Action Overview: Role and Purpose of Standards

This set of resources is designed to help educators explore the role and purpose of standards within a standards-based education system.

What is the role and purpose of standards?

Academic standards ensure that all students are ready for post-secondary career or college pathways and a productive life in their world. Academic standards provide a focus for teaching and learning by identifying essential outcomes for all students to achieve by the end of a grade or grade band. Educators align assessment, curriculum and instruction to the knowledge and skills outlined in the standards through achievable benchmarks that provide a pathway from early learning to high school graduation.

Standards are an important tool for educational equity: all students are required to meet the standards and benchmarks, therefore all schools must work through a continuous improvement process to ensure each and every child reaches these outcomes.

A standards-based education system ensures that all students, regardless of race, background, culture, socio-economic status, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, sexual orientation or perceived ability have access to a high quality education. These systems have the potential to raise achievement by providing all students with challenging curricula and learning experiences.

The Minnesota Department of Education (2018) defines equity through the following statement:

”Educational equity is the condition of justice, fairness and inclusion in our systems of education so that all students have access to the opportunities to learn and develop to their fullest potentials. The pursuit of educational equity recognizes the historical conditions and barriers that have prevented opportunity and success in learning for students based on their races, incomes, and other social conditions. Eliminating those structural and institutional barriers to educational opportunities requires systemic change that allows for distribution of resources, information and other support depending on the student’s situation to ensure an equitable outcome.

Equity is different from equality. Equity is a principle that is based upon justness and fairness, while equality demands everyone be treated at the same level.”

Minnesota’s commitment to equity

· Prioritize equity: Set and communicate a vision and targets for high outcomes for all students.

· Start from within: Focus on leadership, diversity and inclusiveness.

· Measure what matters: Use relevant and meaningful data. Hold each other accountable for equity.

· Go local: Engage and develop leaders on every level. Empower community partners in the continuous improvement work.

· Follow the money: Allocate resources to learners who need them most.

· Start early: Invest in students early on.

· Monitor equitable implementation of standards: Improve the quality of curriculum and instruction for all students.

· Value people: Focus on teachers and leaders. Develop the people you have. Ensure equitable access to the best teachers.

· Improve conditions for learning: Focus on school culture, climate and social-emotional development. Connect teaching to the experiences, assets and needs of students.

· Give students options: Empower students with high-quality options to support every student’s success.


1. Stakeholders view and discuss a video to help deepen understanding of equity and of the characteristics and components of culturally responsive practices.