Curriculum & Standards
How & why we use standards in our curriculum
Why standards-based learning?
Two of the guiding questions for educators of Eastern Carver County Schools are:
- What do we want our students to know and be able to do?
- How will we know when they know it?
Academic standards are the answer to these essential questions. Standards tell us what must be learned and they help us create the benchmarks to determine if a student has learned something or not.
Eastern Carver County Schools has Power Standards and learning targets in place for every subject area taught in our schools. Standards provide clarity to teachers and students (and parents/guardians). A standards-based education takes the mystery out of “what will I learn today?” Some examples of standards are: “explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text,” (language arts) or “multiply and divide fractions” (math) or “describe symbols, songs and traditions that identify our nation and state” (social studies). Power Standards are broken down into more specific and concrete parts called learning targets. Students have learning targets as part of their daily assignments. Success on the learning targets show the teacher that the student is learning a standard.
What are Power Standards & Learning Targets?
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
How teachers apply standards-based learning ...
There are four parts to standards-based learning, and they look a lot like what teachers have always done. Standards-based learning has more clarity around the learning goals and this leads to other expectations in the teaching and learning process. Let’s look closer at how teachers use standards:
- Curriculum: Standards are the learning goals that identify what students should learn and be able to do.
- Power Standards: Subset of academic standards that Eastern Carver County Schools has determined to be the highest priority for students to learn.
- Learning Targets: These are written in student-friendly language, such as “I can” statements that define what students will know, understand, and be able to do. They get progressively more advanced as students are able to learn in ways that are higher, deeper, complex, or applied to real-world experiences. These targets are used to measure success on each Power Standard.
- Instruction: Instructional activities, developed by teachers, that help all students achieve learning goals. Instruction is aligned with learning targets and Power Standards. Students work towards mastery of learning targets and standards.
- Assessments: Teachers (and sometimes students) choose the evidence that best reflects a student’s achievement of learning goals (i.e. the learning targets and standards). The term “assessment” has a broad meaning. It can mean a traditional test, but it could also be a portfolio review, a written or oral report or other activity that a teacher uses to assess learning. Teachers also analyze assessments, along with their instruction, to see which learning activities were most (or least) effective for their students.
- Formative Assessment: Learning activities that help the student and teacher determine the level at which a student is ready to learn. A pre-test is a common example. Formative assessments help guide future instruction or inform the teacher and learner of next steps.
- Summative Assessment: An assessment at the end of a learning process in which a student demonstrates his/her level of achievement on learning targets and Power Standards.
- Reporting: This is communication that explains student achievement of learning targets and standards. Reporting aligns with the assessments and tells the teacher, student and parents/guardians the level of performance and progress towards mastery.
When everyone in a classroom is clear on the goals for learning, assessment of learning becomes more direct.
We use the following abbreviations and descriptions to identify student progress with learning targets:
- Not Yet (NY): Student has not provided evidence to demonstrate knowledge or skill. This indicates a problem, perhaps incomplete or missing assignments.
- In Progress (IP): 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.
- Approaching Level (AL): Learning is making progress towards meeting the basic/foundational knowledge and skills of the learning target. This is not a passing grade.
- Basic Level (BL): Student has mastered the basic/foundational knowledge and skills of a learning target. This is a passing grade.
- Meets Level (ML): Student has mastered the complex knowledge and skills of a learning target. This is a passing grade.
- Extends Level (EL): Learner has demonstrated a level of understanding that is beyond the complex knowledge and skills of the Power Standard. This is a passing grade.
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.
Why are there two grading systems?
The A-F letter grade system is a tradition in K-12 and post-secondary schools, but it has some flaws, the biggest of which it is not a reliable indicator of authentic learning. For example, you may know someone who got an “A” or “B” in a class but remembers very little of what was taught. The grade, in this case, represents something other than learning, perhaps compliance with the teacher, or an ability to cram for a final test. As we develop and refine a system that communicates more about real learning, there will be two systems. Ultimately, once we have an effective system in place, the older, legacy software will be minimized or removed. Our district’s purpose is to ensure students learn. Letter grades, however, are a familiar shorthand for talking about student performance, which is why they will stay as part of our system.
More questions are answered in our standards FAQ.
Glossary of Terms
Open to see terms used in standards-based learning
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): This is a description of student progress on a learning target. The student is making progress towards meeting the basic/foundational knowledge and skills of the learning target. This is not a passing grade.
Basic Level (BL): This is a description of student progress on a learning target. Student has mastered 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): This is a description of student progress on a learning target. Learner has demonstrated a level of understanding that is beyond the complex knowledge and skills of the Power Standard. 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 classic formative assessment. It tell 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): This is a description of student progress on a learning target. The student has mastered the complex knowledge and skills of a learning target. This is a passing grade.
Not Yet (NY): This is a description of student progress on a learning target. It is used when a student has not provided evidence to demonstrate knowledge or skill. This grade indicates a problem, perhaps incomplete or missing assignments.
Power Standards: Subset of 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.