Focusing on key standards to accelerate learning

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While each standard is important and it should not be up to individual teachers which are taught and which are not, the truth is that each year some skills get overlooked or rushed past. It may not be ideal, but there are so many that, as education researcher Bob Marzano once noted, if we taught students to master every standard in each grade, we’d have students in class year-round and they wouldn’t graduate until they were in their twenties!

This year, teachers are finding themselves with even more ground to cover. In addition to the standards of the grades they’re currently in, many students, particularly those in middle school, need instruction in skills they would have mastered last year without the disruptions associated with the pandemic.

Simply put, many students still need to learn material from last year before they are ready to progress to this year’s standards. Here’s how my district, Schuyler Community Schools, is working to get students up to speed while still addressing the new content they need to learn this year.

Identifying the critical standards

Our district began prioritizing standards years ago. While we certainly don’t encourage teachers to skip any standards, we know that students simply do not have the time to attain deep mastery of each one. As we’re prioritizing a standard, we look at a range of factors, such as the leverage it provides for future learning, the breadth and depth of the standard, and whether it will be assessed.

The idea is not to ignore standards that have less depth or that students won’t be assessed on. The district always expects teachers to touch on each standard, but at the end of the year, our priority standards are the ones that students must understand and master to continue their learning progression.

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