Standards make it clear that their goals and standards are intended for all students. If the audience for a set of goals is not all students, this should be clearly stated. The absence of such a declaration creates uncertainty when subsequent decisions are made about standards, instructional materials, instructional grouping, assessment, budget allocations, and so on. Although the goals in the national standards are for all students, it should be recognized that different students will proceed at different rates and, therefore, will have some common and some individualized experiences. Any student willing to work hard and persistently should be able to have access to all aspects of the curriculum with no disadvantage due to race, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic class, gender, or other non-relevant feature.
Goals should communicate broad outcomes and values. Usually goals convey the essence of intended student behavior, ability, and knowledge. Generally, goals are not measured directly but are transformed into progressively more specific and measurable outcomes that can be used to develop assessments. Several levels of specificity can be derived from the goals. Typically, the next higher level of specificity consists of content standards, often followed by performance standards that describe the level of expectations called for in content standards. Yet another level of specificity would be objectives that are more specific and unique to student activities; these are usually found in instructional materials.
Goals should provide guidance. Although general in nature, goals should provide guidance for the decisions that shape the curriculum program. They should not be written in such broad terms or so ambiguously that they could be interpreted in almost any manner. For example, both the NCTM Standards and the NSES make the target of "all students" very clear. The mathematics standards call for students to become "mathematical problem solvers," an outcome that moves beyond the traditional goal of getting correct answers to arithmetic exercises. The NSES add personal decision making, engaging in public discourse, and economic productivity to the traditional ''understanding the natural world" outcome. If used as guidance, goals such as these can significantly affect the nature of curriculum programs.
Goals should describe student outcomes, not system outcomes. In this era of standards, emphasis on student learning, and use of student learning outcomes, goals should be written