Curriculum Trak currently has over 70,000 standards and benchmarks listed in the Available Standards Area in nearly 700 unique lists. That presents a lot of options for schools to choose from, and we get requests for additional lists or updates on almost a daily basis. There is obviously a lot of activity around standards selection and use, which can be both good and bad. The question is, who is sorting through all of this for your school making sure you are on the right track? Who serves as the champion of your school’s standards?
No set of standards is perfect or final. The art and practices of education are always changing in response to a variety of factors. So, ongoing updates, revisions, and rewriting of standards sets is a good thing. It is a good practice to view your standards, like the maps built upon them, as an ever-improving and changing guide to your curricular decisions. Some states seem to be on a regular rotation releasing new sets on a consistent basis. Other states take a more measured approach. Educational leadership organizations such as the Fordham Institute conduct studies and produce reports such as “The State of Standards Post-Common Core” which often effects some change as well. But how will you know if you need to update your standards? Are these changes always better? Will you need to make some additional updates even after you adopt the latest set? Who makes those decisions for your school?
Without a targeted review process guided by a standards champion, a school may not discover that their standards are out of date until a major event such as an accreditation visit, textbook adoption, or a brand new teacher finds their maps are built on an antiquated foundation. On the other hand, since some updates are driven by factors that do not always impact the local school, it is worth questioning if your school needs to adjust or adapt to the changes at all. A champion can help prevent knee-jerk reactions and promote a more tempered approach. Who determines when and if the changes should be adopted and how soon your maps should align with those changes?
Even if your school is required to be or has decided to be lock-step with the standards adopted by your state, your school still needs a champion to know about and manage those standards and consider how they best apply to your educational practices. Just because the latest textbook for a particular subject area is aligning to a specific set of standards, it doesn’t necessarily mean that those standards are best for your school and your students. You may want to align the textbook to a different set of standards. Cutting through the politics, the policymakers, and the publishers requires a champion with a clear vision of your school’s specific mission and how it impacts your community.
It might seem as though Curriculum Trak should serve in that role. We do filter through many of the updated standards and have a unique position of working with many schools in many different areas as they work through the process. But we are not the standards champion for your school. We do our best to support you in the selection, preparation, and adoption of the standards that will serve you best, but it is impossible for our support team to know all of the factors that impact the decisions you need to make in that process or any specific additions, adaptations, or improvements you will want to make after a set has been adopted. We are happy to provide support, and even offer some professional development options in this area, but we do not recommend that you abdicate this role to us, your state policymakers, your textbook publishers, or even national studies by educational leadership groups like the one listed above. We encourage your school to identify who will act as the keeper of your standards, know why those standards are best for you, and provide the careful oversight of how any changes to those standards impact your teachers and ultimately your students.
You identify the champion, we will be… your trusty sidekick? While we work out the metaphor, we can tell you that in our supporting role, we encourage you to review and approve of any set of standards we have loaded to your account, and we never update standards without your specific request. In other words, we view the standards you have loaded to your account as your personal database. You own them. You are the champion who has accepted them and has asked your teachers to use them as the basic building block for their daily instruction. Let us help you get them right, but you ultimately determine that they are right.
In the coming weeks, we will be exploring some strategies Curriculum Trak encourages and tools Curriculum Trak provides for reviewing, managing, and updating your standards within your account. We want to equip your standards champion to take full ownership of your standards and use them to their fullest extent. In the meantime, if we can provide any immediate information or support in this regard, please let us know.