Have you ever had a list of places that you wanted to visit while on vacation? Initially those places are dot on a map or items on a list.
There is no direction as to how to get to each place, what to do, when to go, or what to use when going or there. Your list is simply that, a list.
Educational standards are no different. They are a list of items that students need to learn to the best of their ability. They are NOT supposed to be prescriptive- dictating what to use, exactly how to teach, or who is supposed to be responsible for providing instruction. They are simply a list. Often they are organized into a progression of skill sets, but that structure does not prescribe how to teach, what resources to use or who should teach it. It simply identifies the level at which students are developmentally ready and in need of learning a skill so that they can build on it as they continue to learn.
With my background in education and strong belief in local control, I try to keep an eye on what is changing and who pushing what political agenda on our kids. ( Ok, I’ll be honest. I care about the education of my own kids and want what is best for them and their friends!) Anyway, that is why when the Common Core Standards were adopted by our state a few years ago, I tuned in and tried to make sense of the commotion and complaining surrounding them. My conclusion: most had not even looked at them and were up in arms because there was some prescription as to what materials were to specifically to be used and suggestions as to how they needed to be taught identified at times. There was a government dictation and imposition into what should be the local control of curricula. In other wards, the lines between curriculum and standard was significantly blurred. It also became a great marketing tool for educational material companies.
So, when the state of North Dakota announced that they were going to be revising/drafting and ultimately going to have their own set of state standards, I quickly filled out the application to be a member of the business and community member committee. This committee would be tasks with reviewing, assessing and addressing the revisions that math and english teachers made in order to reflect North Dakota education, our students, and what we, North Dakota professionals and parents, feel is needed for students to be flexible thinkers, problem solvers, and have a well balanced group of skills in order to be successful once they leave the walls of the school.
This week was my first experience working with this group of individuals. I was deeply impressed by the work that had been done by the teachers. They had really taken time to listen and think about students, the reality of differences in our schools, and the desire for the state standards to truly be one from the people of North Dakota for those in North Dakota.
Prescription was taken out of a lot of places. Definitions re-written to provide clarity, and incremental stages of learning and demonstrating knowledge outlined. Visuals for the English Language Arts standards had also been developed which increased understanding that it is a shared responsibility of all to continually be working on english and language skills. In the math area it was made clear that specifically at the high school level that the standards were laid out according to topic areas, not classes. This directly implies and puts control of the who, when, where and what is used to teach the skills into the control of local school districts and out of the hands of the state. This excited me! Does it mean a bit of work will need to be done? Yes! Will schools need to know the skills students need to learn and not guess or assume that if they teach algebra all skills are covered? Yes! It means conversations, it means collaboration, it means innovation and some rethinking….. it means possibility and opportunity for great things!
I am excited to continue through the next phases of this standards revision/ draft process!
More info on ND State Content Standards is available at:
If you are so inclined, you can also comment and share your thoughts at the link above by clicking on the survey option.
Here’s to great things in North Dakota education!