The Marriage of Skills & Standards

For ten years, I have lived a world where the scaffolding and assessing of skills and standards matters equally, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

However, I have also experienced the hurdles of trying to unlock the power of the relationship of the two. This post isn’t meant to bash the “traditional way”, but I’ve seen many struggle to see the value in assessing skills because it adds a complex layer. Many times, there is an assumption that assigned grades = standards covered in a traditional setting. The degree at which the validity of that statement is true generally lies at the skill set of the teacher.

In our school, we have 5 schoolwide learning outcomes (skills) that are just as valuable and important as any content standard. We have grappled with assessing both for 20+ years now, but when formulating success criteria it all boils down to a simple math equation.

When assessing both skills and standards, the success criteria is the relationship of the two. The skill is the VEHICLE in which content knowledge can be DEMONSTRATED.

For the example above, you can successful identify how well a student was able to define appropriate quantities for the purpose of descriptive modeling (standard) by their ability to verbally demonstrate their understanding (skill). Now if we track both growth and mastery in standards and skills, we can begin to unlock student potential in various ways and have a better understanding of the relationship between the two as students progress.

Without scaffolding and assessing skills, why can’t a student just show up on day 1 with a binder of worksheets covering content standards, hand it in, and walk out?


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