Standards & Grading

How & why we use standards in our curriculum

Frequently Asked Questions

What are standards?

Academic standards tell teachers and students what must be learned. In Eastern Carver County Schools, all schools share the same standards and learning targets for each grade level and course.

Standards are the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn. Standards have always been part of education whether they were called goals, outcomes or competencies. Using standards eliminates the question “what are we going to learn today?”  What may look different is the consistency of standards across the district, and the transparency for students to see and know what must be learned before they start learning.

What they are, and are not

Power Standards are:

  • The most essential and critical things for your students to learn and be able to do
  • Written using learner- and parent-friendly language, but not “I can…” statements
  • What a teacher guarantees that their learners should know before students leave the class
  • Crucial for further success
  • Selected by collaborative teams of teachers

Power Standards are not:

  • Everything that is tested on the state test
  • All of the state standards
  • The whole curriculum
  • A teacher’s favorite unit or lesson
  • Created by an individual teacher
  • Copied from another district

Learning Targets are: 

  • Written in student friendly language (“I can…”)
  • Positive statements of what learners can do
  • Descriptions of levels of learning, not performance on specific tasks
  • Used to measure success on each power standard
  • Scaffolding for students as they progress towards deeper meaning, understanding, and demonstration of the power standards

Learning Targets are not:

  • Daily objective or lesson plans
  • Every single thing a teachers is going to teach
  • A “know it” or “don’t know it” concept

Why do we use standards?

Two of the guiding questions for educators of Eastern Carver County Schools are:

  1. What do we want our students to know and be able to do?
  2. How will we know when they know it?

Academic standards are the answer to these essential questions. Standards identify what must be learned. Standards tell students what they need to do to reach the next level in their learning and understand their areas of improvement. Eastern Carver County Schools’ Power Standards ensure high expectations for all students. From standards, we get the benchmarks to assess whether a student has learned something or not.

Standards allow for better communication between teachers and students about what must be learned. The classroom conversation shifts from “how do I get an ‘A’?” to something like, “what’s the best way to show that I really understand the causes of World War II?” This puts the focus squarely on learning.

Personalized learning & improved grading practices

This image explains differences in grading between traditional learning and personalized learning

This image shows the process for calculating a course grade.


This image shows Eastern Carver County Schools' chart for learning target scores.

Questions about Grading?

Are letter grades going away?

No. Eastern Carver County Schools assigns letter grades in secondary courses. About 18 percent of high school courses currently use an online tool called Empower. In those classes, a letter grade may not be assigned until the end of the course. This is because Empower is used to track how well a student has learned the academic standards for a course. How well students understand the skills and knowledge of a standard is converted into a letter grade.

More questions are answered in our standards FAQ.

Glossary of Terms

Open to see explanations of our academic terms & phrases

Standards: Standards tell us what we want students to know and be able to do. They are the foundation of an education and the basis of our curriculum. Eastern Carver County Schools created its standards from state Academic Standards and ones developed by professional organizations of teachers and content experts. Standards are not new in education. They have been known, variously, as objectives, goals, outcomes, expectations and competencies.

Activities: See evidence.

Assessment: How a teacher determines if a student has met a learning target. It could be a test, but it could also be a review of a report, a portfolio of work, a class project and more. Teachers assess learning based on the evidence.

Assignments: See evidence.

Approaching Level (AL): The learner is making progress towards meeting the basic/foundational knowledge and skills of a learning target. This is not a passing grade.

Basic Level (BL): Student has demonstrated the basic/foundational knowledge and skills of a learning target. This is a passing grade.

Content: The things we teach students to know: Dates, names, facts, functions, historical figures, etc. are all part of content. Goes hand-in-hand with skills.

Extends Level (EL): Learner has demonstrated extensive and/or complex knowledge and skills of a learning target. This is a passing grade.

Evidence: Student work that shows a student has learned content and skills in a standard.

Formative assessment: Something teachers to do in order to “form” learning for their students. A pre-test at the start of a lesson is a common formative assessment. However, formative assessments can occur any time in the learning process. It tells the teacher how much a student knows and what the student is ready to learn.

In Progress (IP):  This is a description of student progress on a learning target or Power Standard. In this case, learning has not been assessed yet. You will see this in Empower for an overall course grade along with the in-progress grade of 2.0 to 4.0. The grade will be finalized at the conclusion of the course, or once the student has sufficiently demonstrated all of the required knowledge and skills.

Learning Target: Tells a student how to learn the content and skills in an academic standard. A good learning target uses “I can” language and includes an explanation of how a student can master the learning target at different levels (meets level, extends level, etc.) Students complete assignments, papers, projects, tests, etc. to demonstrate they have met a learning target.

Meets Level (ML): The student has mastered the basic knowledge and skills of a learning target. This is a passing grade.

Not Yet (NY): This score is used when a student has not provided evidence to demonstrate knowledge or skill on a learning target. This grade indicates a problem, perhaps incomplete or missing assignments.

Power Standards: Academic standards that Eastern Carver County Schools has determined are the highest priority and most important for students to learn.

Skills: The things we teach students to be able to do: Organize, plan, think critically, research, collaborate, present, etc. Goes hand-in-hand with content.

Summative assessment: This is what a teacher does to see if students have learned what was taught. It could be test, but also a final project, paper, etc.

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