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Frequently Asked Questions About AERO

What is Project AERO?

American Education Reaches Out (AERO), began as a project to adapt the U. S. national standards in Mathematics, Science, Language Arts and Social Studies to serve the needs of multi-national student bodies. Over the years, standards have also been developed in Music, Visual Arts and World Languages. In addition, three other components have been added: AERO:SAW, which provides a focus on standards-based assessment, AERO:SBC, which is a collection of week-long summer institutes on curriculum design, and OSAC-funded AERO mini-workshops, which are one to two-day introductions to the principles taught more deeply in the summer institutes.


History of AERO

AERO was conceived and overseen by the Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools (NESA) and conducted by the former Council for Basic Education (CBE), a non-profit group with extensive experience in developing standards at the local, state and national level. Funding for the project came from the Overseas Schools Advisory Council (OSAC) and the U.S. State Department’s Office of Overseas Schools. The AERO standards and benchmarks for mathematics and science were made public in Spring 2001; language arts standards were released a year later, and social studies standards were released in 2003. The later standards in Music, Visual Arts and World Languages were completed in January 2007. By developing these standards and benchmarks, Project AERO hoped to provide a framework for curriculum consistency in overseas schools with high teacher turnover and ensure that challenging curricula and meaningful assessments would become the norm for American students overseas.

Under the direction of CBE, representatives of twelve international schools lent their expertise to the project, working together as a team twice a year, and extensively at the school sites to discuss and refine the standards and benchmarks to ensure that they were appropriate for the international school community. The twelve schools were: American Community School, Amman; American Cooperative School, Tunis; American International School, Dhaka; American International School, Johannesburg; International School of Luxembourg; American International School, Riyadh; American International School, Tel Aviv; American School Foundation, Monterrey, Mexico; International School of Islamabad; International Schools Group, Dhahran; Nido de Aguilas International School, Santiago; and Singapore American School.

Since the completion of the first sets of standards and benchmarks, three other elements have been added to Project AERO. The first was AERO:SAW, developed out of CBE’s Schools Around the World Project. Twelve schools initially piloted AERO:SAW, using the AERO Standards as the basis for designing and evaluating assessments of student learning. Since then, numerous schools and individual teachers have participated in AERO:SAW training and have implemented the process in their home schools.

The second element added to Project AERO was AERO: SBC, or Standards-Based Curriculum. AERO:SBC has been delivered in week-long summer institutes in the Washington, D.C. area. The AERO faculty leads teachers and administrator participants from overseas schools through an intensive introduction to the principles of backward unit design, including the development of assessments, rubrics and instructional plans that are standards-based and student-centered. Participants gain greater knowledge of the subject-specific standards and benchmarks and become familiar with the backward design process of curriculum writing.

The third element added to Project AERO was the development of other support courses which are also offered during the annual summer institute. The first is Curriculum Mapping which addresses the needs of a school to review its existing curriculum and determine its correlation to the standards. This process helps schools systematically plan for curriculum improvement. The second course, Academic Leaders, is designed for those staff who serve a school in a curriculum capacity. The content addresses the issues related to institutional change and provides steps for action planning to achieve that change. A third course, Using MAP, Additional Data Sources and Instructional Strategies to Improve Learning has been added as well. (MAP is the Measures of Academic Progress developed by NWEA and used in many international schools.) This course provides instruction and support for interpreting data and applying the results of that analysis to classroom instruction to improve student learning.

How does a school obtain the AERO Standards?

The AERO Standards and Frameworks are available for any school interested in adopting or adapting them for use. They can be downloaded from the AERO Web site.


How can the AERO Standards be used in an IB School?

Schools with IB programs use the AERO Standards in various ways. Some expect students to meet the standards by the end of grade 10 and then use the IB as the basis for the curriculum for the last two years of high school. Another choice is to maintain the AERO Standards through grade 12 for students not enrolled in the full IB program.
In schools that follow the Primary Years Program and/or Middle Years Program, AERO provides a clear, measurable set of expectations for content knowledge and skills that integrate with the curriculum design criteria for PYP and MYP.


Who is using the AERO Standards?

Because the standards can be obtained from the Web site, it is impossible to determine how many schools are using the standards as a basis for the curriculum. However, so far over 1800 faculty from over 400 international schools have participated in AERO training. Ninety-eight schools around the world are implementing standards that are AERO-based.


What is the Common Core?

The Common Core project is an initiative in the United States that originated because each of the fifty states had its own set of academic standards. The result was that public education students at the same grade level in different states were expected to achieve at different levels. The States’ Chief School Officers and the State Governors initiated a project to develop common standards in Mathematics and English/Language Arts. Among the criteria for developing the new standards were:

  • Alignment with college and work experience

  • Content characterized by rigor and application of knowledge through higher order skills

  • Benchmarks based on international measures

Forty eight states signed on to support the development of the standards. The process brought together subject experts, practitioners, representatives from the subject professional organizations, and others. Drafts were shared with the states and feedback was encouraged. Final copies were then shared with the states. To date, 46 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have agreed to replace their original standards with the Common Core standards. Those states that have adopted the Common Core are now working on implementation strategies and assessment tools.


What is AEROs Relationship to the Common Core?

AEROs mission is to provide the best standards for schools abroad with American curriculums. To that end, we have carefully monitored the work of the Common Core initiative. Coincidentally, while the Common Core standards were being developed, we were conducting our own review of the original AERO Math and English standards. This enabled us to align our work with the national effort. Once we completed the revised AERO Mathematics Framework, we conducted a “crosswalk” with the Common Core standards’ document to be sure that the two documents complement and support each other. In a similar fashion, the work to complete the revised AERO English Framework has paralleled the development of the Common Core English/Language Arts standards. We are confident that the AERO Frameworks in Mathematics and English/Language Arts stand on their own merit and work concurrently with the Common Core documents.


Why Should a School Choose AERO over the Common Core Standards?

The answer to this question is simple and direct: AERO standards align with the Common Core. And, more importantly, AERO provides value-added support to overseas schools as they work to become fully standards-based. Benefits for schools working with AERO include:

  • The Mathematics and English/Language Arts Frameworks aligned with the Common Core documents.
  • The Mathematics and English/Language Arts Frameworks contain horizontal learning progressions which correspond to learning ladders and Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessments.

  • The Mathematics and English/Language Arts Frameworks also contain Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions.

  • The Science and Social Studies Frameworks containing standards as well as learning progressions.

  • The Social Studies Framework also contains Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions.

  • Links to relevant support resources, start-up materials and implementation plans.

  • An on-line community network of similar schools to promote communication and sharing.

  • Continuation of traditional AERO supports, such as site consultancies, regional conferences and the popular Summer Institute.

Do we have to use the AERO Standards if we participate in AERO training?

No, schools are not required to implement the standards to participate.


How do schools or individuals participate in AERO training?

AERO training is presented in various ways. First of all, our faculty present at the regional conferences held in various locations around the world. These training sessions are open to anyone attending the conferences. Secondly, AERO offers a Summer Institute each year in the Washington, D.C. area. Information and application materials are sent to schools in January of each year. Applications are forwarded to the AERO office by March for review. Selection is based on several criteria, including the school’s relationship with American Overseas Schools. Thirdly, AERO faculty members conduct some on-site training for school staffs. This training is done on a limited basis because most of our faculty are on school staffs themselves and unable to travel extensively.

© 2019 Office of Overseas Schools U.S. Department of State   David Chojnacki, Project Director: davidinathens@gmail.com