Students engaged in learning

Teachers in grades 6-12 from the rural regions of Atlanta and Hillman are making changes in how they teach English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics to students in grades 6 through 12. These teachers are working alongside Instructional Specialists Julie Bastow and Ashlie O’Connor to improve the education of their students by focusing on certain important topics, or what educators call priority standards.

By using priority standards, teachers can make sure students focus on deeper learning of the most important things they need to know. Once priority standards are identified, teachers define step-by-step what the success criteria to learn these standards looks like. This clarity around success criteria fosters independence as students use the steps to learn how to set their own learning goals. 

ELA Specialist Julie Bastow explains, “When students can clearly see what the steps to success look like they can better understand what they need to do, to do well in school. Think of it in a real-world context, if you're given a task in a workplace with clearly identified steps to achieve that task, it’s more likely to get done well. ” 

Through an intentional process of design, teachers then create assessments that match these standards to help determine in which areas students are doing well and where more support is needed for student improvement. Clear feedback from the teacher helps to guide students in how to reflect on their own progress and either move on to a new goal or reset their goal for stronger understanding.

As these teachers continue their work in rural northeastern Michigan, they are showing how teamwork and dedication to strong instructional practices can make a big difference in helping students learn and grow. Their efforts are helping to shape the future of education in their communities.