Standards-Based Classroom

May 1, 2007 at 4:29 pm | Posted in best practices, education, elementary, inner city, performance task, standards, strategies, technology in education | Leave a comment

What are standards?

Standards are statements by national organizations, states, and local school districts to clarify the expectations for student learning. They state what students are expected to know and be able to do with that knowledge when they reach a benchmark or exit the system.

– ( Barbara Benson, How to Meet Standards, Motivate Students, and Still Enjoy Teaching!, p. 2)

More significantly, I believe that standards are the written expression of what our society wants for our future, through the education of our young ones. Which makes standards very important indeed.

Every state has its own standards. The California Content Standards can be found at the California State Board of Education website.

What are the new demands placed on students?

A quick look at the standards reveal common words and themes across curriculum: apply, real-life, problem-solve, inquiry, pose questions, integrate, explore, relate, interpret, make decision, etc.

It is no longer enough that teachers teach just content knowledge. Yet, many teachers are still focused on doing just that, teaching the facts and testing with questions that merely demand that students recall. In fact, it is now written into the standards that students must be able to transcend content knowledge, to inquire, to apply, to synthesize, and to create.

Have I truly examined the standards and really understand what the standards demand of me and my students?

Technology and the Standards-Based Classroom

One implication that standards have on the classroom is the need for current technology in the classroom. Textbooks are enclosed sources of immutable information, while the Internet is a large, ever-changing, ever-demanding source information and question. Learning using the higher-level thinking skills is messy and ever-changing and unbounded. Traditional textbooks does now allow for that kind of thinking, thus quickly becoming obsolete in a standards-based classroom.

In order to meet the needs of students and in order to facilitate learning in a standards-based classroom, we may have to do away with expensive textbooks and replace them with current, working technology. Many school districts are debating the adoption of some new, multi-million dollar curriculum textbook, when really they should be focused on adopting a technology program.

What does a standards-based classroom look like?

A standards-based classroom is NOT the traditional classroom with quiet, passive students receiving information from an all-knowing teacher.

A standards-based classroom is messy and structured to meet the needs of all the students.

Because of the requirement that students be competent at applying knowledge, the standards-based classroom will be a very different place from the one we remember from our own schooling. Looking in on this classroom, one sees the increase in student involvement and the fact that every day is not the same. One day the teacher may be lecturing while the students take notes, but on another day, students may e accessing information in many different ways both individually and in small groups. The secret to this classroom will be that it engages students in their own learning and balances whole-group activities with those tailored to meet individual needs.(p. 12)

Does my classroom look like a standards-based classroom?

Can you teach to the standards in an inner-city classroom?

Can you afford not to? Content standards have embedded high-expectations for all students. Deliberately NOT teaching the standards is deliberately sabotaging the education of the neediest students. Yet, many teachers feel that they have to “dumb” down the curriculum because it is “too difficult” for the students, not just in the inner-city but anywhere where there is a student that the teacher perceives as not capable.

I feel that this dumbing down of the curriculum is a direct result of the traditional view of the classroom, where recall of arbitrary facts is important and a sign of academic success. A careful study of the content standards would reveal multiple ways of accessing the curriculum and succeeding, BECAUSE the standards do not focus on just content knowledge, but the application of content knowledge, the investigation of student-driven questions, and the production of artifacts that are relevant to the student’s life.

No one can deny that EVERY child ask questions, and that alone meets many content standards. Asking questions is also the strategy that will gain the child entry into all other standards.

Four practices that meet standards and motivate students


This blog is my summary and thoughts as I read Barbara Benson’s How to Meet Standards, Motivate Students and Still Enjoy Teaching! As I continue reading, I will probably post more. This summary is primarily for my benefit, to clarify my understanding, and to begin my reflection. I welcome any comments and reflection on the topic!

UPDATE 05/15/2007

To continue reading about creating a standards-based classroom, visit my other posts.

Building a Community of Learners

Collecting Teaching Strategies

Student Reflection

Authentic Performance Tasks


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