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Read this Before You Align to Standards
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Read this Before You Align to Standards

Aligning a course or program to national or state standards is an insightful way to analyze curriculum.  It’s also a way to give your curriculum third-party validity. 

Standards alignment can focus on learner activities, assessments, or both. At a minimum, you’ll want to align to any learner activity that is assessed: assignments, quizzes, group projects, final exams, etc.  You may also include class activities that are not specifically assessed, such as lectures, reading assignments, group discussions, etc.

You have more decisions to make before you begin to align standards. Read the full standard set you plan to work with. Occupational standards tend to be performance-based and concise. In general, they are easier to align.

Academic standards, such as Common Core or National Science Standards, tend to have great depth and details. Keep this in mind when you consider how deep you want to go with alignment for your curriculum.

As an example of standards depth, suppose you are teaching a Grade 8 Fiction Writing class, is it enough to assign an activity the Common Core ELA L.8.2 standard? Or do you want to specify L.8.2.A, L.8.2.B, and L.8.2.C?  

Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

Use punctuation (comma, ellipsis, dash) to indicate a pause or break.

Use an ellipsis to indicate an omission.

Spell correctly.

The way you answer this question depends on the learner activity as well. Using an ellipsis (L.8.2.B) in a short story might seem like an artificial criterion. However, if you really want to get at that standard, you can use a worksheet that asks learners to identify correct/incorrect uses of punctuation.

Another consideration: Do you want to say the activity meets the standard, or supports the standard?  If the goal is to meet standards, every level in the standard should be addressed and specified.  If the goal is to show how the course supports a standard –  e.g. a science course that supports non-fiction reading -  using the broadest level might be most appropriate. Another question to ask: If the learner completes the course/activity/assessment can they reasonably be expected to perform the activity in the standard?

Read more: Standards Alignment with WIDS

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