• Jesse Olsen

Rules of Thumb: Common Core Standards

Rules of Thumb is a series in which we share best practices for JumpRope and standards-based grading in general. Jesse taught for five years and has helped dozens of schools and thousands of teachers implement standards-based grading, but knows very well that these aren't one-size-fits-all. Take a look, and let us know in the comments if you agree or have other related suggestions!

Over the last five years as JumpRope has grown, I've had the opportunity to speak personally with hundreds of educators about how they use JumpRope and other systems to organize their curriculum and give feedback to students. As you might imagine, there are a wide variety of philosophies and strategies that schools and teachers bring. Despite the rich variety, there are some best practices that have emerged as good guidelines and common elements of successful implementations of standards-based grading. In this series, I'll share these with you in short tidbits along with some reasoning behind them. I'd love any feedback or other ideas that you may have, and certainly don't believe each tip to be perfect or complete!

Rule of Thumb 1: Use student-friendly language with your standards.

Let's address the elephant in the room: the language used in the Common Core Standards is not exactly "student-friendly," and neither are most state standards. Students, parents, and teachers need to have a clear idea of what they’re supposed to be teaching and learning.

Because of this, we suggest rewording the Common Core or other standards that you use within JumpRope. Your standards will remain aligned to the Common Core but the language outlining each standard will be much easier for your students to comprehend.

Here are a few examples of some standards, rewritten in a "student-friendly" language:

1.CCSS ELA RL 6.2 "Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments."

Teacher: I can identify the theme of a text when I read and I can accurately summarize what I read.

2. CCSS ELA W 7.5 "With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1–3 up to and including grade 7 on page 52.)"

Teacher: I can identify the theme of a text when I read and I can accurately summarize what I read.

3. CCSS M 1.OA "Solve word problems that call for addition of three whole numbers whose sum is less than or equal to 20, e.g., by using objects, drawings, and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem."

Teacher: I can solve word problems that involve adding three numbers.

Note: These may not be perfect, and there are plenty of good resources to help you write clear and concise standards. The use of “I can...” as a prefix to the standards is something that I picked up in my teaching career, but is certainly not required. The idea is to phrase the standard in such a way that the student can say it with confidence once they’ve mastered the standard.

Rule of Thumb 2: Five to eight standards per unit.

Setting an optimal number of standards per unit is key to sustainable growth. Not only can too many standards be overwhelming to both teachers and students, but it can reduce a student's chance for multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery. For teachers too many standards can mean an overwhelming flood of data entry. Too few standards means they aren't specific enough to be actionable. In our experience we've found that 5-8 standards per unit is a happy medium.

The amount of content within each standard can also affect your assessments. For example:

"I can solve equations." This one is too broad because it will be hard to figure out exactly where to take action.

"I can solve equations with one variable when the variable is on the right side of the equation and there is a positive integer involved." This one is too specific, as you'll likely assess it very few times and you'll have to write a ton of standards.

"I can solve equations with one variable" This one is just right.

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