Learning Standards Relationships vs. Crosswalks – Understanding the Difference

Marci Ladd has worked with educational standards, taxonomies, alignments and metadata tagging for the past 20 years. Marci manages Certica’s network of standards, taxonomies and the relationships between them, as well as the AB Connect recommendation engine and associated algorithms that power it.  In this post, she offers her expertise to describe how Certica’s approach to tagging standards with metadata supports the change management process. 

Managing and maintaining alignments of educational content to academic standards can be challenging—especially when there are hundreds of different educational standards that are regularly changing over time. [Standards changing? Oh, the irony!]

An industry buzzword is “crosswalk,” which is a generic term for mapping from one standard to another. The topic of crosswalks often comes up when attempting the management of alignments: can we crosswalk the standards from A to B? “A” might be an older standards document in a state that has recently adopted a new “B” document. Or “A” might be a standards document in one state and “B” from another state. Bottom line, the questions being posed are about how much standards change over time or across locations.

Is a simple mapping from one to another sufficient, as is often assumed?

With more than a decade providing a system for the application of learning standards to content, we haven’t often seen a complete overhaul of the core concepts and skills that are being covered when states adopt new learning standards. Likewise, students across state boundaries are rarely instructed with drastically different standards. However, the way the standards are documented, split out and packaged up can vary quite a bit.

This makes a simple mapping crosswalk often insufficient, because typically a crosswalk is not one size fits all—different types of learning content have varying alignment needs and uses.

Certica’s approach is to layer multiple relationships among and between standards to provide a multi-dimensional set of pathways to assist in this process. In addition to identifying potential direct relationships, we examine the content and context of the standards and thereby characterize relationships at deeper levels that go beyond one-dimensional mapping or crosswalking.

Derivative Relationships

Relationships among standards cannot be addressed without acknowledging the impact that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have had on academic standards in the United States. Acknowledging that influence, one level of commonality can be the identification of an origin and derivative relationship. Leaving politics aside, many states recognize the value in the shift in education that CCSS and NGSS have introduced and have used those standards as a basis for their own, sometimes directly adopting the standards, and sometimes making adjustments that are applicable to their specific student population. Certica tracks those derivative relationships.

Topical Relationships

Sometimes a high-level perspective on groups of standards is useful. In developing content for use across many standards authorities, a view across those authorities, without too much conceptual specificity, is very helpful. For example, in writing a tutorial for students about calculating area, a content publisher may want to look across all authorities and see what skills are addressed and how they’re presented. Hence, we provide a topical view across groups of standards.

Conceptual Relationships

Those familiar with educational standards recognize that while standards are typically packed with several concepts and skills and are rarely specific to just a single idea, the organization and groupings of concepts and skills can vary greatly among standards authorities. All students will learn rules for capitalization, for example, but one state may cover beginning of sentences, the pronoun “I,” dates, proper names, places—and more—within a single standard; while another state may group only the sentence start and “I” in theirs. With such mis-matched standards, understanding the relationship between standards is best served by identifying a conceptual threading across authorities to reduce the risk of mis-matches.

In striving for both accuracy and efficiency with standards alignment, understanding the multiple levels of standards relationships helps our clients in navigating change, both over time, and across locations.

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