Get R.E.A.L With Learning Standards and Set Standard-Based Goals

State learning standards are a set of expectations for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. However, not all standards are created equal, and teachers must understand that some take priority over others. By recognizing this distinction and setting achievable goals based on state learning standards, educators can optimize their instructional strategies and ensure that students receive a well-rounded education.

State learning standards encompass a wide range of skills, knowledge, and competencies across various subject areas. To effectively navigate this hierarchy that is the state learning standards, teachers need to do two things: first, understand what your students already know and second study the state standards and thoroughly understand them. By doing these two things, educators can identify overarching standards that are critical for building a strong foundation in a specific content area and focus on subjects that are new to students. 

Standards that build on previous concepts cannot be done unless students have mastered the prerequisite. Focus on mastering these prerequisites and slowly integrating new material into you lessons. Standards that set a foundation for learning a subject should be prioritized. Alongside these types of standards, standards that are going to be used in subsequent grades, state tests, or in a career field you know your students are interested in should also be prioritized. 

Another helpful tool is the R.E.A.L. model created by Michael Fisher and Elizabeth Fisher for determining standards that you should focus on in your classroom. 

R: Readiness. If a learning moment is dependent on a previous learning moment, then it is imperative that students be prepared for that. Each step must prepare students for the next so that we don’t drag them into learning they aren’t yet ready for. Focus on readiness before you move on to the next standard, to make sure you’re giving your students the best possible chance at advancement.

E: Endurance. Any concept or idea students learn that will serve them from now on is considered a lifelong skill, like understanding text structures or automatically knowing multiplication tables. Without enduring, lifelong skills only found in some state learning standards, students will struggle to move to the next step of learning, which will lead to ever-increasing gaps in proficiency as students get older. The standards that focus on these enduring, lifelong skills should be prioritized. 

A: Assessment. Making sure students are ready for assessment at any time means teaching the standards in a logical way that builds upon previous knowledge and gives you a guideline for curriculum. Consider giving students benchmark assessments to check for understanding. Don't grade these assignments, and, instead, use them to reshape what you are focusing on during your lessons. 

L: Leverage. Another angle for determining standards priorities has to do with leverage and which standards will have a high degree of overlap in other classes/content areas. For instance, if students are learning about ratios in math, what are the chances that they will also be learning about them in health, physical education, the sciences, or career and tech-ed classes? Students learn better if all their teachers work together on overlapping ideas like this, and cooperate in their teaching methods.

Portions of this section were excepted from Hacking Instructional Design

When you have identified the standards that you need to focus on, set goals with your students. Setting goals based on state learning standards is a crucial step in planning effective instruction. To establish achievable goals, teachers should follow a systematic approach:

1. Analyze the Standards: Thoroughly examine the learning standards and break them down into manageable chunks. Identify the specific knowledge, skills, and behaviors students need to master. Use these broken down chunks to set specific goals based on the standard. 

2. Consider Student Needs: Take into account the diverse needs and abilities of your students. Differentiate your goals to cater to individual learners, providing additional support for struggling students and offering enrichment for those who are ready for more challenging tasks.

3. Align with Instructional Time: Evaluate the instructional time available and set realistic goals. Ensure that you allocate sufficient time for students to practice, apply, and deepen their understanding of the standards.

4. Seek Collaboration and Professional Development: Engage in collaborative discussions with fellow educators and participate in professional development opportunities. Sharing ideas and experiences can provide valuable insights into effective goal-setting practices. 

Understanding state learning standards is crucial for teachers in designing meaningful instruction. By recognizing the hierarchy of learning standards, prioritizing essential ones, and setting achievable goals, educators can maximize instructional time, address the diverse needs of their students, and ensure that all learners have the opportunity to meet the required expectations. Through thoughtful goal-setting, teachers can empower their students to develop the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed academically and beyond.

Main post image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

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