Timeless Practice #1


So many standards, so little time! Here’s how Dr. Robert Marzano concluded his research (2001) on the issue: “The sheer number of standards is the biggest impediment to implementing standards.”

In 2003, I wrote Power Standards: Identifying the Standards That Matter the Most to address this challenge. The process worked great, but many misinterpreted the term “power” to mean only certain standards are important and not to worry if they didn’t get to the others. As a result, I rebranded the process, Priority Standards, to underscore the point that certain standards should receive greater emphasis than others, but that all standards must still be taught. The cautionary phrase became, “Prioritization, NOT elimination!”

In 2013, I wrote Prioritizing the Common Core: Identifying Specific Standards to Emphasize the Most. Applicable to all standards in all grade levels in every state, not just the Common Core, this updates and expands the original process by clearly distinguishing Priority Standards as the most rigorous or comprehensive ones, and the others—the Supporting Standards—as the instructional scaffolds to the priorities.


Prioritizing the Common Core: Identifying Specific Standards to Emphasize the Most (2013)

A comprehensive update to the original book! Although written to address the Common Core standards in both ELA and math, the rationale, process, and examples are directly relevant and applicable to all state standards in the U.S. and all provincial learning outcomes in Canada.

Features of the book include:

  • In-depth rationale for prioritizing the Common Core State Standards.
  • Charts showing the large numbers of CCSS at every grade level, K-12, in both ELA and math.
  • Step-by-step process explaining how to prioritize the K–12 standards, in both content areas.
  • Reader’s Assignments to immediately apply the information and select your Priority Standards.
  • Practical strategies for soliciting feedback from all participants, especially those not involved in the initial selection process.
  • Narratives by district leaders from six different school districts in six different states describing how they identified their Priority Standards.


Power Standards: Identifying the Standards That Matter the Most (2003)

The original volume! A special feature is a detailed summary of the process three different districts in three different states used to identify their Power Standards, with accompanying commentary by those who directed the work. Each district’s process is described along with selected examples of their identified Power Standards.

Topics of the book include:

  • Why Power Standards?
  • How to Identify Power Standards
  • Involving Everyone in the Process
  • Wayne Township, Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Caldwell, Idaho
  • Palm Springs, California
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Identifying Power Standards: The Step-by-Step Process
  • “Unwrapping” Power Standards



To prevent differing professional opinions from getting in the way of reaching a consensus as to which standards to choose (state, provincial, or Common Core), K–12 teams use these objective selection criteria:

  • Endurance (lasting beyond one grade or course; concepts and skills needed in life)
  • Leverage (crossover applications within the content area and to other content areas; i.e., interdisciplinary connections)
  • Readiness for next level of learning (prerequisite concepts and skills students need to enter a new grade level or course of study)
  • External exam requirements (national, state, provincial, college, and career)

Keeping in mind these four important criteria, they then follow these steps:

Step 1: Make initial selections using selection criteria. Reach initial consensus.

Step 2: Look for connections to state tests. Make changes as needed.

Step 3: Chart selections for each grade.

Step 4: Vertically align Priority Standards K-12. Resolve uncertainties. Reach group consensus.

Step 5: Acquire feedback from all sites.

Step 6: Revise, publish, and distribute.

Source: Larry Ainsworth, Prioritizing the Common Core, 2013, p. 36

Larry Talks About Priority Standards