School of Thought

Insights & Ideas for Online Teaching

Setting the Standards

Writing standards is a daunting task.  While many organizations have already created and written standards, it may not be best to take pre-made standards at face value.  Standards have to be respectful and appropriate for your students.  They must be comprehensible and meaningful for students, colleagues, and parents alike.  Jargon and technical language must be minimized to ensure that all stakeholders understand what is expected of our students.  

Standards must communicate the key performance indicators for your students.  They must go beyond content knowledge and demand application, synthesis, or creation of material and new knowledge.  Standards must be fluid and updated or revised from year to year.  As we further our research about the most relevant knowledge, understandings, and skills our standards must follow suit and represent that research.

Standards must also have an open endedness to them.  When we create a ceiling for our students, they will only work to reach that point in their learning.  This is not what we want for the learners in our classrooms.  Students deserve every opportunity to maximize their growth.  Each must fulfill their own potential, not some artificial target.  Learning must be limitless; when we try to place too much control, our students cannot reach their ultimate potential for success.

Mastery of standards can be presented in a variety of ways.  In my classroom, I will give opportunities to demonstrate mastery in the form of summative assessments, but if a student has an idea of how to show me their learning, it is welcomed.  Student developed assessment is many times better and more effective than what I have developed.  And of course, the more evidence a teacher has of consistent mastery, the better.  

I have written the standards for my classes and rewritten them.  I know that next year my ideas will improve, and my standards will be revised again.  This is yet another way to model learning for our students and remember that it is a lifelong process.  My students need to be able to take the standards that I write and own them.  The learning objectives must be not only understood by my students, but taken and personalized by them to achieve individual mastery.  As educators, we set the stage for learning, and then must let our students take the lead.

Read Garnet Hillman's full series From the Trenches:

  1. A Teacher's Journey of Positive Deviance
  2. Culture Shock Ahead for Standards Based Education
  3. Separating Student Behavior in Standards Based Learning

Garnet Hilman began her teaching career in 1999 in Athens, OH, and has spent the last 14 years as a Spanish teacher at Lockport Township High School. in Lockport, IL.  She is a passionate educator who values learning above all else.  She has extensively researched standards based learning, assessment, and grading in order to maximize student growth and improvement.  Hilman works with teachers to improve instructional practice and grading policies.  

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