Here in Iowa, we're fairly new to the "state standards" movement.  We've jumped on board the math and literacy common core movement and have standards for science, social studies and 21st century skills.

One of my roles as district curriculum lead is to help teachers better understand the connections between curriculum, instruction and assessment and how it all relates to state and federal accountability.   We have a few upcoming deadlines in which the state of Iowa is requiring all school districts to move away from historically locally created standards and benchmarks in order to adopt the new state standards.  Like it or not, gone are the days of local control in the area of what each student should know and be able to do!   With this shift comes a bit of anxiety (and rightly so, in my opinion) on the part of teachers across the state.  It may sound something like...

"Oh, no!  I used to teach ________ in Algebra II, now I have to teach it in Algebra 1.  Help!!!"
"Have you read the standards?  How will I ever have time to teach all of this content?"

Here are my typical responses:

  • There is no such thing as the "Common Core Police,"at least literally speaking. The department of education will not be sending people around the state to visit classrooms for the purpose of ensuring every single state standard is taught.  The "teeth" I've seen in other states (and it appears to be the way Iowa is headed as well) comes from the state assessments tied to the standards.
  • Given that assessments are the built-in accountability measure for ensuring students learn the state standards, it is reasonable to suggest that not all state standards will be assessed on the standardized tests.  Time constraints realistically limit the number of standards that can be assessed on these instruments.
Enter power standards:
"If the state standards are truly to be the basis for all instruction in the state, then educators must decide which standards at each grade level are the most critical to be taught.  Since teachers cannot possibly teach all the state standards, let's decide on the state standards that students absolutely must learn and then do everything to ensure students learn these identified standards" (Crawford, 2011, p. 16)
Deciding which standards are the power standards is our district's task in 2012-13.  It will likely take us more than one year, but I believe it is the right work given our current state of accountability through assessments.  

I'm interested in any/all guidance you may have when it comes to protocols for teams of teachers deciding on power standards.   Thanks in advance!