Podcast Transcript: A Standards-Based Approach (S1E3)

Welcome to the EXPLORING THE CORE PODCAST, where we delve into the elements that make up our education system and learn more about how that system can improve for the benefit of all students in schools today.

I'm Greg Mullen, and in this episode... I talk about **how** teachers can use a standards-based approach to improving student academic learning.

I'll also be talking to Karin Hess out of Vermont, a leader in Standards-Based Grading and Assessments, about her thoughts on where things are, where we’re headed, and the challenges we face as more schools adopt a standards-based approach to academic learning.

Thank you for listening, I hope you enjoy the show.


In a previous episode, I talked about the purpose for academic standards in our system of education. In this episode, I want to highlight exactly how academic standards can be applied for teachers to improve academic growth in their students. In order for this to happen, we have to know that we’re addressing a significant change in how we approach grading practices that impact instruction and assessment.

This first step being introduced in this episode is part of a larger shift that we must recognize as more than just a grading policy. This standards-based approach will change the way we address what skills, which plans, how we motivate, and create the incentives involved in teaching and learning. The prospect of such change in any organization big or small begins with one word: WHY. Now I speak to this idea in a later episode but for now let’s recognize that an organization, a school, a teacher’s classroom, or even a student’s perspective toward the world, without a strong WHY behind the desire to change, will more likely fall into varying states and degrees of confusion and pushback. This will come in to play when I address SEL Frameworks as schools look to apply a standards-based approach to social and emotional learning. For now, let’s focus on how to apply a standards-based approach to the academic content we are already trained to teach. So in this episode, I want to make sure we’re clear on the fact that the role academic standards mentioned in a prior episode is now going to be applied in ways that might challenge some traditional practices.

And one more quick disclaimer: With so many teachers of different content areas and different grade levels, it would be impossible for me to address only the standards one teacher is needing to know how to use this week. Instead, as you’re listening, consider that the idea of applying standards doesn’t depend entirely on your specific content area or grade level. The trick here will be to understand how standards are written and aligned across grade levels.

Sorry, one last thing, and many of you might initially disagree with me on this, but I believe it’s possible... for teachers today... to track student growth of every skill, for every student, every day... it’s possible. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but I’m asking you to take a leap of faith here, that our own mastery of how academic standards develop in and across grade levels is the first critical piece in making that possible.