Unpacking Essential Standards

Unpacking Essential Standards

0.50 USBE Credits
Teachers must work together to address the question, "What do we want students to learn?" Once a teacher/team has identified these essential standards, they must then unpack them. The unpacking process helps educators to identify what proficiency looks like for the specific essential standard. It also helps educators to identify learning objectives (Students will be able to...) that make up the essential standard. Each learning objective is then broken down into learning targets (I can...) that provide stepping stones to each learning objective. The learning objectives then provide stepping stones to the essential standard.


To earn this 0.5 credit microcredential you will submit two different types of evidence from the list below to demonstrate your consistent and effective identification of essential standards. You will also complete a written or video reflective analysis. Click Earn This Microcredential to learn more!


You will be charged $25 by the badge provider. You'll be charged at the point you submit your badge for final review.


This microcredential represents more than performing a close read of the Utah Core Standards. It involves a deliberate process that PLCs use to describe exactly what students need to know or do, and how they demonstrate their proficiency.
Having this information allows educators to create common formative assessments that measure student proficiency in relation to the learning objectives and learning targets. Data from these common formative assessments drive intervention for students who did not master a specific skill and drive team professional development as they build their capacity to meet the needs of their specific students.


Essential Standard or Essential Learning: What teachers will teach

Learning Objective: What students will be able to do; clarifies desired outcome

Learning Target: Daily "I can" statements for students; clarifies to a student how they know they have mastered the learning


An 8th grade math team at Excellence Middle School has an upcoming unit with the essential standard of expressions and equations. The team of 4 first reviews the Utah 8th grade math standards to determine what a student would need to be able to do in order to demonstrate proficiency. They then work backwards identifying a few learning objectives that become stepping stones to break up expressions and equations into manageable smaller chunks of instruction. They then break up each learning objective into daily learning targets.


Other: Submit a document showing a specific essential standard that has been fully unpacked. This includes the identification of specific learning objectives, the description of specific learning targets for each objective (I Can statements), and a clear articulation of student proficiency (what proficient student work will look like).

Candidates are required to make 2 evidence submission(s).

Review Criteria

Evidence demonstrates the identification of student Learning Objectives (Students will be able to...).Evidence demonstrates the identification of specific Learning Targets (I can...) for each learning objective.Evidence demonstrates the clear articulation of what proficient student work will look like.


  1. Describe the process you use to identify the specific learning objectives of an essential standard.

  2. Once you have identified the learning objectives for an essential standard, describe your process to determine their learning targets.

  3. Once you have identified specific learning objectives and learning targets, describe your process for determining what proficient student work will look like.

Review Criteria

Reflection describes the use of a process to identify learning objectives for student proficiency.Reflection describes the use of a process to identify specific learning targets for student proficiency.Reflection describes the use of a process to clearly articulate what proficient student work will look like.


Art and Science of Teaching / Targets, Objectives, Standards: How Do They Fit? Robert J. Marzano (Educational Leadership, May 2013, Volume 70, Number 8) Faces of Poverty- pgs 82-83
5 recommendations and descriptions from Robert Marzano giving more clarity to targets, objectives and standards.

Fort Herriman Middle School Proficiency Standards
Examples of unpacking documents from Fort Herriman Middle School.

Identifying Essential Standards--All Things PLC
http://www.allthingsplc.info/files/uploads/identifying-essential-standards-presentation .pdf
This pdf explains how essential standards fit into the PLC process and why the process of developing essential standards is valuable.

Juab Junior High School Proficiency Standards
Examples of unpacking documents from Juab Junior High School.

Learning by Doing: A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work by Richard DuFour, Rebecca DuFour, Robert Eaker, Thomas W. Many, and Mike Mattos
Find it on Amazon.com
This book systematically looks at the PLC process and shows how schools turn their knowledge into action. By looking at the experiences of real schools going through the PLC process, the authors are able to offer practical advice and guidance.

Taking Action: A Handbook for RTI at Work by Austin Buffum
Find it on Amazon.com
This book is a guide for implementing Response to Intervention (RTI) in schools in order to increase student learning. Chapter 3 is particularly relevant for this badge. Reproducibles include an Essential Standards Chart and Criteria for Selecting Essential Standards. Pages 79-87 include information on identifying essential standards and creating a learning progression. pages 90-93 describe how to create an essential standard unit plan.

Teach Like A Champion, Doug Lemov (2015) pgs 137-140
Find it on Amazon.com
This section describes how to identify learning targets.

UEN (Utah Education Network): Utah Core Standards
This site has the Utah Core Standards for each grade level and content area, as well as the Utah Effective Teaching Standards.


Tawna Baumgardner
Tawna Baumgardner
Robert Kinghorn
Robert Kinghorn
Alyssa Longstaff
Alyssa Longstaff
April Turneau
April Turneau


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