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Have you considered incorporating standards-based education in your classroom?

April 3, 2024

By: Kendall Hunt RPD with contributions from the editorial team

A standards-based classroom emphasizes student understanding, ongoing assessment, and alignment with clear learning objectives.

By incorporating these principles, educators create an environment that supports student growth and achievement. Most importantly, it supports the fact that all students deserve to learn and advance their knowledge.

In a standards-based classroom, educators adhere to specific learning standards. These standards outline concise, written descriptions of what students are expected to know and be able to do at various stages of their education.


Here are some key aspects of a standards-based approach:

    1.  Clear Learning Standards: Many states and school districts have established a scope of standard knowledge and skills for each subject and grade level. Teachers are required to base their lessons on these standards. Even if you don’t have state or district standards, you likely have guidelines for what your class needs to learn.

    2.  Student-Centered Approach: In a standards-based classroom, students should be able to articulate exactly what they’re learning. The standards are accessible to students, and teachers regularly reference them. Using the language from the standards in lessons ensures clarity and alignment with learning goals.

    3.  Ongoing Assessment: Unlike traditional classrooms, where assessments might be limited to periodic exams, standards-based classrooms continuously assess student progress. Teachers provide regular feedback to help students meet the learning expectations described in the standards.

    4.  Designing Lessons Around Standards: Teachers determine what skills students must master and then design lessons and assessments to meet those goals. The standards drive the curriculum, ensuring that students achieve the specified learning outcomes

    5.  Alignment and Professional Development: Curriculum, assessments, and professional development are aligned with the standards. This cohesive approach ensures that educators are equipped to effectively implement standards-based education.


What does a Standards-based classroom look like?

Just to be clear, a standards-based classroom is messy and structured to meet the needs of all the students.

It is challenging, because of the requirement that students be competent at applying knowledge, and maybe quite different from the one we remember from our own days in school.

Standards-based education provides clear expectations, measurable improvements, equity, and student-centered learning. It supports student growth and equitable opportunities for success. There are several key principles that set a standards-based classroom apart from a traditional classroom.

Let's explore what makes a standards-based classroom unique:

    1.  Accessible Standards: In a standards-based classroom, teachers make the educational standards accessible to students. These standards outline the knowledge and skills students should acquire in each subject and grade level. Whether based on state or district guidelines, teachers align their lessons with these standards. Students should be able to articulate exactly what they are learning, using the language from these standards.

    2.  Regular Reference: Teachers regularly reference the standards during instruction. By doing so, they ensure that the learning objectives remain clear and transparent. This practice helps students understand the purpose behind their lessons and assessments.

    3.  Language Integration: The language from the standards is integrated into lesson plans. This means that students can confidently explain their learning outcomes to teachers, parents, and anyone else who inquires. The focus is on mastery and understanding, rather than rote memorization.

    4.  Ongoing Assessment: Assessment in a standards-based classroom is continuous. Teachers provide regular feedback on each student’s progress. Instead of relying solely on end-of-unit tests, they assess understanding throughout the learning process.

    5.  Student-Centered Approach: The standards-based classroom prioritizes individual student needs. Teachers design lessons and assessments to meet specific learning goals. This personalized approach ensures that all students have opportunities to succeed.

    6.  Fluid Grouping: Teachers use fluid and flexible grouping strategies. Students collaborate with peers of varying abilities, fostering a supportive learning environment. Group dynamics adapt as needed to address student progress.

    7.  Visible Standards: The standards are visible within the classroom. Displays, charts, or posters display learning objectives. Students can easily refer to them, reinforcing their understanding of what they are reading or doing.

A standards-based classroom is not about rigid adherence to a fixed curriculum. Instead, it is a dynamic space where learning is personalized, progress is monitored, and students are actively engaged with the standards to achieve educational mastery.