Today’s teachers are expected to take all students to proficient performance on a common set of grade level content standard indicators defined by the state. And schools have started to shift their focus from how well teachers are teaching to how well students are learning.
The critical first step to meeting any instructional target is to understand the target. Under Maryland's new "School Progress" plan, each school is measured against its own targets, and must work to strengthen achievement across all subgroups.
Student progress in reading and math for the elementary and middle school grades is measured by the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) or—for a small number of students with profound disabilities—the Alternate MSA (ALT-MSA). The High School Assessments are used to measure reading and math for high school grades. Not only does the school as a whole (all students) need to make AMO targets but ten subgroups of students (7 racial groups and 3 special needs groups) also have AMO targets. MSA and HSA are based on the Maryland State Standards.
The state content standards identify what students are expected to know and be able to do. It is probably obvious, though not always practiced, that classroom instruction and assessment must be aligned with the state content standards if a school wishes to attain state standards. It is critical for staff to understand the state content standards and state assessments used to monitor School Progress as well as how to recognize proficient student work at their grade level if they are going to fully understand their target.
Consequently, understanding the state content standards being assessed and knowing where their students are in relation to those standards is key to schools hitting the target. Educators who don't understand the target can't be counted on to teach the necessary knowledge and skills to students.