1 September 2001 Making Standards Work Castles, Kings and Standards Susan M. Drake

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Student Response

Did students' test scores improve? It is too soon to tell how students did on the schoolwide testing because the results have not yet been released. The teachers, however, did make some observations. On the rubrics, students generally maintained a level 3 (a high level of achievement), with some achieving a level 4.

The teachers noted that students learned both the content and the skills. Midgley had worried that students would not be able to connect their individual research piece with the larger picture. Would students who researched lords, for example, understand the lords' role in the feudal system? She was pleased to find that students did make connections.

The teachers were particularly pleased with the be aspect. For example, a group of boys created and performed a dance. "I was blown away," DeTullio said. "I wouldn't have given them 30 seconds to work together without a problem. They worked together for two entire class periods. And they ended their dance with a group hug!" Observing this group perform, I saw no hint of problem behavior. He attributes this amazing breakthrough to the student-created rubric for group behavior. The students had decided that they wanted their code of honor to be the rubric for group behavior and wrote it in their own language.

After the first mini-unit, I asked the students what they had learned. They offered a long list of concepts and generalizations. They knew about life in medieval times and the differences and similarities between then and now. They were sure that they had developed research skills. Like their teachers, they said that the be area was important. They learned how to cooperate with others, how to be dependable in a group, how to be loyal to the king, how to solve problems without complaining to the teacher, and "how not to blow my top for every little problem."

For teachers and students, the most common descriptor of the unit was "fun." DeTullio said that one of the biggest problems "was keeping the excitement down." Although some students had reservations—one found integration "too confusing"—most said that integration helped them learn better.

The project falls in line with the general research on integrated curriculum. In classes with an inter-disciplinary approach, students enjoy the curriculum presentation and achieve positive results (Drake, 2000). And students who learn through an integrated curriculum do as well, or better, than those who learn through more traditional approaches (Vars, 2000).

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