Drafting Content Area Standards: First Steps

Drafting Content Area Standards:

Tomorrow faculty in grades 7-12 will begin the work of drafting content area standards that can be used for Graduation Standards or Proficiency Standards.  This work involves several steps outlined below. We will begin with content area teachers agreeing to 7-9 graduation standards that follow the requirements below.  This work is not easy or quick and will require some reflection on what we believe all students should know and be able to do in our content area to earn a high school diploma.

Factors to keep in mind:

Graduation standards (Proficiency Standards)  in the content area should:

  1. Be described with measurable performance indicators.
  2. Represent essential and enduring skills and knowledge expected of all graduates.
  3. Be broad enough to be measured multiple times and over multiple pathways (courses or otherwise) or contexts.
  4. Reflect a uniform sense of rigor.  Each standard should be similar in the rigor it expects for students to demonstrate proficiency.


The work that the Proficiency Steering committee did to draft standards for the guiding principles, indicators, and rubrics followed this process.

  • Identify a content area standards that should be Proficiency Standards (Graduation Standards).
  • Identify indicators that can be measured for the standard.
  • Draft a rubric to measure the performance indicators agreed to for the standard.
  • Repeat with the next content area standard.


Before dissecting the state documents or other examples, we should examine what we value around our content area knowledge and skills. What do we really want students to know and be able to do when they have left school, as it pertains to the content area being addressed. Questions such as the following should guide this reflection:

a) What do we want students to come away with from the Boothbay Schools as it pertains to this content area?
b) What should citizens be able to do?
c) What does college or career preparation for this look like?
d) Thinking of a graduate that exemplifies this content area, what knowledge and skills does the graduate possess?
e) Ask yourself, above all else “we want graduates who can/will ….?”
f) If you are frustrated by a student’s inability to be___________ what skills or knowledge are they missing?
g) How does this standard enact itself in various disciplines and contexts?
h) What do these various examples share in common?


Next review the Content Area example from the state of Maine and performance indicators as described in the Maine Learning Results. Review other documents that address these standards.

We might look at:

a) other States’ goals and standards documents.
b) national and international standards documents.
c) other Maine school systems’ proficiency standards.

We should look for:

a) descriptions and language that capture what we identified in the reflection from step 1.
b) skills not mentioned in our first step, but that seem important.
c) ways to organize the descriptors and indicators


After considering the questions and prompts in the first two steps, rewrite the content area standards considering these guidelines:

a) For the standard to be amenable to assessment, it must be observable and measurable. Words like understand, develop, appreciate, embracing, or nurturing (all words in the Maine standards) do not lend themselves to measurement and therefore assessment.
b) The graduation standard (proficiency standard) is broader than a standard, i.e. it cannot be measured by just one assessment, but the indicators must be measurable in an assessment.
c) The standard and performance indicators should not include or require a specific task to enable students to demonstrate their understanding.
d) The standard and performance indicators should be written in language that students and parents can understand.
e) The standard and performance indicators should apply to many contexts and disciplines.
f) The standard and performance indicators should be sufficiently rigorous.

One strategy to develop the performance indicators is to review rubrics that purport to measure the graduation standard (proficiency standard) and use the traits that are measured to write the performance indicators. This is the opposite of how most rubrics are developed, i.e. the performance indicators and traits in the standard are used to write the rubric, but a good rubric can help to identify the measurable language that must be captured in a standard.

Embed technology outcomes into these standards.

The school district has made a substantial commitment to providing technology to support teaching and learning. There are a number of natural fits for technology outcomes in the content area standards. We must find places to articulate these outcomes as we redraft the graduation standards and rubrics.

Content Area Standards Examples


About shawncarlson

Assistant Superintendent
This entry was posted in AOS 98, Assessment, BRES, BRHS, Curriculum and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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