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Determining Priority Standards

Determining Priority Standards

Teaching is highly complex and demanding work. Each grade level and course are given a list of standards that if taught with equal focus and intensity would take far longer than 180 days to cover. Therefore, determining priority standards is a must. 


Priority Standards vs. Supporting Standards

In order properly prepare students for the next grade level, teachers must first determine which standards are priority standards and which are supporting standards. Priority standards are those that teachers will devote the most instructional time and focus. They are the essential standards that, if mastered, set students up for success in future grades, other content areas, standardized testing, and life. 

Information quote

In Ed Week’s article, Priority Standards: The Power of Focus, Larry Ainsworth lays out the difference between priority standards and supporting standards. He then explains, 

“Prioritizing certain standards over others does not mean eliminating those standards that do not make it into the starring roles. All standards    must be taught and assessed, and re-taught and reassessed, to gain evidence of student competency of those learning outcomes. Prioritizing the standards has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘lowering the bar,’ and everything to do with focus. It is about ‘less’ being more. The difference is in the degree of focus given to certain standards over others.”

How to Determine Priority Standards

Information about priority standards

There are several things to consider when creating a list of priority standards. 

  1. Will proficiency of this standard provide students with the knowledge and skills that will be of value beyond the present?

  2. Does proficiency of this standard enable students to be successful in other content areas?

  3. Is proficiency of this standard necessary for future grade levels or course?

  4. How is this standard weighted on state or national standardized tests?


Standardized Testing and Priority Standards

In Indiana, all third-grade students take the IREAD3 assessment which as designed to measure foundational reading skills based on the Indiana Academic Standards through grade 3. 


When answering all four questions above, we took this assessment into consideration when developing the K-2 prioritized standards bundle. The bundle enables teachers to see the vertical alignment of standards between grade levels.


K-12 Prioritized Standards Bundle

Individual grade levels are also available:


In grades 3-8 in Indiana, all students are given the ILEARN assessment in both ELA and Math. We utilized the testing blueprints provided by the IDOE to create prioritized standards for each grade level as well as bundles for those teachers interested in the vertical alignment of standards. They include both ELA and Math. You can find them here:


4th Grade (coming soon)

5th Grade (coming soon)

6th Grade (coming soon)

7th Grade (coming soon)

8th Grade (coming soon)



Determining priority standards is essential for schools. In doing so, teachers are enabled to devote the proper amount of time and emphasis to the standards that will ensure student success.



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