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Unpacking Learning Standards

In my teaching journey the standards have drastically changed more than three times, the latest is Common Core. Now, I fought, complained, fussed, kicked dirt and so forth each time. Because, each time our education system and rating has gotten worse. California was number one thirty years ago when I was in my first credential program, now we are about last. Yes, our new standards have some good to them, but most of us are overwhelmed and can’t possibly do what is required of us to do in the time we are given. Since, I am not able to facilitate change, what I learned to do is work the system to be a more impacting teacher with the train wreck we all work with.

What is a Learning Standard?

A standard tells the teacher what to teach. What it does not do is tell us how to teach; although our Principal and District may, but usually if we are doing well, they let us be. Based on the framework of student engagement as well as the Continues Improvement PDSA Cycle ( To predetermined content standards what students need to do and know, like state adopted Common Core. Why? They seem complicated and broad; thus, we have to unpack them. Like the blueprints of a house tells you what to build, how you make it look with flooring, paint and such is up to the teacher. Look at a standard guide. Each standard builds on the previous standard, called scaffolding. We are to take the standards, create goals for student success. As what does it take to build a successful class and set up students for achievement.

First, look for and study a State standards guide that has helpful and key information by subject and grade level. What should your students need to understand and be able to do? There are “clusters” of related standards or connect to another to look at too. These give the details to allow the teacher to know and be able to introduce what is to be taught. And that each cluster builds on the previous one and so forth. This is called “scaffolding.” Like, the students need to be able to understand and preform addition and subtraction before learning multiplication. Then we work on the practice and mastery of each standard.

What are the “concepts” they need to learn and apply that we evaluate.

What are the “skills” and ability the students needed to achieve the learning goals? The expertise, practice and so forth to do it well.

What are the “tasks” needed for the work, experiences, responsibilities need to learn the concept and practice the skill? Like what are they to find, what strategies are to be applied, illustrate and explain?

Once we understand the standard, we can unpack them into short term and long-term goals. Then establish long term and short-term goals. What do students need to do first from the standard, becomes the 30-day goals, then weekly learning targets and then daily learning targets and or objectives. Remember the standards tell us what to teach, not how to teach. Thus, we have to creatively plan and set goals to be effective.

More helps below:

Dr. Richard Krejcir is an Author, Researcher, seasoned Special Education teacher and the Director of a nonprofit that does educational training in third-world countries. He is also a STEAM teacher and a father of a son with autism.

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