Principles of Standards-Based Instruction and Assessment, and Tip Sheet for School Leaders

7 Jan

As a hard cold falls over the country this week, I can’t help but think about summer.  This past summer, I had the opportunity to present on standards-based grading, along with my principal and a team of teacher leaders in my school.  We presented to adminstrators and leaders across the school division.  While it was fun to share in person, I realize that I haven’t done much sharing with my PLN as of late.  So, please check out what my school has found to be the key principles of standards-based instruction and grading, as well as essential tips for school leaders (administrators AND teachers).

Also, please feel free to comment here or tweet me with your own.

Standards-Based Planning, Instruction and Assessment: Principles

  1. This is about communication as much as anything else: The purpose is that teachers, students, parents and administrators are all very clear on the learning targets of a particular course, how students will be assessed on their progress, where they stand in relation to these targets, and what to do as next steps towards mastery.
  2. Backwards Planning is a must:  Once established, look at your targets then plan assessments.  Consider that different types of assessments match up better with different types of targets.  Once assessments are planned, instruction can be planned.
  3. Give students a “GPS”: Students should know the targets and assessments up front.
  4. The goal of multiple opportunities is that students will learn each target:  Re-testing or re-assessment policies are not to raise grades artificially or make things easier on the student.  These policies are in place to let students know they will learn, and will have the support necessary to do so.
  5. Descriptive feedback is vital: Any system that allows students multiple opportunities without descriptive feedback on an ongoing basis will fail.  Students should be clear on these three questions through the formative assessment process: “1. Where am I going? 2. Where am I now? 3. How can I fill the gap?” (Stiggins)
  6. Quality assessments and quality rubrics must be developed:  This will take time, and requires reflection and continuous improvement.  Assessments and rubrics must be aligned with targets and expectations.
  7. Continue to document and communicate student behavior, apart from the grade: Although the grade should be based on mastery of clear targets, behavior is still important.  Follow the discipline and parent communication processes as usual.  You will find parents will back you when they realize their son or daughter is being given every opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
  8. Gradebooks should be organized by targets, not assessment type: This will change the conversation from what the student is doing or not doing to what the student knows or does not know.
  9. This is not a program or a one-time fix: This is an ongoing process for all of us as professional educators.  We must continue to learn about assessments and grading that is best for students.  One size does not fit all!

Standards-Based Planning, Instruction and Assessment:

Tip Sheet for Administrators and Teacher Leaders

  1. Start with where you are now: Analyze the key issue.  For us, it was lack of clear learning targets across departments.  Some schools may already be beyond that and need to look at assessment practices, gradebook, etc.
  2. Go Slow: Understand this will take time and be patient.  Even if you are not making the progress you expected, ask yourself, “Are we further along than we were a year ago?”
  3. Read the research and apply it to your staff development and school plan: See the resource matrix provided, add your own.  It is not just about gaining the knowledge, but application.
  4. Find your core people: Start with any teachers who are “on board”.  Do not hold them back or make them wait for others to catch up.  Empower them to lead the way.  Give others time.
  5. Communicate with stakeholders: Use the syllabus, parent meetings, Principal’s Advisory, letters home to educate the community.
  6. Offer ongoing professional development: This is not a one-time training.  It has multiple components and requires a lot of follow-up and reflection.
  7. Align with the evaluation process: The PPP has several areas of focus that support this approach.  (Especially Standard IV- Assessment OF and FOR learning, Standard VII- Student Academic Progress)
  8. Be open to different approaches: Allow teachers room to use strategies that are true to their style.  There are many different ways to get to the same goal.  Support time for PLC’s to work together and plan the best approaches for their content.
  9. Build capacity for teachers to produce exemplars and lead staff development: Look at what teachers across departments are using for targets, pacing, assessments, gradebooks, “GPS for students”.  Collect these and use in staff development.  Eventually, teachers should be the ones delivering the staff development in your building.

3 Responses to “Principles of Standards-Based Instruction and Assessment, and Tip Sheet for School Leaders”

  1. David Hochheiser January 7, 2014 at 7:32 pm #

    Great criteria and process suggestions. I am actually at my computer now outlining a draft for a post very much like this when I saw it on my feed. There is a lot of great talk about SBG these days, but I’m also seeing examples of people switching the report card without doing the background work.

  2. rsfvikingsap January 7, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

    Thanks for the comment. I think following a process and taking time is crucial. As you suggest, if changes are simply made, the result will be confusing and it will come across as yet another educational fad rather than a system for school improvement and support for learning.


  1. Bold Statement Monday: The Best Thing We’ve Ever Done for Standards-Based Learning | Hitting The Learning Curve - April 29, 2014

    […] a school, we have spent several years taking the journey towards Standards-Based Instruction. (You can see my principles and tip sheets here.) This year, we decided we needed to formatively assess our professional development system and […]

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