Our campus teachers have been following the model of Professional Learning Communities: We focus on Learning, Collaboration, and Results. This year, many of us realized our weakest link was our Power Standards, our curriculum. As the year has rolled on, I continue to see how shoring up our Power Standards has paid dividends I never anticipated.
Power Standards: The Solution Tree book, The Collaborative Teacher, has a chapter on Power Standards. (If you or your campus want more information about PLCs in general, this book is a great starting place.) The premise is this: The state’s curriculum has scores (sometimes hundreds) of student expectations. It is not possible to adequately teach all of those standards within a school year. However, if we carefully examine that lengthy list of expectations, we can prioritize them. We can identify a manageable list of standards that likely cover more than 85% of the curriculum.
The most common test for a Power Standard looks at three criteria.
- Will this skill or knowledge serve the student after next week’s test (or better yet after they leave school)? For example, in 8th grade math, the ability to calculate a unit rate is a useful life skill.
- Will this skill or knowledge be useful in other content areas? For example, the ability to calculate a percent of a number will serve students in science and social studies.
- Is this skill or knowledge necessary for future learning? For example, the correct order of operations is necessary if a student is going to properly apply formulas for area, volume, solving quadratic equations, etc.
How they’ve paid off so far: My students have a stronger grasp of what they need to know. I do to. We can better see where our students are now and where they need to improve.
- Inteventions: In the past, I have been unsure who to call in for tutoring. A had a bunch of students who scored between a 70-80 on a test, do they really need tutoring? And if so, what tutoring do the need? The test, after all, covered two weeks of instruction. Now it’s different. Each test covers specific standards, and students receive a score for each standard. I know what standards each student has mastered and which ones need more work.
- Stations and Differentiated Instruction: My school district has made differentiated instruction a focus for several years. It has always been a struggle. Am I supposed to create three different lessons for a single day of instruction? Now it’s different. I constantly have a clear picture of my students’ academic needs. Stations happen naturally now. I try to find many more days when students can work at a variety of activities. I even have a nice list of skills for students who have mastered all the power standards: the other skills that didn’t “make the cut.”