| Volume 59 | Number 1
Making Standards Work
Welcome to EL Extra. We have designed questions to help you and your colleagues foster meaningful discussions around this issue of Educational Leadership.
These questions will not cover all aspects of this issue, but we hope that they will help you generate a conversation around key ideas. Feel free to adapt the questions to be more relevant to your school or school district. Although you can consider many of the questions on your own, we encourage you to use them in pairs, small groups, or even large study groups.
The Promise of Standards
In “Standards: Here Today, Here Tomorrow” (p. 7), Matthew Gandal and Jennifer Vranek assert that well-devised and carefully implemented standards can change the nature of teaching and learning.
Break into small groups to discuss one of the following topics from the article.
- Is your standards language clear and specific enough? Select some examples from the standards documents that your school or district uses.
- How might you clarify the language to make it more useful for teachers?
Measuring the Standards
- How well do your tests measure the breadth and depth of content and skills identified in your standards documents? Cite some examples.
- What can you do to bring the tests into closer alignment with the standards?
Tools Teachers Need
- To what extent does your current schedule of professional development for teachers include alignment of standards, instruction, and assessment? Devise a plan to provide standards-based professional development in specific content areas.
A Fighting Chance for Students
- How well does your curriculum align with state standards? How are you helping to ensure alignment in your school or district?
- What interventions do you provide for students who are not achieving the standards? What other help do students need?
Grading and Reporting Student Performance
How can educators ensure that students meet the challenging expectations defined in most standards documents? In “How and Why Standards Can Improve Student Achievement: A Conversation with Robert J. Marzano” (p. 14), Marzano argues that in spite of a number of challenges, standards hold the highest promise for improving student achievement. In “Helping Standards Make the Grade” (p. 20), Thomas R. Guskey outlines several ways that educators can develop standards-based grading and reports that are accurate, honest, and fair.
Discuss the implications of Marzano’s suggestion to cut the amount of content within the standards. What issues arise? Select one content area to use as an example and recommend what “essential” content should be addressed in that area. What are the implications of the paring process?
Then, discuss Guskey’s grading issues in the context of standards: What criteria determine a student=s interim and final grades? How are the criteria communicated to students and parents?
Divide into small groups by grade level or subject area. Discuss Guskey’s ideas about grading criteria, reporting tools, and reporting forms and suggest ways that you might improve your current practices. Start with the form that you currently use in your school or district and re-craft it to better communicate progress on standards.
Integrating the Curriculum
Susan M. Drake, in “Castles, Kings... and Standards” (p. 38), describes how she and a colleague created an integrated curriculum unit that engaged students and addressed many standards across several content areas.
In cross-departmental teams, select a theme or question for which you might develop an interdisciplinary unit. Use your standards documents and curriculum guidelines to identify the desired outcomes for students. Include assessment activities that demonstrate students’ learning.
Vicki Hancock is the Director of Strategic Development at ASCD.
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