The term secondary school refers to the levels of schooling that follow elementary school and conclude with high school graduation. Typically, these include middle schools or junior high schools, the most common configuration of which is grades six through eight, and high schools, the most common configuration of which is grades nine through twelve. The 1983 release of the National Commission on Excellence in Education document A Nation at Risk focused national attention on the need for school reform. This reform movement took clearer shape in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the introduction, by the first Bush administration, of America 2000, a list of goals for U.S. education to be achieved by 2000. America 2000 was later refined and renamed Goals 2000 by the Clinton administration. So began the standards movement, which evolved throughout the 1990s and was ultimately codified by President George W. Bush and the 107th Congress in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. This act sharpened the teeth of the standards movement with accountability measures in the form of "high-stakes" standardized tests that all students must take at various points in their education. It is against this backdrop of the standards, assessment, and accountability movements that secondary schools craft their reform efforts.
By the late 1990s nearly every state had developed standards for student achievement in most content areas. Greatest attention has been focused on "core" subjects, typically English/language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies, but "elective" courses - foreign languages, music, and visual arts, for instance - have standards as well that drive the curriculum and instruction in those subject areas. The quantity and quality of content standards vary widely from state to state, though many content-area professional organizations have developed their own national standards to provide a benchmark for rigor and appropriateness of content-area