured image

Frameworks for learning

With a national debate raging over parent rights and what to teach in school, this is a good time to ask a basic question: What are children in California taught?

Wherever you live in California, all public schools are guided by a consistent set of content standards. Standards explain what students should know and be able to do in each subject in each grade.

  • Decisions about what should be taught are mostly made at the state level.
  • Decisions about how to teach it are mostly made at the local level, or even the classroom level.

Several of California’s basic standards align with those used by other states as part of the Common Core. The video below explains why it’s important for schools to have consistent expectations.

How are education content standards established?

In the Ed100 blog
California kids have no right to a quality education

The California State Board of Education (SBE) reviews and adopts educational content standards. It also adopts curriculum frameworks, which describe how the standards should be used by educators and by publishers who create textbooks and other learning materials. The SBE conducts this work with significant public input, supported by the Instructional Quality Commission (ICQ).

How many standards are there?

At the risk of overwhelming you, below is a list of all California content standards and curriculum frameworks. This is a very broad answer to the question, “What did you learn in school today?”

Word of advice: Skim. The table below illustrates the important role the state plays in determining what is taught in school.


Content Standards
(See all)

(See all)

Language Arts

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts (2013)

English Language Arts/English Language Development (ELA/ELD) Framework (2014)

Executive Summary


Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

Standards for Mathematical Practices (2013)

Math Frameworks (2023)

English learning

English Language Development (2012)

English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework (ELA/ELD Framework) (2014)

Career education

Career Technical Education (2013)

Career Technical Education Frameworks (2007)

Computer science

Computer Science Content Standards (2018)


Health Education Content Standards (2008)

Health Education Framework (2019)


Model School Library Standards (2010)

Media Literacy Resources


California Next Generation Science Standards (2016)

Revision of the Science Framework (2016)


Arts Standards (2019)

Arts Education Framework (2020)

World languages

World Language Standards (2019)

World Languages Framework (2020)

History, social science

History and Social Science Content Standards (1998)

History-Social Science Framework (2016)

Physical education

Physical Education Model Content Standards (2005)

Physical Education Framework (2008)

College and career

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards

Standards and frameworks influence curriculum

Educational standards and frameworks can change what is taught because they influence curriculum — and by extension the use of time in classrooms. All instructional materials must align with state content standards.

The frameworks provide guidance for publishers about the criteria the state uses to evaluate and adopt K–8 curriculum. Local school districts also use the frameworks as they select instructional materials for grades nine through twelve. Note: School boards are not required to select state-adopted materials, but any materials they use must align with state academic standards.

According to the California Department of Education, “Although curriculum frameworks cover K–12 educational programs, their effect can be seen in preschool programs, child-care centers, adult education programs, and higher education.”

Do you like digging through databases? Check out California’s list of state-adopted materials.

Are some instructional materials better than others?

The national debate about how to improve instruction in reading and math has revealed that, yes, some instructional materials are better than others. To help school districts make smart choices, EdReports reviews instructional materials and provides ratings. Many commonly used instructional materials fail to meet the rigorous review standards.

You might want to check to see how the curriculum used in your child’s classroom measures up. If it fails to get a good rating, it’s time to discuss this with your school principal and school board.

School boards, parents, and state standards

What should happen when parents or the school board want to ban books or eliminate instruction about controversial issues? The California Department of Education has provided guidance to school superintendents on the matter. (They clearly put their legal department on the case!)

At the top of the list, it is a state priority for school districts to use instructional materials that are aligned with the standards and frameworks listed above. School districts must ensure that these materials are available to all students.

Required Instruction and Instructional Materials

Students’ First Amendment rights

“...the U.S. Supreme Court stated that a student’s First Amendment right to access of information is violated when school officials remove books from a library “simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books and seek by their removal to ‘prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.’”

Students’ Right to be Free from Discrimination

“Actions that remove or prohibit particular materials, ideas or activities may have the effect of discriminating against certain students based on protected characteristics. A complaint of discrimination based on a protected characteristic may be filed with an LEA [usually the school district] and appealed to the California Department of Education.”

Sex Education

“There must be comprehensive sexual health instruction at least once in junior high or middle school and at least once in high school that must, among other things: teach pupils about gender, gender expression, gender identity, and explore the harm of negative gender stereotypes, and affirmatively recognize that people have different sexual orientations and, when discussing or providing examples of relationships and couples, must be inclusive of same-sex relationships.”

Teaching Diversity

“Instruction in social sciences must include the role and contributions of both men and women, members of various races/ethnic groups, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups, to the economic, political, and social development of California and the nation.”

Prohibited Instruction and Instructional Materials

Discrimination in instruction

“Instruction must not promote a discriminatory bias on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, or sexual orientation, or any other protected characteristic.”

Discrimination in instructional materials

“A local governing board must not adopt instructional materials that contain any matter reflecting adversely upon persons on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, or sexual orientation, or because of any other protected characteristic.”

Questions & Comments

To comment or reply, please sign in .

user avatar
Carol Kocivar September 7, 2023 at 7:03 pm
The California Department of education has issued guidance to school districts on identifying, reviewing, piloting, and adopting instructional materials https://www.cde.ca.gov/be/cc/cd/documents/guidanceimadoptions.docx
©2003-2024 Jeff Camp
Design by SimpleSend

Sharing is caring!

Password Reset

Change your mind? Sign In.

Search all lesson and blog content here.

Welcome Back!

Login with Email

We will send your Login Link to your email
address. Click on the link and you will be
logged into Ed100. No more passwords to

Share via Email

Get on Board!
Learn how California's School System works so you can make a difference.
Our free lessons are short, easy to read, and up to date. Each lesson you complete earns a ticket for your school. You could win $1,000 for your PTA.

Join Ed100

Already a member? Login

Or Create Account