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How Should Learning Teams Choose Essential Outcomes?

One of the questions that I'm often asked in #atplc workshops is, "How should our learning team identify the essential and nonessential standards in our curriculum?"

My answer is a simple one:  Instructional experts like Bob Marzano and Rick Stiggins argue that teachers and teams should spend their instructional time focused on content and skills that pass the endurance, leverage, readiness test:

(download slide and view original image credit on Flickr here)


Content and skills that pass the endurance test are going to be useful to students long after they've left our schools.  For example, students who learn to build knowledge with others through collaborative dialogue will be able to draw from those skills and experiences whether they decide to become an engineer, a marketing specialist, or an electrician.

Content and skills that pass the leverage test are useful across domains.  For example, students who learn a structured process for analyzing a text in language arts class might be able to apply that same process when asked to analyze in their science or social studies classes.

Content and skills that pass the readiness test must be mastered in order for students to be successful in the same content area next year.  For example, simplifying fractions might be a readiness skill for sixth graders if it is a skill that they will rely on heavily in their seventh grade math class.

Here's a handout that can help your team to determine whether or not the content and skills in your curriculum actually pass the endurance, leverage, readiness test:

Questions for your learning team to consider:

Look your lesson plans over for the last unit that you taught.  What percentage of time did you spend on endurance skills?  Leverage skills?  Readiness skills?  What implications do your choices have for your students?  For your learning team?  For your school? Are you proud of the way that you are spending time in your classroom?

What factors -- student readiness, school policies, state regulations, parent expectations -- are currently driving your choices around how to spend instructional time in your classroom?  Is there anything that you can do to change those factors?

Is your team making choices about what to teach together, or are individual teachers deciding on essential and nonessential outcomes by themselves?  How are those work patterns either helping or harming your students?  The teachers in the next grade level?  Your school as a whole?


Related Radical Reads:

Ten Tips for Writing Common Formative Assessments

What Role Should Hunches Play in a PLC?

New Slide:  Hunches in a PLC



1 Comment

john e commented on April 20, 2014 at 11:32am:

This - endurance, leverage,

This - endurance, leverage, and readiness -  is new language to me but the idea is so simple and significant that I'm pleased to find out how this is formally referred to. I've often said that one of the big problems in our high school math program is that it only has to do with credentialization (ie getting into college) and is relevant for the future to only a tiny percentage of the students (those that go into particular branches of physics and economics).  For eample, for most students, simple algebra (ie without exponents) passes the test of endurance in that for almost all professional jobs, there are simple algebra problems all the time.  However, I have never seen a quadratic problem (never mind a calculus problem) since I left college. In the real world, there are rarely exponents on our quantitative analysis. Surely, there's more leverage in teaching students about probability, data analysis and display, finance, and algorithms/logic than in spending 3-4 years solving quadratic and differential equations.

John E, founder and mayor


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