Power Standards:
An Overview
Presented by
Larry Ainsworth, M.S.
The Leadership and Learning Center
(866) 504-9312
The Need to Prioritize
“Teachers need to prioritize a set of
content standards so they can identify
the content standards at which they will
devote powerful, thoroughgoing
instruction, and then they need to
formally and systematically assess
student mastery of only those highpriority content standards.” ( W. James
Popham, Test Better, Teach Better: The Instructional Role of
Assessment, ASCD, 2003, p. 36)
Timeless and Timely Curriculum
“There’s a need for both timeless
curriculum content and timely
content…We have to make decisions
about what we shed and what we
keep—and some of what we’re holding
on to is predicated on outdated needs
(of students).” (Heidi Hayes Jacobs, “Creating a
Timely Curriculum,” Educational Leadership, Volume 61,
Number 4, p. 13).
Power Standards
A Proven Process for
Prioritizing the Standards
Larry Ainsworth, Power Standards: Identifying
the Standards That Matter the Most, 2003
Ever Wondered This?
So many standards (indicators),
so little time! How can teachers
effectively teach and assess
them all?
Would You Agree?
Isn’t depth of a lesser number of key
concepts and skills preferable to
“covering” superficially every concept
in the book?
Typically in U.S., teaching has been
“inch deep, mile wide”
Wouldn’t “inch wide, mile deep” better
meet student learning needs?
Deciding What to Teach
Within Time Allotted
“Given the limited time you have with
your students, curriculum design has
become more and more an issue of
deciding what you won’t teach as
well as what you will teach. You
cannot do it all. As a designer, you
must choose the essential.”
Heidi Hayes Jacobs, 1997
Time and Viability
“In the current era of standards-driven
curriculum, viability means ensuring
that the articulated curriculum content
for a given course or given grade level
can be adequately addressed in the
(instructional) time available.”
Robert Marzano, What Works in Schools,
ASCD, 2003, p. 25.
Consider These Facts
 5.6 instructional hours per day X 180 days =
1008 hours per year X 13 years = 13,104 total
hours of K-12 instruction
 McREL identified 200 standards and 3093
benchmarks (indicators) in national- and
state-level documents across 14 different
subject areas
 Classroom teachers estimated a need for
15,465 hours to adequately teach them all
More Years In School ?
“To cover all this content, you would
have to change schooling from K-12
to K-22…The sheer number of
standards is the biggest impediment
to implementing standards.”
“By my reckoning, we would have to
cut content by about two-thirds.”
Robert Marzano, Educational Leadership,
Sept. 2001, p. 15
Time Actually Devoted to
 Varies widely from a low of 21% to high of
 Taking highest estimate of 69%, only 9042
hours are actually available for instruction
out of the original 13,104 hours total
 Can 200 standards and 3093 benchmarks
needing 15,465 hours be taught in only
9042 hours of instructional time? No!
Robert Marzano, What Works in Schools,
ASCD, 2003, pp. 24-25.
Power Standards
All standards (and indicators) are not
equal in importance!
Narrow the standards and indicators
by distinguishing the “essentials” from
the “nice to know”
Teach the “nice to know” in the context
of the essentials!
Prioritization, not elimination!
Power Standards and
Supporting Standards
Like fence postholes,
Power Standards
provide curricular focus
in which teachers need
to “dig deeper” and
assure student
Like fence rails,
“Supporting Standards”
are curricular standards
which connect to and
support Power
Are the Rectangle and Rhombus
Equally Important?
 Which is more essential for students to really
understand and be able to do—in school, in
everyday life, and on state tests?
 Understand how to find area and perimeter of a
rectangle or triangle in an applied, real-life
 Memorize the formula for finding the area and
perimeter of a trapezoid, parallelogram, or
 The rectangle is a fence post;
the rhombus is a rail
But We Have To Do It All!
The Old Model:
Frantic Coverage
of Every Test
The New Model – From
Coverage to Focus
Curriculum and
Test Objectives
Curriculum and
But The State Tests
All Standards!
• Good set of Power Standards will address
about 88% of the items on the state test, but
not 100%
• If you go after that extra 12%, you will have
to cover many more standards (indicators)
and have less time to teach the truly
essential ones
• Rationale: better to be proficient at 88% of
what will probably be on state test versus
exposure to 100% of what could be
on test
Critical Conversations
“What knowledge and skills do this
year’s students need so they will
enter next year’s class with
confidence and a readiness for
Power Standards
PRIORITIZE the standards by
distinguishing the “essentials” from
the “nice to know”
Teach the “nice to know” in the context
of the essentials!
Critical message for everyone to
remember: prioritization, not
Power Standards provide FOCUS for
both instruction and assessment
Selection and Alignment
Selection of Power Standards based on
criteria of endurance, leverage, and
readiness for next level of learning
Power Standards vertically aligned
from one grade to the next, one course
to the next, until there is a K-12 vertical
“flow” of standards
Power Standards Steps
Step 1: Make initial selections based
on professional judgment
Step 2: Reference state test
requirements and state test data
Step 3: Modify selections as needed
Step 4: Vertically align standards K-12
Step 5: Acquire feedback from all sites
Step 6: Revise, publish, distribute
For Further Reference
Larry Ainsworth, Power Standards:
Identifying the Standards That
Matter the Most, 2003
Larry Ainsworth, M.S.
Center for Performance Assessment
(866) 504-9312 ext. 509

Designing and Assessing Standards