By describing the knowledge and skills for student learning, content area standards help determine what students have learned and what they still need to learn. Standards provide benchmarks against which student progress toward learning goals can be measured. Thus, it is crucial that content area standards describe measurable content (Izumi, 1999). Content area standards which are generally stated may help introduce or frame the topics for student learning, but do not adequately help teachers plan instruction. Teachers need a clear sense of what students must know and be able to do in order to measure their progress. Likewise, high-quality area content standards must be constructed in a manner that allows students to demonstrate this knowledge and skill. When writing measurable content area standards, the following criteria are considered:
- Purposeful verbs communicate clear expectations. The use of clear, actionable verbs within standards and indicators is necessary to ensure that they communicate the intended expectation for student learning (Landgon, 1999). Taxonomies of Learning, such as Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (Webb, 1997) and Bloom’s Taxonomy (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001), help categorize verbs into levels of cognitive difficulty, which can help standards writers ensure high levels of thinking.
- Instructional strategies and learning opportunities are used to teach content area standards. They are not included in the content area standards. Content area standards highlight the knowledge and skills that instructional experiences are designed to teach, rather than describe the experience itself. Descriptions of how the learning experiences are designed are part of the curriculum and instructional decisions, which are made at the local level.
- Content area standards create expectations for consistent assessment of student learning. In some cases, inconsistent measurement of a content area standard might result from language that describes degrees of performance (e.g., students begin to, or creatively perform a task) or how often students perform a skill (occasionally).
When no consistent baseline for performance is established, teachers do not share a common understanding of what “creatively” looks like or how often “frequently” represents. Such language is more appropriate for rubrics that describe multiple levels of performance. In cases when a skill is developed over multiple grade levels, content area standards should identify the prerequisite knowledge and skills that students need to learn before they can advance to a more complex skill.
This information was taken from NDE’s Content Area Standards Reference Guide. The reference guide, including the references mentioned above, is located here.