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A Roadmap for Standards based Instruction

by Hillary Major

At the VAACE Conference in November 2017, I joined George Bailey from the Virginia Department of Education in unveiling “Implementing Standards-based Instruction in Virginia: A Technical Assistance Roadmap,” a multi-page guide for Virginia adult educators that includes information and resources to support implementation efforts in the areas of program design, instruction, and professional development. As we move toward the state goal of full implementation of standards-based instruction (SBI) by July 2019, it is important for stakeholders (teachers, managers, state staff, partners) to have a common definition of “full implementation.” The technical assistance roadmap begins with and is grounded in this definition:

Full implementation of standards-based instruction means that all adult education programs are prepared to deliver instruction aligned to and addressing all levels of state-adopted instructional standards. Standards-based instruction demonstrates College and Career Readiness key advances and meets the expectations set by the core actions of the Standards-in-Action observation tools. Organizational leadership, policies, and practices support the conditions necessary for the effective and sustainable implementation of standards-based instruction to maximize student learning in adult education classrooms across the Commonwealth.

Crucially, this definition emphasizes that the how of SBI implementation is just as important (or even more important) than the what of the specific content being covered. That’s why “action” is so central to the Standards-in-Action observation tools, helping educators focus on creating learning experiences where, for instance, “all or most students actively participate in the lesson through class discussions and activities, group projects, etc., instead of doing solitary seatwork or listening to extended lectures” and instructors consistently expect “evidence and precision from students” and ask them “to elaborate on and justify their answers.” Some of the indicators on the observation tools are familiar reminders of general good teaching practice while others specifically reflect college and career readiness advances; nevertheless, putting these actions into practice represents a cultural shift for many programs and staff.

Fortunately, there are many supports and technical assistance opportunities available to Virginia educators, and the roadmap provides an overview of current offerings as well as those that are in development. You can find the roadmap online at the VALRC website. Along with a printable PDF, the website links to a six-minute video that introduces the roadmap and its key elements. The roadmap is designed to be a convenient reference, with “quick links” to the standards documents and observation tools and answers to frequently asked questions. As our SBI journey continues and more resources become available, our roadmap will be updated. We hope it will be a valuable guide along the way to full implementation for our programs and 21st century success for our learners.

Hillary Major is Instructional Standards and Communications Specialist at the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center.