Process for Determining High-Priority Learning Standards

  • The Texas High Performance Schools Consortium has designed the following process for determining high-priority learning standards that emphasize depth over breadth and empower students to learn, live, and earn in a global and digital environment and recommended both short- and long-term strategies for developing such standards.

    Prioritize and focus on what matters most.
    Students learn more when we teach what is most important and we teach it well. High-priority learning standards are fewer and deeper as opposed to a mile wide and an inch deep. Typical state standards attempt to cover a content area so comprehensively, the essential concepts that produce deep mastery can become lost. The chief problem is that there is simply too much to teach — arguably two to three times too much — and too many options for what can be taught. Rather than presenting a long list of facts, standards should communicate the essential understandings and habits of practice within each subject area.

    Content, thinking, and skills all matter when it comes to standards design.
    To succeed in today’s workplace, young people need more than basic reading and math skills. They need deep knowledge of content and ease with information technology, honed problem-solving skills and the ability to adapt and change. They need the personal skills to work in a very diverse and multicultural environment and the ability to collaborate.

    Align standards with best evidence on college and career readiness.
    U.S. executives say they need a workforce equipped with skills beyond the traditional “three Rs” of reading, writing, and arithmetic if they are to grow their businesses in the 21st century. According to the American Management Association, today’s employees need to think critically, solve problems, innovate, collaborate, and communicate more effectively.

    Recognize that standards design influences assessment design, assessment design influences instruction, and instructional decisions determine the level and type of learning opportunities provided to students.
    Standards-based assessments influence both what teachers teach and how they teach it. Educators must be deliberate about the number of standards they assess. Too many assessed standards forces teachers to push through the curriculum, covering standards rapidly and superficially. Standards-based assessments should help teachers make good decisions about their instruction and promote the design of learning opportunities that drive students to deeper learning and mastery.

Working Toward the MISSION

  • In fall 2014, TASA and the Consortium collaborated with the State Board of Education and TEA staff to develop a process for the English Language Arts and Reading TEKS revision based on the identification of high-priority learning standards and inclusion of curriculum experts from the field on the TEKS review panels.