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Choosing Standards that Work at CCS

February 22, 2018
By Joyce Blum, Director of Student Learning

At the center of education there has always been the need to have an accurate assessment process which determines and measures what students must know and do to learn at their highest level. Making sure all students are given equal opportunity to learn originally began with individual states determining their own learning outcomes or standards.

What are standards? Standards are written expectations of what students are expected to know at a specific stage of education. Standards should contain three things:
  1. the desired level of proficiency,
  2. the skill that students are expected to master, and
  3. a way in which to measure the skill.

Since 2010, however, 45 states have chosen to adopt matching standards in place of their unique ones. These are known as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In 2011, Washington State made the choice to replace their original Learning Outcomes (EALRs) with CCSS.

Up until that time, Cascade Christian Schools used the Washington State EALRs as a guide for the development of CCS Learning Outcomes. When the CCSS was adopted by Washington state, Cascade Christian evaluated these standards and determined which standards we would adopt, and how we would use them to guide learning at CCS. After spending time interacting with these standards we came to some conclusions:
  1. While the content of these standards was thorough, we felt there were too many standards to realistically work through in a school year. This has been a common complaint of many educators as they have implemented the CCSS.
  2. We also felt there were redundancies in the standards, and how to measure the outcomes were vague at best.

This led us on a search for the best standards for Cascade Christian’s students and teachers.

Researching a variety of standards, we looked carefully at:
  1. what standards would be the best reflection of what we desire for our students (mission match), and
  2. which ones would be the best guide for our teachers as they implemented them over the course of the school year (effectiveness).

It’s important to remember that at Cascade Christian Schools, the standards do not tell us what to do, but rather help guide us while educating our students. We are not obligated to follow a particular set of standards at CCS, but we do know that in order to prepare our students for the next level of their educational experience, it is important that we are not leaving any gaps in a student’s learning. With that in mind, we looked for standards that we could adopt as well as edit as needed.

In the spring of 2017, the decision was made to adopt the “Critical Concepts,” standards by the Marzano Research Group. The development of this set of standards began with The Marzano Group evaluating several sets of standards that were being implemented across the country. They then proceeded to write their own standards, taking out the redundancies and combining similar content into a set of standards that can be met within the time frame of one school year.

The Marzano Group also wrote Proficiency Scales (a way to measure student progress in meeting a standard) for each standard, grades K-12. This is a great tool for Cascade Christian as we move forward in implementing the Marzano Critical Concepts set of standards. We know that having good standards, and a way to accurately measure each student’s learning, will help us better prepare students as they move through our school.

During the 2017-18 school year, the educational team at CCS is working on aligning Math with the Critical Concepts. Teachers are looking at any gaps that might exist for K-12 in this subject. Next year the same process will occur for K-12 English Language Arts (ELA), and the same process will begin for Science.

A plan for educating our teachers and administrators in these standards is in place. We firmly believe this will provide our students with excellence in teaching methods, effective measurement of student learning, and opportunities for continual improvement in their educational experience.

Long term goals include providing students with a report card that specifically reflects how that child met each of the learning standards. The Critical Concepts tool will eventually be used to update all CCS standards, including Social Studies, Bible, Leadership, Creative Arts, Foreign Language, ELL, PE, etc.

At Cascade Christian Schools we want all our students to learn at their highest level. We know we are on the right path (and are utilizing the CCS Educational Road Map) to aid our teachers and our students in accomplishing this goal. We will continue to communicate throughout the implementation of The Critical Concepts. If you have specific questions, please feel free to contact me at