Standards are statements which identify what students are expected to know and be able to do, the skills they are expected to attain, and the intellectual qualities and habits of mind they are expected to develop within a pathway or series of courses. With the standards in place, schools can create, implement, and strengthen a Career and Technical Education (CTE) curriculum to prepare students for entry into industry sectors and for postsecondary education. The North Dakota Department for Career and Technical Education is committed to developing standards to ensure that each program area offers courses that allow students to acquire essential knowledge and skills.

The standards process begins with a review of the most current national and industry standards. The state CTE program area supervisor(s), secondary teachers, postsecondary teachers, and industry representatives then work together to review these national standards. The national standards are then approved and/or modified as state standards, which ensure that the students have the knowledge and skills needed in business and industry upon completion of their courses.

Content Standards are listed at the top of the document and are the general statements of what students need to know and be able to do.

Topics are listed below the standards and further clarify a specific area of the standard.

Student competencies, listed below the topics, are the specific learning expectations for students.

Career Ready Practices, listed at the end of the document, are twelve common workplace skills. The Career Ready Practices are deemed equally important as the content standards, speak to those qualities which go beyond subject content, and that help students obtain and retain employment. The twelve practices are based on Common Career and Technical Core standards, which were derived from the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) Career Clusters/Pathways model.

Frameworks are documents created by extracting key topics or competencies from the main, larger standards document which apply to one specific class. This is to help define what that one class truly entails, helps narrow the focus for the teacher, and provides more specific information for the student of how each class within a particular pathway functions. They are also helpful in making the standards document more manageable and understandable.

Curriculum includes any materials used to convey the standards, give more detailed examples of the standards, and guide the teaching and assessment of the standards. This would include examples such as textbooks, tests, online activities, units of instruction, lesson plans, worksheets, projects, etc. The choice of which curriculum to use is, and has always been, at the discretion of each individual school district in the state of North Dakota. The North Dakota Department for Career and Technical Education can often provide assistance in choosing curriculum that meets the state adopted standards by providing numerous, quality options from which the requesting educator, administrator, or school district can choose.