Mastering Standards & Compliance: A Q&A with Alli Vice & Kara Meaux

Allison Vice & Kara Meaux

Chief Innovation Officer | Manager, ULS Alignment & Special Projects

How are extended standards determined by each state?

Each state is different, but most form committees to develop their standards, comprised of educators on different levels: teachers, administrators, supervisors, consultants, etc. Usually, a study of national and other standards is done. Then teams write the standards. And then a review process is conducted in which other stakeholders are given time to review and make suggestions for improvements to the standards. That is usually followed by a revision process.

Are standards national or worldwide?

There are standards and extended standards developed by national consortiums.

When you say “extended standards” are you just talking about grade-level standards in all core subjects or something more than that?

Extended standards are extensions of grade-level standards in all subjects that are reduced in breadth, depth and complexity to provide access for students with significant cognitive disabilities. They are an alternate set of standards.

How do you raise your end-of-course test scores?

In a general sense, it’s important to have an instructional plan or scope and sequence that ensures that all grade-level standards are being taught throughout the year. Using monthly pre- and post-test data to monitor student progress and drive instruction is important. Also, introducing students to grade-level standards in a way that ensures mastery, with the ability to advance to new material and cycle back to review standards that might require extra practice is key. Periodic benchmark assessments can also help to ensure progress toward success on end-of-course tests.

Our case studies share examples of how some large districts have succeeded in raising their scores with the monthly checkpoints and standards alignment in Unique Learning System.

How do I find out what my state extended standards are called?

Standards and extended standards can be found on each state’s Department of Education website. If you have a subscription to n2y, the standards alignment documents are available in your account, along with automated point-of-use of standards addressed through the Teacher Dashboard.

Where is the Teacher Dashboard?

The Teacher Dashboard is the first screen you see (home screen) after you log into Unique Learning System. It’s a powerful daily management hub—helping you take charge of your day from one convenient place.

Will Unique Learning System differentiate for an object-level learner?

Unique Learning System differentiation supports various learning levels. We make suggestions in the lesson plans of objects that can be used for those who need real objects as well as manipulatives that can be printed.

How do you cover the standards when you have classes that fall across grade bands such as a K–4 class and a 5–6 class?

So, the organization is key in these cases. Keeping academic content organized by grade level will improve success. Special educators often service students in a wide range of grades. Familiarizing yourself with the similarities in standards across those particular grade bands lessens the load. Many standards within close grades are written very similarly. Becoming familiar with the standards that are very close in wording will help you find things that you can do together as a class. This allows you to then focus on the standards that are differentiators for each grade. You can also look for existing content providers and programs for assistance with pacing and content. The lessons in Unique Learning System are presented in grade bands that span three years. A teacher who serves students in grades K–5 could use the Elementary (K–2) and Intermediate (3–5) grade bands of Unique Learning System. Each grade band develops lessons that target access and mastery of extended standards for three grade levels. Again, this takes organization as each Unique Learning System grade band provides a massive quantity of engaging content.

Where can I find more information on Unique Learning System?

For complete details, you can:

Do you typically see districts that have scope and sequence but also focus more on standards based on their students?

Yes, we do see that trend. Many states are developing or have adopted pacing guides or blueprints, which identify when particular extended standards should be addressed or targeted during the school year. Most standards we review also account for the need to work on prerequisite skills or increase the targeted time based on individual student needs. So there’s always that flexibility that’s required, but we are seeing more focus on scope and sequence. And we’re also seeing the creation of accessible high school courses. Courses such as Accessible English 1, Accessible Algebra 1 and Biology are now available in many states and allow students to graduate with vital skills.

About the Author

Alli Vice and Kara Meaux bring decades of combined experience and expertise in the special education field. Alli is a certified speech-language pathologist who has served as a school coordinator and developer, with expertise in the areas of communication disorders, behavior, curriculum and assistive technology. Kara is a certified K–8 teacher and Educational Leader with expertise in developing and aligning curriculum, instruction and assessments as well as training and mentoring teachers and principals.