Using State Standards to Set Goals with Clients
Tutors play a crucial role in supporting student growth outside of the classroom. Regardless of where learning is happening, it is helpful for all of the educational stakeholders to be in sync so that students aren’t feeling pulled in conflicting directions.
Each state has its own learning standards that dictate the curricular goals for its public schools. In class, students are provided with lessons and assessments tailored to these specific ends. Some schools even use rubrics based upon these standards in place of traditional grades.
When tutors familiarize themselves with these state standards, they can target specific student growth objectives more effectively and, at the same time, do so with language that is in line with the student’s school experience.
Accessing the standards
Thanks to the internet, finding your state’s standards is typically little more than a Google search away. For a more direct approach, visit your state’s department of education website.
In most cases, these standards are chunked into both subject matter and grade level and tend to be direct in the objectives and skills students are expected to achieve.
That said, review these standards carefully. An unsuspecting tutor could fall into some pitfalls:
- Are you looking at the most up-to-date standards for your state? One of the problems with the internet (and government websites in particular) is that outdated information is seldom taken down once it has outlived its usefulness.
- Has your state adopted the Common Core standards? These Math and English/Language Arts (ELA) standards have been adopted (in some capacity) by an overwhelming majority of states in an effort to provide more consistent educational experiences nationwide.
- Are there cross-curricular standards you are missing? Just because a student is focused on a particular subject area, there are likely other affected content areas that are also go hand and hand with the desired academic growth. Regardless of your content focus, be sure to take time with commonly far-reaching, interdependent standards like ELA, technology, and 21st century skills.
Finding the gaps
Often times when parents are seeking tutoring help for their children, the objectives are vague.
“Leo needs help with math.”
“Sarah is a struggling reader”
Without some kind of assessment data, it can be hard to figure out where to start, let alone where the goal line is. Content standards can be invaluable when it comes to digging deeper and identifying the targetable skills and concepts ripe for improvement.
When possible, ask parents for access data like standardized test reports or standards-based report cards (if the student’s school district uses them). When available, these standards-aligned assessment documents can be a good place to start the search for the concepts where a particular student is demonstrating deficiencies.
Another often-overlooked option is talking directly to a student’s teachers. Be aware, a teacher will typically need express written permission from a parent or guardian for this to happen.
When these conversations do happen, there is much more specific information to be gained from conversations with other educators when you are versed in the standards yourself. After all, teachers engage with these same standards as a part of their daily existence as they plan, teach, and assess.
Tapping into this common language is an effective way to get all of a student’s educational stakeholders on the same page.
Making manageable goals
Once standards have helped to identify areas of focus, the real work begins. Despite their specificity, standards often still need to be further broken down into incremental steps. It is the tutor’s job to create and implement a tutoring curriculum to these ends.
One of the most efficient ways to do this by creating a standards-based rubric. Long-used by teachers in the classroom, rubrics set a target and then identify growth goals student must achieve en route to mastery.
In a standards-based rubric, the standard itself is the goal and is placed at the second-highest level For example: level 3 on a rubric ranging from 0-4). In the preceding levels, tutors should focus on the skills and understandings that are the stepping-stones towards that end. For instance, a student learning double-digit subtraction with borrowing must first be able to master skills such as single digit subtraction, double digit subtraction without regrouping, and place values of double-digit integers.
Rather than asking students to make every swing a home run, rubrics instead ask students to string together some base hits. By achieving the required prior knowledge, standards-based goals become both manageable and achievable.
For students that are ready for enrichment and pushing their understanding further, consult the standards from the next grade level up to find specific areas where students can go beyond. These objectives can be placed at the highest level of a standards-based rubric or, if a student demonstrates readiness, spun off into an entirely new rubric. Applying the same incremental learning approach can scaffold students to greater growth and understandings.
Perhaps the most important benefit of rubrics is that they can become self-assessment tools for students. By using kid-friendly language, tutors cannot only create a pedagogical roadmap to convey progress to parents and teachers, but students themselves can take ownership of their growth.
It is important to remember that tutors are educators. To that end, it is always beneficial as a tutor to explore the best practices taking place in the classroom and find ways to adapt them into your tutoring process when possible. It helps unify a student’s educational endeavors, creates a common language for all stakeholders, and (most importantly) facilitates student growth in proven ways.
How do you incorporate standards and standards-based rubrics in your tutoring practice? Share your experiences or questions with our readers in the comments below and join in the conversation on social media!