University of Florida

Recognition for Excellence Handbook - Standards of Excellence


Standards logoStandards of Excellence Overview

We encounter standards at all ages and stages of life. Most have been developed by experts.  Sometimes the individual responsible for achieving or living up to the standards is involved in developing them.  Some standards have developed over time and are generally understood and accepted, though not written down.

Many “rites of passage” can be called standards. These include religious and civil ceremonies that indicate a stage of life has been reached. Examples include marriage; bar mitzvah, confirmation or catechism; voting eligibility; and registering for military service. Other rites of passage include buying a house, moving out of parent’s home, and retirement.

Societal requirements that indicate a level of ability of skill can be called standards. They include a driver’s license, Red Cross life saving certificate, CPR certificate, etc. Some standards define a level of education or qualifications to perform a specific job. These include a high school diploma; post high school degree; or licensing for nursing, engineering, social work, or teaching certificates. The levels of achievement in the horse project are 4-H examples.

Expectations about personal behavior often are less obvious standards. Examples include ground rules for a youth group or family rules. In some situations, adults set standards for young people.  In others, youth and adults together establish standards. In some situations, standards are determined by the individual or group of people who are working toward the standards.  Examples are social clubs, behavior expectations for a field trip, or grade contracts for academic work. It is important to remember that standards for behavior set by adults may be very difficult for youth to understand, and these standards often fail to take into account personal standards set by the young person. 

Standards relate to a socially accepted product or positive behavior. However, standards can encourage deviant behavior. Examples of deviant behavior are when rules are used by groups to promote racial hatred, gang violence, or hazing.

Standards may be used to include or exclude people. This occurs in both the workplace and in private life. Standards for hiring or promotion can be established so personal characteristics aren’t used inappropriately in the workplace. In the private sector, standards can be used to prevent people from buying real estate in a certain neighborhood or joining a country club, sorority, fraternity, or fraternal organization. Standards can be used so inequities do not occur.

In 4-H educational programs, standards are used in two ways. First, standards are established by subject matter and youth development specialists to provide a base for young people to use as they plan and work toward their goals. Examples are exhibit criteria, scorecards, and judging sheets, etc. Second, professional staff and/or volunteers and young people work together to establish standards. Examples are behavior desired at 4-H camp, expectations of 4-H’ers involved in meetings, and appropriate dress for 4-H events.

Teaching young people skills needed to meet or achieve standards has a lifelong benefit. 4-H has excelled in recognizing 4-H’ers who have achieved standards of excellence, but we need to continue to improve the way we use this type of recognition.

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