Prioritizing Standards/Unpacking


What you will need:

  • 4 different color markers or stickers

  • Most recent content area standards that have been adopted and approved by the Nebraska Board of Education and local BOE. (preferably use the horizontal standards so you can see how they build from year to year)

We use a 5 STAR system similar to a restaurant, hotel, or high school athletes. With one color, read through each indicator and give it a star if it meets the criterial below. For example, use blue for READINESS. If that specific indicator is needed at the next grade level to be successful, it would receive a blue star. Continue with the same color and star each standard indicator that qualifies as "Readiness". Below, each of the following indicator receives a different color. For ASSESSMENT, this indicator receives 2 STARS to mark the significance. Use your professional judgement once you have all the stars for each. When you are finished, use your professional judgement to decide if you need to rank any standards higher based on your experience and professional opinion. You can also bundle any 5 or 4 star standards that you typically teach/assess at the same time.

REAL Standards:

⭐️ R. Readiness: Is this needed for the next grade level to be successful?

⭐️ E. Endurance: Lifelong skill?

⭐️⭐️ A. Assessed: Is this assessed on state assessment? At what DOK?

​⭐️ L. Leverage: Will other content areas benefit from kids mastering this?

*"When considering whether to select one particular standard over another...discuss and decide which standard is more comprehensive and rigorous--not the more foundational." ~Larry Ainsworth 2015 (IF students reach mastery on the more rigorous standard, they are sure to be able to master the less strenuous standard)

*30-50% of standards should be in your core inner circle. You may not reach consensus on all standards. Within your PLC, try to reach for 70% consensus.


Now that you have identified the essential learnings, you need to unpack them!

*What exactly do the standards mean? What will students be able to do?

*What evidence of mastery will we accept? What level of DOK will we teach/assess at?

*Re-write the standard in student friendly language. "I CAN STATEMENTS". Make sure to use the necessary verbiage on what kids need to know and/or do!

ELA 2021

ELA Birds Eye Targets (Work in 2021)


  • Math Standards LINK

  • NSCAS Math information including Table of Specifications LINK

  • Standards tool for Math and Language Arts LINK

  • Science Standards LINK

  • Fine Arts Standards LINK

  • Visual Arts Standards LINK

  • Music Standards LINK

  • Theater Standards LINK

  • Social Studies 2019 LINK

  • World Languages Essential Learnings LINK

  • Career Education Standards LINK

  • Agriculture & Animal Science Standards LINK

  • Health Education Standards LINK

    • Physical Education Page LINK

Coordinated School Health LINK


Strategic and Specific – Linked to district priorities and part of a larger vision of success focused on students’ needs.

Measurable – The goal specifies how teachers will know that the desired learning was accomplished. “Measurement can and should occur in a number of different ways using a variety of different tools and strategies,” say Conzemius and O’Neill.

Attainable – The learning outcome is within the realm of teachers’ influence and control, and doable given current resources.

Results-oriented – Aimed at specific student learning outcomes that schools can measure or observe; this could be a percentage of students who improve in a certain area, or a demonstration of learning defined by the teacher.

Time-bound – Having a specific date by which the learning will be completed helps make the goal a priority and determine if it’s attainable.

MPS Template Coming Soon

Depth of Knowledge

DOK-1: What is the knowledge? At this level, students are asked to acquire and gather the information they need to develop deeper knowledge and thinking. They are asked mostly factual questions (who, what, where, when) about the texts and topics they are reading and reviewing. They might also might be asked to recall or reproduce how or why a concept or procedure works or is used. The answers to these good questions are either correct or incorrect. Good questions at this level ask students to describe what are the ideas and information presented in texts and explain how concepts and procedures work.

DOK-2: How can the knowledge be used? At this level, students are asked to demonstrate and communicate conceptual and procedural knowledge. They are asked analytical questions that challenge them to examine and explain how can the concepts and procedures they are learning be used to answer questions, address problems, accomplish tasks, or analyze texts and topics. They also begin to show and tell self-knowledge and personal understanding of how can and could they (or you) use what they (you) are learning. They also begin to think critically about how would you use the concepts and procedures to answer a question, address a problem, accomplish a task, or analyze a text or topic. Good questions at this level ask students to show and tell how concepts and procedures are used. The emphasis is more on the application of ideas and information rather than the item being addressed.

DOK-3: Why can the knowledge be used? Students learning at this level are still demonstrating and communicating conceptual and procedural understanding. However, the instructional focus and assessments shift from applying to analyze and evaluating how and why concepts and procedures can be transferred and used to attain and explain certain scenarios, settings, situations, and solutions. Students are also asked hypothetical questions that prompt them to think strategically and creatively about how could you use what they are learning. They are also asked argumentative questions that engage them to think reasonably about the credibility and validity of ideas and theories, critique different perspectives and points of view, and defend or refute conclusions and decisions.

