Q & A: High Priority Learning Standards

This post includes some of the most frequently asked questions I have encountered regarding High Priority Learning Standards (HPLS) and the answers I provide for each.

Question: Who selects the HPLS?  Teachers? Curriculum Directors? 

Answer: In order to provide a guaranteed and viable curriculum across a district, the system for developing the HPLS must occur at the district level.  Though quality leadership comes with the inclusion of key educators and other instructional leaders, the development of HPLS should not occur on individual campuses or within individual classrooms.  In doing so, this may lead to inequity of access to high quality teaching and learning.


Question: Do HPLS apply to all content areas, or only the core curriculum (reading, math, science, social studies)?

Answer: Students benefit from the focus on HPLS in all disciplines.  Clear, rigorous, and manageable in number describe high quality standards focus for all areas of study.


Question: Do we teach everything, or only the HPLS?

Answer: Organization of conceptual units of study around the HPLS provide an opportunity to integrate the remaining standards as support and allow all students to have access to all content specified by the state of Texas.  So, we don’t teach everything, rather we design learning experiences for our students to study all content in the standards, with a specific focus on the HPLS.


Question: What impact do the HPLS have on everyday teaching and learning?

Answer: Standards design influences assessment design, assessment design influences instruction, and instructional decisions determine the level and type of learning opportunities provided to students.  It all starts with the HPLS design.  For example, at the district level, the identification of the HPLS for reading and math should then influence the Response to Intervention system, as that is the safety net for the guarantee in the guaranteed and viable curriculum.


Question: We offer honors (or Pre-AP) level courses.  Should those have different HPLS?

Answer: If the course is aligned to the same state standards, then the HPLS should be the same.  Most importantly, do not lower the expectations for students not enrolled in honors level coursework.  All students should be given the opportunity for profound learning.


Question: How many HPLS should be designed for a given course?

Answer: I hesitate to give a concrete number, but fewer is better.  The HPLS should be manageable in number, as well as clear and concise in order to focus the learning.

What other questions do you have about HPLS?

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