“Are you measuring up?” might be the question asked of many people who engage in any activity that requires a knowledge base. Enter the world of the benchmark. Outside the school environment, here are some definitions of this term with which you might be familiar:
- The United States Environmental Protection Agency uses the term “benchmark” to describe the “measures of progress toward a goal, taken at intervals prior to the program’s completion or the anticipated attainment of the final goal.”
- The United Nation’s World Health Organization interprets a “benchmark” to mean some “reference point or standard against which performance or achievements can be assessed.”
- In the world marketplace, a “benchmark” is defined by portfolio managers to mean “a reference index that serves as a basis for performance comparison.” For example, a well-known company, Charles Schwab, uses this term to mean “a standard used for comparison,” such as “the performance of some index mutual funds is compared to the performance of the S&P 500® Index which serves as a benchmark.” For the uninitiated, the S&P 500® is considered to be the benchmark of the overall U.S. stock market. It is made up of 500 widely held, Blue Chip stocks representing industrial, transportation, utility, and financial companies with a heavy emphasis in industrials.
Educators view a benchmark in their own way as it relates to learning. In education, it is a detailed description of a specific level of student knowledge or performance expected of students at particular ages, grades, or development levels. Benchmarks often are used in conjunction with standards. Attempting to bring clarity to the term, the Buffalo City Schools (NYS) states that “benchmarks are also known as standards; standards define the knowledge, skills, and understandings students should demonstrate as a result of their instruction within the subject and grade level.”
Because Castle Learning Online is correlated to state standards, teachers using Castle Learning have a “friendly” way to apply benchmark testing with automatic grading and reports that can evaluate student understanding. Here’s how it works. In the Castle Learning Online course for Biology, the unit title “Unity and Diversity Amongst Living Things” will allow the educator to read the “Standards” that apply to all questions within that unit of study. For instance, educators in North Carolina can view a section called Unity of Life (The Cell, Instrumentation) and find the Standard listed as Competency Goal 2 (The learner will develop an understanding of the physical, chemical and cellular basis of life) and a related Objective 2.02 (Investigate and describe the structure and functions of cells). Continuing, the teacher will also see the Standard listed as Competency Goal 4 (The learner will develop an understanding of the unity and diversity of life) and a related Objective 4.02 (Analyze the processes by which organisms representative of the following groups accomplish essential life functions).
Castle Learning Online has been a leader in educational technology and has built its reputation around a mission “To combine 21st-century technology with proven educational principles, allowing teachers and administrators to empower every student to reach his or her full academic potential.”