DOK-4: How else can the knowledge be used? At this level, students are encouraged to extend their thinking deeper within the subject they are learning, across the curriculum, and even beyond the classroom. These learning experiences focus heavily on developing and demonstrating metacognition – specifically, conditional and contextual knowledge and self-knowledge. Students are asked to think critically about the impact, implications, and influence ideas and information have on a much grander scale. They are also encouraged to express and share their own perspectives and points of view about a text or topic using oral, written, creative, or technical communication. These learning experiences are time and thought-intensive and are typically presented and provided as active and authentic learning experiences such as project-based or problem-based learning that require in-depth research, examinations, investigations, and demonstrations of learning through design.

Contributing Research

the book, "Leading with FOCUS", by Mike Schmoker, there are several schools/districts that provide examples of what success can look like by narrowing their focus in curriculum and making sure all teachers have structured lessons.

Example 1 (page 65): Mather Elementary School: Gains Made with "Amazing Speed"

Mather Elementary School was a low-performing, mostly minority public elementary school in Boston. For years, principal Kim Marshall attempted to arrest what he called the "curricular anarchy" that prevails in the majority of U.S. schools: the fact that teachers of the same course don't tend to stick to an approximately common set of topics and standards. Persistent and courageous, Marshall eventually convinced his teachers to create a curriculum based on the most essential state standards with a heavy emphasis on purposeful reading and writing. As he put it to me in an email:

When the (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) became real-that is, when we got the word that our elementary students wouldn't get a high school diploma if they didn't pass the rigorous 10th grade test- we go hold of the 4th and 8th grade standards (the only grades with standards at that point) and sample assessment items and teased out the most essential standards for grades 3,2,1, and kindergarten and then up to grade 5. We then produced compact booklets of curricular expectations for each grade level, with sample reading passages and student writing exemplars, and printed copies for all staff and parents.

Put simply: the leadership team clarified the curriculum. And Marshall began to make frequent visits to classrooms to ensure that the curriculum was being faithfully taught. He then arranged for teachers to meet regularly in grade-level teams to help each other develop effective lessons aligned directly with the essential standards.

In Marshall's words, his school's focus on curriculum, collaboration, and frequent monitoring raised achievement levels "with amazing speed" (Marshall, 2003, p. 112). As was the case at Brockton High, some of the largest gains at Mather came in the first year, when scores rose from the bottom to the top third in citywide standings- the greatest gains of any large elementary school in Massachusetts.

Such is the power of a systematic if imperfect effort to move toward a "guaranteed and viable curriculum"-perhaps largest factor that affects school achievement (Marzano, 2003, p. 22).

Example 2 (p.66-68) Adlai Stevenson High School: Curriculum-Focused PLC's Stevenson High School, departments and course-alike teams took the lead on curriculum. Improvement efforts began with a charge to severely reduce the number of standards that teachers taught in each course. This mandate became the basis for constructing a common curriculum and curriculum-based assessments for every course and grading period, taught on a common but not overly restrictive schedule (about 15 percent of each course was left to teacher's discretion). the clear, common curriculum and assessments were essential to each team's collective focus and a boon to productive, improvement-oriented collaboration. Once the curriculums were completed, teams continued to meet on regular basis to improve the effectiveness of their daily lessons- work that can only occur where a common curriculum in in place.

One of the primary reasons for Stevenson's success was a brief, focused quarterly review of each course-alike team's performance. The work was distributed among teh principal, assistant principal, and department heads. At those meetings, leaders asked simple, common-sense questions: How well did students in each perspective course perform that quarter? Was performance even somewhat higher than last quarter? If not, what could leaders do to improve performance in the coming quarter?

Moreover, Stevenson embraced the same model of effective instruction discussed in Chapter 2. The assistant principal and successor as principal and superintendent, noted that his primary objective when conducting classroom observations was to promote purposeful, curriculum-based lessons that featured chunked lessons, guided practice, and checks for understanding- for each step of instruction. he was especially emphatic about the importance of checking for understanding and circulating around the classroom during student guided practice: for him, such "real-time, same-day" assessments of progress are the heart of effective lessons (see Focus, p. 66). After conducting his walkthroughs, he would report his finding to the relevant departments or at faculty meetings with a clear expectation for targeted improvements. They have found that very few schools do this.

...This school had remarkable results...ACT scores rose from 22 to 26.5-even as the state began to require all students including the non-college-bound, to take the test. During this same period, the school achieved an 800 percent increase in the number of students passing AP exams (DuFour, 2014). The leadership team accomplished all of this with a deep, intensive focus: DuFour was emphatic that during the first five years of the improvement effort Stevenson conducted no additional or external professional development whatsoever- and, like brockton, without any additional expenditures.