In New Hampshire, we have a rich history of independence and innovation when it comes to education. Our pre-K-12 public schools are ranked nationally in the top three by US News and World Report and are driven by innovations that give students hands-on learning opportunities (like ELOs) and move towards locally-developed, meaningful assessments (like PACE). We do things differently here in NH and it’s working. Does that mean everything in NH public education is perfect? Of course not – but it does mean we have built a strong foundation for even higher achievement.
Here, you can explore the basics of that strong foundation: learning standards, curriculum, and assessment. By understanding what each is intended to do, how they are different from each other and how some schools in NH are using them, we hope to start a different conversation in – one that is focused on our students, their experiences, and the future that awaits them.
Learning standards define what each student should know and be able to do at each grade level.
-By the end of fourth grade, every child in NH should be able to “understand the narrator’s point of view and summarize key events” in assigned reading material; and,
-By the end of eighth grade, every child should be able to “analyze how various literary elements and devices shape text development and impact meaning.”
Why Do Learning Standards Matter?
Fairness: Every child deserves the opportunity to receive a high-quality education that will prepare them for the future they want regardless of where they live. Learning standards ensure a 6th grader in Manchester, NH is held to the same academic expectations as a 6th grader in Bedford, NH and a 6th grader in Monterey, CA.
Honesty: Learning standards provide assurance to families that each student is progressing appropriately for their grade level. They alert educators and families to areas of need when a child is not meeting such benchmarks alongside their peers.
Personalization: When a child has mastered grade-level standards early on in the school year or in previous years, educators and families will know that their student needs to be more challenged in that area of learning.
Preparedness: Rigorous learning standards that require students to think critically and creatively about content – rather than memorize it – are a key component to preparing them for careers, college and life after high school.
Learning standards are intended to provide schools and families with four things.
Consistency: Learning standards build on one another, allowing students to apply the skills and knowledge they learned in the previous grade to what they learn the following year– reinforcing and readying them for the next step.
Accountability: They hold educators accountable for developing a class curriculum that will provide entry points for every student to reach these grade-level goals by the end of the year.
Insight: A way of seeing where each student is at and what their needs are, whether it is intervention, staying on the current track, or more of a challenge.
Connection: A tool for families to support at-home-learning and actively engage in their child’s education.
“I don’t teach the same things in the same ways every year. My class is always changing and adapting. Learning standards allow me to continue to be innovative, to learn as a teacher, and to better myself.” – NH middle school educator
Take a look at how Laconia area students are meeting learning standards through field trips.
What Learning Standards are NOT Intended to Be
They are not a curriculum. Learning standards set expectations for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. In NH, educators are responsible for designing the curriculum used to meet grade-level learning standards. These are not intended to prescribe curriculum or mandate anything, but rather, set up a framework.
They are not instruction. Methods of instruction and the resources that are used are entirely up to educators, students, and families. In NH, students are achieving and exceeding grade-level standards through internships, online courses, independent studies, and college classes. To hear what students have to say about these experiences, take a look at our Ready in the 603 project.
They are not a test. In NH, school districts and local communities, in partnership with the state, decide how they want to evaluate students meeting the benchmarks. With pilot programs like PACE, we have access to meaningful, student-centered evaluations that allow educators to shift instruction based on student needs in real-time.
“The standards are broad enough to allow educators to be creative while simultaneously providing a helpful framework to maintain consistency. As a teacher, that gives me autonomy in my classroom to create dynamic lessons but it also gives me benchmarks to use.” – Evan Czyzowski, English teacher, Sanborn Regional High School
Standards and Curriculum work hand in hand but they are distinctly different. Standards set the academic bar for students and curriculum encompasses the materials, resources, and practices for getting a student there.
A high-quality curriculum is:
-Designed to meet learning standards by the end of the year;
-Student-centered and has multiple entry points to meet the needs of each student in the classroom;
-Personalized — it slows down for those that need more time and support to master a skill or concept and has paths built in to go beyond grade level expectations for those who need more of a challenge; and,
-Flexible — It offers students various options to align achieving their learning goals with topics or fields of study they are personally interested in and motivated by.
Download our Standards & Curriculum Infographic!
Assessments measure a student’s knowledge and skills at a single point in time. They are indicators, along with report cards, teacher feedback, and classroom work, that show a student’s progress.
Formative: Activities that assess, and provide immediate feedback on, the learning process. They are often embedded in classroom activities.
Summative: Evaluation that takes place after instruction to measure total student growth in a particular subject or skill area.
Qualities of Meaningful Assessments
-Aligned with the learning standards on which each student is working.
-Match the language and practices of an educator’s chosen curriculum.
-Demonstrate how a student is progressing and if they are on track to meet goals.
-Help educators better direct additional help or accelerated learning.
-Help schools and districts continuously improve.
-Are universally designed for accessibility.
-Provide real-time feedback so that changes to instruction and resources can be made immediately.
-Ask students to show their work, write, and explain their answers.
-Provide students opportunities to demonstrate what they know in multiple ways.
-Require students to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world situations.
Measuring Skills in High-Demand — The 4C’s
The 4C’s are high-demand skills that are cultivated over the course of a student’s K-12 experience. Meaningful assessments track progress in the development of these skills. Students with the 4C’s are well-positioned for success after high-school.
Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE)
PACE is a locally designed assessment program in NH. This pilot program has been nationally recognized because it eliminates “teaching to the test” and instead, fosters a culture of learning. Learn more about PACE.
Download our Meaningful Assessment Infographic!
To learn more, check out the resources below. Please note, that some links may not reflect the exact learning standards in your district, but are intended to be used as guides for discussion with students, families, and educators.
- Readiness Roadmap from Be a Learning Hero
- Parents’ Guide to Student Success from National PTA
- A fun example of how learning standards for fourth-grade math could be met through project-based learning by Edutopia
- Why are standards important? from Great Schools!
- College and Career Readiness: Same or Different? by Dr. David T. Conley and Charis McGaughy
- Milestones from Great Schools!
- Learning Standards Infographic by Reaching Higher NH
- Standards & Curriculum Infographic by Reaching Higher NH
- Meaningful Assessments Infographic by Reaching Higher NH
Join the conversation! Share your experiences and perspectives on learning standards, curriculum, and/or assessments. Did you know that students in NH were achieving and exceeding their learning standards through extended learning opportunities, internships and other hands-on experiential approaches to education? Were you aware of the PACE pilot that evaluates students through project-based learning activities? Is this happening in your school district?