The school year is winding down, but improvement plans are being worked on. We should be looking at this time all of the ways we can begin to lift learning, close gaps, and review standards. Setting standards, assessing progress towards standards, and are standards being met are common areas to focus. These are essential areas but are not the primary focus to lift learning.
Standards are the guide we utilize in helping to develop curricular goals. In 2012, a study conducted by Tom Loveless at the Brown Center at the Brookings Institute concluded: “no evidence that is raising academic standards lifted academic performance on a large scale.” A more recent report by the American Institutes for Research and Vanderbilt University mentioned in the article Common Standards Are Not Enough indicates standards are not enough. Further, in the article, several points are made to reference the confusion about using standards.
We know standards can influence learning outcomes and provide guidance in the direction of the development of the curriculum. Our challenge is to utilize standards in ways with the most significant impact. There are five ways we can leverage standards to make a positive difference in learning.
Five Ways to Leverage Standards
- Development of authentic and purposeful curriculum
- Standards are in Student-friendly language
- Formative and Summative Assessments
- Feedback for students as benchmarks
- Student tracking of learning (Plan, guide, goal setting)
It is no secret in my beliefs about education. “Education is something we do with children, not to them.”-Brenda Yoho. Students respond positively and will invest more effort when presented with a choice, learning tasks that are challenging and meaningful. When we set standards to guide curriculum development to be rich, relevant, engaging, and with a purpose to grow, our students will rise to higher levels.
One of the first tasks I asked our team to do when we received these new standards was to bring in a group of students from grade levels. I wanted a variety of students represented. Students needed to know what the standards meant-How to read the standards. So we helped to teach them how to break the standards down so they could understand how to read the standard and what it expected them to be able to do. Then when they understood, they could teach their peers.
Next, we needed to work on how to assess the standards. We moved to a standards based report card and used the same format of explaining how to read the standards to present the report card to others. It is essential to help others see how the standards progress and build on learning—alignment across standards and learning experiences and how this continues to provide a solid foundation.
Feedback is an essential piece to the standards as we work to continue to lift learning. Standards are the foundational blocks, but it is in the learning processes students gain the skills to enhance and connect learning. They will continue to move forward as they identify areas they have mastered, proficient skills, and those they need to work on to improve. Students do not all learn at the same pace. They do not all have the same strengths or weaknesses. Students taking charge of their learning build more than just a learner.
The best value I see is the value students give to themselves. We can coach, mentor, and facilitate learning, but when they take control, the learning process becomes more. The purpose of education is to help students grow, and when they follow these guidelines there is no stopping them in the growth they will have. When students understand the value and leverage of the standards, they will develop learning plans we would not have thought to provide. I believe in our children and never give up on any of them.
Be the solution daily by volunteering at a school, mentoring or coaching a child, or simply helping in any way you can so students can develop learning plans to drive their purpose for growth and success.