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Focusing Instruction Through Standards Prioritization and Model Units

Central office supporting teachers in the pandemic


Knowing the challenges with remote learning in the pandemic, Cedar Rapids Community School District opted to focus instruction on the most important content for each subject area and grade level.

"If you're going to ask something of people, you've got to give them the materials. You have to give them a roadmap. I think teachers have realized, wow, a lot of the stuff I was doing was extraneous to what kids really needed to learn... People have started to cut the fat a little bit and get down to what kids really need to know, which means standards." - John Rice, Executive Director, Teaching and Learning at Cedar Rapids Community School District


The district’s academics team worked diligently to narrow down standards, focusing on the most critical content for students to learn. During the vetting process, the team created a core shell for each content and standard along with an exemplar unit for teachers to use as they designed their own units (which lived in Google Classroom or Canvas, depending on the teacher’s preferred platform). Given the rise in teacher absences, many academic team members’ substitutes taught using the new shells, further refining and helping to improve upon the prioritization.

The prioritization work connected well with the district’s shift towards standards-based learning, which they explored more deeply through the Strategy Lab.

This strategy is a part of TLA's Hop, Skip, Leapfrog release, which explores the concrete ways in which schools and systems pursued student-centered innovation during COVID-19. Explore the full guide to find additional strategies, insights, and resources.

Strategy Resources

Prioritizing Standards and Modeling Standards-Based Units

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cedar Rapids Community School District worked with teachers to... Learn More