Making Standards Useful in the Classroom

by Robert J. Marzano and Mark W. Haystead, ASCD, Alexandria, Va., 2008, 290 pp., $30.95 softcover

Identifying what we want students to know and do, making instructional decisions to guarantee each child does learn and documenting learning is the backbone of education these days. With national and state standards, one would think a streamlined, consistent and effective education would be the natural result.

Alas, it is not necessarily so.

Making Standards Useful in the Classroom

Divided into two parts, Making Standards Useful in the Classroom lays the groundwork to make sense of the stand-ards, to make them useful in instruction and to provide students with the viable and guaranteed curriculum each child deserves.

In Part I, the authors present guidelines for designing a system of instructional topics to be taught and measured. They recommend 20 or fewer topics per subject area per grade level be measured. They also advocate for the inclusion of life skills.

Rather than relying on the construction of common assessments, the authors suggest the use of common items and tasks for each topic. Over time, classroom teachers can design formative assessments to measure the achievement on the tasks.

Part II provides sample scoring scales for developmentally appropriate content for students in kindergarten through grade 8.

As with other works by Marzano that translate research into practice, a senior researcher with Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning, Making Standards Useful in the Classroom is extremely helpful in advancing our understanding of what a viable curriculum for each student in elementary and secondary education looks like.

Reviewed by Linda Gray Smith, superintendent, Chillicothe RII School District, Chillicothe, Mo.