Unpack Those Standards

I have the opportunity to work with terrific educators almost daily.  And they ask me a lot of questions, one being, “Why doesn’t the state unpack the standards for us?”  I have to say, “I don’t know.”  Because the state could unpack the standards, especially if state staff really want to help teachers get to tighter alignment.  Most states leave this undaunting task to district staff and teachers to figure out – so I’m including ideas for unpacking standards on my site. 

I want you to know a few of my current beliefs related to standards – and the unpacking of them. 

  1. Most states ask teachers to cover way too much content.  I’m not saying that we should limit the content students learn; I’m saying we should limit the content that STATES want students to learn – and give more flexibility to the professionals at the local levels.
  2. Since not everything we learn is equally important, states should figure out what is most important – so when they cut the number of standards, they can keep the most important ones.
  3. Some states make it exceptionally hard for students to perform well on the curriculum – as measured by the state tests.   Would you teach a grade-level curriculum, give the students the summer off, and then six weeks into the school year give students a criterion-referenced test on last year’s curriculum?  Michigan does that and it doesn’t make sense.  Stop doing that!
  4. Since the state determines the curriculum and the assessment that determines learning toward that assessment, then the state has a moral obligation to ensure our teachers know what in heck it is that students are supposed to learn.  It is not fair for teachers to work from standards that are not clear – and it is not fair for districts to have to use their own financial resources and teacher talent to try to figure it out.  It’s okay for the state folks to tell us exactly what they want our students to learn.
  5. States should be very sure that the materials and resources they recommend tightly align to the standards that students are expected to learn.  Oh, and this is much easier to do if the standards are unpacked.

Are there other things?  You bet there are – and I’ll be sure to post them as well.  Until then, click here for additional examples and ideas for unpacking standards.

Deb Wahlstrom Unpacking Standards

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