In the ever-evolving landscape of education, developing robust executive function skills – including self-regulation, cognitive flexibility, and goal-directed behavior – is critical to students' success, as well as their long-term outcomes.
Research supports this shift in focus. For example, a 2012 study published in the National Library of Medicine, concluded the following:
EFs are more important for school readiness than are IQ or entry-level reading or math
EFs predict both math and reading competence throughout the school years
Thus, we present the Executive Function Skills Core Standards, a new framework parallel to the Common Core Standards for math and reading. These guidelines aim to equip our students with EF skills, which research has shown to be even more crucial to academic success than traditional academic competencies.
This concise roadmap aims to prepare students for the complexities of modern life and work, enhancing their ability to solve problems, think critically, and learn independently. It is not a curriculum but a set of goals for what students should learn at each grade level in the domain of executive function skills.
The Executive Function Skills Core Standards are a bold step forward in American education. By integrating these standards into our educational framework, we can better equip our students with the comprehensive skill set they need to navigate the challenges of the 21st century and lead successful, fulfilling lives.
How can educators, administrators, parents and public policy officials use these standards?
We urge you not to wait for a mandate to introduce these standards into your districts. Take the initiative now and foster these essential skills in your students, equipping them to solve problems, think critically, and learn independently.
By actively integrating these standards into your curricula, you are taking a decisive step towards improving educational outcomes and nurturing well-rounded, adaptable students ready for the complexities of the 21st century.
We believe that as educators, parents, administrators, and policy officials, you have the power and the responsibility to shape our next generation.
Hold your students to these standards.
Be proactive and address the most pressing needs in students' education today:
Executive functioning skills.
The roadmap is in your hands; lead the way for your students' success.
Executive Function Skills Core Standards
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Kindergarten - Grade 2
Demonstrate basic self-regulation skills by following simple rules, controlling impulsive behaviors, and adjusting behavior to suit changing circumstances.
Use working memory to recall and utilize relevant information during activities.
Show cognitive flexibility by understanding multiple ways to solve problems and demonstrating the ability to switch between tasks or strategies.
Begin to advocate for personal needs and understandings in an appropriate manner.
Demonstrate inhibition skills by using personal technology devices responsibly during designated times.
Grade 3 - Grade 5
Develop, articulate, and initiate steps toward personal short-term and long-term goals.
Understand and apply effective time management strategies, including planning and pacing work to complete assignments on time.
Organize personal items and school materials effectively and maintain an organized workspace.
Complete and submit assignments in a timely manner, demonstrating the ability to prioritize tasks.
Advocate for oneself in a respectful manner, expressing personal needs and requesting assistance when necessary.
Apply inhibition skills to manage personal technology use and potential technology-based distractions during schoolwork time.
Grade 6 - Grade 8
Independently initiate tasks and work assignments in a timely manner.
Sustain attention on tasks despite distractions and interruptions, including technology-related distractions.
Apply metacognitive skills to monitor, assess, and adjust learning and problem-solving strategies.
Consistently complete and submit assignments on time, demonstrating effective organization and time management skills.
Exhibit increased self-advocacy, effectively communicating personal learning needs and negotiating for appropriate resources and supports.
Demonstrate the ability to inhibit distracting technology use, maintaining focus on academic tasks.
Grade 9 - Grade 12
Develop and implement strategic plans to achieve goals or complete tasks, including completing and submitting complex assignments.
Make thoughtful decisions by considering potential outcomes and consequences, including those related to assignment completion and submission.
Manage and respond to emotional experiences in a constructive and adaptive manner.
Exhibit consistency and reliability in completing and submitting assignments on time, using advanced time management and organizational skills.
Demonstrate self-advocacy skills, effectively articulating personal needs, negotiating solutions in complex situations, and seeking help when necessary.
Begin to explore potential career and vocational paths, using executive function skills to investigate, plan, and set personal career goals.
Exhibit effective inhibition of distracting technology use, demonstrating ability to prioritize academic tasks and manage potential digital distractions.
Lead and collaborate with others in group tasks or projects, effectively handling group dynamics, roles, and shared responsibilities, including assignment completion and submission.
Apply critical thinking skills to analyze complex problems, consider potential solutions, and make informed decisions.
Showcase advanced self-advocacy skills, effectively communicating personal learning needs and goals, and managing conflicts in a proactive and constructive manner.
Engage in detailed career and vocational planning, using executive function skills to identify potential paths, understand the requirements and challenges of chosen fields, and plan steps towards achieving career objectives.
Demonstrate mastery in managing personal technology use and mitigating digital distractions to maximize productivity and focus.
Executive Function skills are the invisible driving force behind academic success and lifelong learning. They enable us to plan, focus, remember, and juggle multiple tasks at once. But like any other skill, they need to be nurtured and practiced.
As we continue to underscore the importance of EF skills in education, it's clear that all of us – students, educators, parents, and administrators alike – have a part to play. It's time we equip our students with the tools and skills they need to flourish, not just in the classroom, but in the wider world as well.
If you're interested in learning more or if you wish to enhance your child's or your own executive function skills, we invite you to consider working with an executive function coach. Our coaches at Executive Function Specialists are well-trained and ready to provide tailored strategies to meet individual needs.
Click here to book a no-cost consult to learn more about executive functioning coaching.
Moreover, we are delighted to offer our free course, Enhance Your Executive Function Skills. This course is a fantastic opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of these crucial skills and how to foster them effectively.
Feel free to reach out for more information and resources. We're here to support you on this important journey. Together, let's unlock the full potential of our students and prepare them for a successful future.
About the author
Sean G. McCormick founded Executive Function Specialists, an online coaching business that guides middle, high school, and college students in overcoming procrastination, disorganization, and anxiety by teaching time management, prioritization, and communication skills so they feel motivated, prepared, and empowered.
He trains educators, parents, and other professionals to support students with ADHD and executive function challenges through his courses in the Executive Function Coaching Academy.