Component Overview: Standards-Based Education System

A system that is standards-based aligns policies, practices and supports to ensure all students achieve or exceed the academic standards in all content areas. In this section of Getting Started, actions and resources are provided to help educator teams develop shared understanding of a standards-based education system.

What is shared understanding of a standards-based education system?

Shared understanding of a standards-based education system is a goal achieved through the intentional collaboration of educators. Understanding is considered to be shared when all staff can articulate:

· the role of academic standards and benchmarks,

· the components of a standards-based education system,

· connections between core values and a standards-based education system,

· the continuous improvement plan for the organization, and

· implementation frameworks that ensure students benefit from improved instructional practices.

Why is developing shared understanding of a standards-based education system important?

Shared understanding of a standards-based education system is essential in order to promote educational equity across all parts of the PK-12 system. “Education equity is the condition of justice, fairness and inclusion in our systems of education so that all students have access to the opportunity to learn and develop to their fullest potential. The pursuit of education equity recognizes the historical conditions and barriers that have prevented opportunity and success in learning for students based on their race, income, and other social conditions. Eliminating those structural and institutional barriers to educational opportunity requires systemic change that allows for distribution of resources, information and other support depending on the student’s situation to ensure an equitable outcome” (MDE ESSA School Improvement Advisory Committee, 2016).

Based on a large body of research, clear standards “are virtually a necessity for equitable and excellent schools. The idea is to create a whole educational system in which all educators explicitly know specifically what they need to accomplish to be successful with all their students” (Scheurich & Skrla, 2003, p. 31).

Where systemic equity exists, systems and individuals “habitually operate to ensure that every learner—in whatever learning environment that learner is found—has the greatest opportunity to learn enhanced by the resources and supports necessary to achieve competence, excellence, independence, responsibility, and self-sufficiency for school and for life” (Scott, 2001).

How do we develop shared understanding of a standards-based education system?

Developing shared understanding is not accomplished through a single meeting or task. It is the ongoing work of challenging and deepening current understandings of the reasons for and core components of a standards-based education system. Guidance and resources throughout the Portal are specifically designed to support organizations to continuously improve this system. Building a shared understanding is both a first step for this work, and a useful lens for assessing and evaluating the system. To accomplish this strategy, the following actions are recommended:

· Examine the potential of standards-based education to address educational inequity and ensure high expectations and high achievement for all learners.

· Examine the components of a standards-based education system.

· Examine core values and connections to a standards-based education system.

· Build capacity for continuous improvement.

· Develop an understanding of implementation.


Scott, B. (2001, March). Coming of age. IDRA Newsletter. San Antonio, TX: Intercultural Development Research Association. (url)

Scheurich, J.J. and Skrla, L. (2003). Leadership for Equity and Excellence: Creating High-Achievement Classrooms, School, and Districts. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.