Teacher working with student

As an educational consultant now for the past five years, I have worked with school districts to help teachers give their best to their students. One of those strategies is to develop a list of power standards for their grade level and content areas.

Power standards, sometimes called priority or essential standards, are the standards that teachers have deemed the most critical to master before moving to the next grade. While these are the standards teachers will emphasize throughout the year, it doesn’t mean the other standards are neglected.  Many of those standards become sub-standards to the power standards and are taught side by side. By reducing the number of standards to the most critical, teachers say they can find the time to reteach and provide for deeper learning. 

In my time as a teacher, I remember having conversations with my own colleagues who taught the grade right after mine. In a moment of frustration I asked, “If my students could come to you with 5 things that ALL had mastered, what would that be?”  That started a conversation about what are the most important things we needed our kids to know and be able to do before they left my class. That changed everything.  My content was focused, I scaffolded these priorities differently, I assessed them more often and my students and I had deep conversations about what was keeping them from learning. It wasn’t fancy, nor did we have any set way of prioritizing, but the work was rewarding.

Robert Marzano has specific steps for selecting power standards. Following his procedure will help you identify which standards have endurance, leverage and readiness.  Once you have identified the power standards by content or grade level, teachers write assessments measuring mastery of the power standards. By ensuring that the teachers measure the skills needed, the teachers can modify instruction to reteach the skills on the power standards.  

For NEE schools, more information about selecting power standards can be found in EdHub by searching “the standards connection.”

In the weeks and months following COVID-19, identifying power standards for your content and grade levels will help you assess if your students will be ready for the next level or if additional instruction needs to be completed before new information is taught.  Once the power standards are selected, teachers can plan instruction in advance for the power standards to use when schools have to be closed in the future. Teachers can plan for online instruction or remote learning, if the Internet is not an option. Plans will be in place for students to know how to access those materials. 

Districts with power standards in place can move ahead to finding resources that teach to those standards.  Imagine an entire curriculum on a single power standard that can be accessed either online or remotely.  Imagine the conversations you can have with students about what is the most important to learn this year and why it will lead to their success in the future.

Dr. Terri Steffes is a trainer and field support representative for the Network for Educator Effectiveness and an educational consultant for the Heart of Missouri Regional Professional Development Center. She is a retired Missouri school principal and teacher.

The Network for Educator Effectiveness (NEE) is a simple yet powerful comprehensive system for educator evaluation that helps educators grow, students learn, and schools improve. Developed by preK-12 practitioners and experts at the University of Missouri, NEE brings together classroom observation, student feedback, teacher curriculum planning, and professional development as measures of effectiveness in a secure online portal designed to promote educator growth and development.