Where to end up? Goals for the Year

This post couldn’t come at a more perfect time. I’m visiting a friend in Dallas right now, and last night we had a conversation late into the night (the way teachers do) about the idea of differentiation and goals. When we say differentiation, we know that we mean things like chunking assignments or allowing for more time or offering more supports so the struggling student can reach the same goal set for the non-struggling student. But, the question we spent a long time sorting through was, does that mean we’re changing our expectations for students based on their abilities or are we supposed to have the same goals for all students? Does that really do our students a service, having the same goals when they’re not the same? Or does not having the same goals inevitably mean we’re lowering our expectations? These were some tough questions for midnight on a Wednesday, and I’m still thinking about it.

Here’s where we came out – we have two sets of goals. First, we have goals for proficiency for the grade level, where we want ALL students to be by the end of the year and by the time they’re moving onto the next year (whatever level that may be). Second, we have goals by level. So for an honors class, I might then add to that grade level goal, in order to differentiate (and extend) for the honors students and push them further. Whereas for those students on-level, I might have the same grade level goals as I do for the course, and then adjust based on the specific students I have in the room versus as a whole, for the course. Does that make sense to anyone else? I feel like, in my head, I get that. But I’m still not sure if I’m “right” – can we even be “right” in education or is this one of those questions that comes down to philosophy? 

So, with what I thought about and decided last night, and continuing with the UBD-style planning for the upcoming school year, here are the goals I have for my students:

11th grade goals (comes from some extend from PA Core Standards though more focused based on my curriculum): 

By the end of 11th grade, students will…

– be able to identify, track, and analyze theme throughout a text

– connect (synthesize) texts to one another by theme 

– determine author’s purpose and identify supporting elements from the text that proves that

– be able to write a clear thesis that they revisit in each supporting paragraph in order to better prove their argument

– be able to write an effective introductory paragraph that employs various strategies (broad to narrow, historical background, anecdote, quotation) but avoids tropes like “since the dawn of man” and a rhetorical question

– be able to write an effective conclusion paragraph that does just repeat or summarize their previous points

– identify and eliminate passive voice to improve diction

– employ appropriate transition words between and within paragraphs

– determine meaning of tier three vocabulary words using root words, context clues, and connotation

– participate clearly and regularly in classroom discussions of texts and analysis

– communicate with classmates clearly 


By the end of 11th grade honors, students will…

– be able to do all of the above

– evaluate the effectiveness of an author’s purpose

– vary their diction and syntax to create voice in writing

– examine shades of meaning in diction and choose words based on their precise meaning for writing

– challenge other student’s thinking and play devil’s advocate in an argument to further their own purpose/thesis/claim


Obviously these are not hard and fast rules, but I feel based on our long conversation last night, the level of proficiency for my 11th grades is what’s listed first. Then, higher level differentiation starts in the second list. This will not only be used for honors students, as we all know sometimes we have higher level students in a non-honors class or higher than honors students in an honors class. So beyond this, I will use my best judgement. But I would love feedback on this. Is this where you see your 11th graders? Do you push further? How do you view differentiation versus proficiency? Are they at odds or on the same path? 


One thought on “Where to end up? Goals for the Year

  1. Rachel, I think one of the critical pieces of goals is to determine whether the skill will be done independently or with support. I believe that when the goal is for students to independently write an introductory paragraph, then differentiation still has the end goal of students independently writing an introductory paragraph. The scaffolding you employ along the way, such as paragraph or sentence frames and vocabulary lists are supports that lead to independent mastery.
    Personally, I think one of the greatest mistakes in the name of differentiation comes when teachers differentiate goals for non Special Education students in the same class, and/or create goals for students that are below grade level. I think your description of differentiation of goals by level of course makes good sense, such as the way you’ve described goals for honors students.

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