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Power Standards

22 Mar Power Standards: It’s about time!

By Sarah Hanna, Rubicon International

Most schools feel the pressure of making everything fit. Teachers are doing their best to make strategic decisions about what content and activities deserve precious class time, including creative ways to combine learning objectives, and what can be taught peripherally or even omitted.


What a great time to revisit the notion of identifying essential standards or power standards in your classroom! The process of identifying power standards acknowledges the time shortage, and encourages faculty to work collaboratively to determine which standards are most critical at each grade level and makes sure that their teaching supports that emphasis.

The WHEN & The WHY

Schools may select power standards at the start of the school year, or may find a mid-year selection process is most timely. One of the biggest incentives for power standards is that once identified, teachers are on the same page, and feel more at ease about which standards deserve the most focus for the remaining months. Reducing teacher stress as well as reducing unrealistic or inconsistent expectations put on students are two great reasons for saying YES to power standards!


Once teachers have come to consensus on identifying the most essential standards and have compared their selections across grade levels, identifying gaps, overlaps and omissions, they need a clear and consistent way to denote which standards are power standards.

One way to make your power standards stand out among the rest is to create a unique icon that would flag each essential standard. If your school has a curriculum mapping system, like Atlas, then creating those identifiers becomes quite easy and very helpful.

The appearance of the power standards icon should be easy to recognize and distinguishable from the rest of your standards.

 Many schools like the “P” for Power Standards. Simple and easily identifiable.

Some choose numeric identifiers as a way to distinguish which term or quarter a particular standard will be taught.   This works if teachers will all be teaching that standard within the same quarter.

 Choosing level of priority is also an option: T1a = most essential, T1b = important, but less of a focus than a P1.

 Others select an icon that reveals which standard should be taught within a particular course, particularly in HS when the standard may not be grade level specific. Social studies teachers, for example, could delineate whether a standard will be prioritized in Government, World History, etc and in which grade.


After selecting an icon that visually flags each power standard, you are ready to begin building and reviewing alignments. Being able to collectively track which essential standards are aligned to each course, particularly across multiple grade levels, creates a clear, cohesive process. For instance, if there were thirty standards in Grade 8 English, perhaps fourteen might be identified as Power Standards.  Filtering reports to those fourteen Power Standards allows teachers and administrators to take note of which have been taught- perhaps it’s eight of the 14, leaving six to be integrated into the remainder of the year.

The report below shows the Power and Supporting Standards in Social Studies Grades 6-8. Seeing a comparison across multiple grade levels allows the Social Studies cohort to take a close, analytical look at which standards deserve priority in each grade.

Ultimately, the decision to move forward with power standards must be considered carefully.  Some schools test the process with one particular subject area before deciding whether to tackle all content areas. But should your school or district decide to move forward, encourage a thoughtful, inclusive selection process and find a consistent and transparent way to capture your power standards data for all.

To gain further insights about engaging the power standards selection process at your school, download our webinar and read this post.

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