• Sara Needleman

Building a Better Standards Bank

Happy high summer everyone! This is the time of year when some of us take on projects we don’t have time to tackle during the busy school year. We’d like to offer some suggestions to those of you whose summer projects include revamping or revisiting your standards bank. This list of “pain points” and corresponding suggestions come from our several years of experience in working with schools and districts as they create resources and tools to best describe the learning students do and to most easily allow them to report out on that learning. We hope some of you find this post helpful as you get ready for the 2016-2017 school year.

Choosing your Standards and Performance Indicators

Pain Point: You took a pre-existing standard set like common core and plugged it into your bank

National and State Standards have not been unpacked, analyzed, or synthesized to meet the model and needs of your district or school.

Suggestion: In order for your standards bank to be useful, your performance indicators need to be “assessable”. That means you have to unpack the standards. This earlier post might help.

Pain Point:Your bank is still in flux and standards are coming and going.

Suggestion: Since the bank should be “set” once the school year begins, ask teachers to be very intentional as they make recommendations for changes for the following year. Keep in mind that even if the standard or performance indicator is not perfect, having the alignment your bank offers is a huge step.

Pain Point: You have teachers creating their own standards with no guidelines or conventions

Consider the message you are trying to bring to your stakeholders.

Suggestion: In some ways, this is one of the great transformations we could see with a proficiency-based system. Imagine how much easier it would be for students and parents really to understand the learning being conveyed in a progress report if the message, and the language used to convey the message were consistent and clear from teacher to teacher, grade level to grade level.

Aiming for Consistency

Pain Point: Your rigor expectations and definition of proficiency are inconsistent.

The same or similar standards and performance indicators from different content areas and/or different grade levels may ask students in one case to “explain” and in another case to “analyze” or “evaluate” for example.

Suggestion: Use any one of the taxonomies of thinking you like to engage in discussions of rigor. (Marzano, Bloom, McTighe) This is a very important step in finding common ground around expectations.

Pain Point: Your verbiage is inconsistent.

For example, some content may be written in student friendly “I can…” language while other content is written in eduspeak.

In some cases, it seems there are no naming conventions or expectations for the standards and performance indicators.

Suggestion: Engage teachers in discussions to agree on naming conventions. Keep in mind that the language you use in your standards bank translates to your progress report, so keeping it user-friendly is a great idea!

Data Collection for the Sake of Reporting

Pain Point: Your depth 1 standards are too specific and data entry is overwhelming.

The targets/standards/indicators teachers are directly assessing are too specific (“I can identify the letter A...B...C...etc”). This can lead to an overwhelming amount of data entry.

Suggestion: It’s hugely important to collect enough data to accurately represent learning, but it’s just as important (arguably more so) to maximize teaching time. Remember the expression, “Don’t let the tail wag the dog?”

Pain Point: You didn't think about how you would report on proficiency when designing the bank

Considerations have not been made for what a progress report should look like. What do you want to communicate to students and parents and how do you want to communicate it?

Suggestion: This common mistake speaks to data collection, as mentioned above and also to broader considerations like the level of detail you want to reveal in a report, the hierarchy you’d like to use in displaying information and the language you use. This help doc is a great starting place.

Road Testing

Pain Point: Your directly assessed standards or performance indicators have never actually been assessed. You don’t have an assessment plan. Is the standard even an "assessable" statement?

The standards and performance indicators theoretically describe the skills and understandings students should be able to demonstrate, but you don’t have a clear path to how the indicator will be assessed. Descriptors for levels of understanding are not clear and/or the task that could assess this indicator is not in practice. Have you really ‘unpacked’ the standard/performance indicator?

Suggestion: This is the work of backwards design, curriculum and assessment mapping and development of assessment tools. A good starting place for these big picture planning pieces is Unpacking Standards, as mentioned above. Another good resource is Mapping Assessments.

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