K-12 Prioritization of Standards

In Tacoma Public Schools (TPS), we align our work with our strategic plan to measure and support the Whole Child. The K-12 Alignment of Standards project will directly impact and support the benchmarks under our Academic Excellence strategic goal, which states that "all students will perform at or above grade level". As part of the Tacoma Public Schools' strategic plan to measure the whole child, the Washington State Learning Standards (WSLSs) define what a student should know and be able to accomplish at each grade level.


In 1992, WA House Bill 1209 passed and required the development of state learning standards Since the mid 1990’s, standards have been an important part of teaching and learning for all districts in the State of Washington. The state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) reports that it updates standards by content area, every 6 – 10 years. WSLSs encompass nationally adopted standards such as the SHAPE America National PE Standards, National Health Education Standards, Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and the National Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century.

Prioritization of Standards

When TPS educators were surveyed in November, 2016, it was determined that due to the high number of standards per content area and grade, teachers were prioritizing what standards to teach and assess as individuals or in teams. This was because the number of Washington State Learning Standards for each content area was just too overwhelming. 

In order to ensuring every student has equitable access to learning opportunities directly related to the skills and content in the WSLS, the district is taking a more strategic approach to align content standards by grade level. Under the leadership of the Curriculum and Instruction department, TPS educators are working in K-12 content teams to identify priority standards as well as supporting standards. The process began in February, 2017 and will continue each year for three years until all content areas are prioritized.

The criteria used to identify which standards are priority includes:

  1. Endurance: Those standards that provide students with knowledge and skills beyond a single test date.
  2. Leverage: Those standards that provide knowledge and skills that will be of value in multiple disciplines (example non-fiction writing).
  3. Readiness: Those standards that provide knowledge and skills that are necessary for success in the next grade or level of instruction.
  4. External Exams: State and national exams are brought in as a 4th lens during the prioritization process. This includes the Smarter Balance Assessment, Advanced Placement exams, International Baccalaureate exams, etc.

Accordion Feedback Process

An accordion process is used to obtain feedback on the determined priority standards. All teachers who teach and assess each set of content standards have the opportunity to provide their feedback. Prioritization teams review feedback from their colleagues at large, refine and make adjustments as appropriate, and make recommendations for the final rollout of prioritized standards. This accordion process is conducted (3) times for each content area as the standards are prioritized.

This protocol is based on Larry Ainsworth’s Framework for Prioritizing Standards.

Health Education k-12 Learning Standard
Frequently Asked Questions

What are TPS Prioritization Teams saying?

The following videos were created to show what educators had to say about their experience prioritization standards: