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Second Cycle Curriculum Writing

by Rhonda Renfro & Emily Makelky

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Most school districts have a “cycle” for revising curriculum, so that each subject is reviewed every five to six years.  The first cycle takes the longest because the curriculum must be created – a Subject Area Committee (SAC) must make decisions about what is most important and what will be required of all students.  Subsequent cycles usually take less time because our starting point is the existing curriculum, which has been implemented and assessed for a period of time.  However, there are still several considerations to be made as a curriculum is reviewed anew.  We still need to consider state or national standards (which may have changed), and we need to gather teacher input.  Now, we also have curriculum for other subject areas, which may not have been completed when the target subject was first written.  The existence of these additional curricula allows us to look more thoroughly for cross-curricular support than we might have been able to do in the first cycle. 

Below are some recommended steps for a second (or subsequent) cycle of reviewing and revising curriculum. 

  1. Gather information about what currently exists.  
    • Complete a crosswalk from the old standards to the new to determine the amount of change that may have occurred since the previous cycle. Make note of these changes.
    • Survey teachers of the subject to determine concerns with the current curriculum or suggestions for improvement.
    • Review data of student performance to identify areas that need improvement and determine if the curriculum is sufficient.  (If it is determined that curriculum is not the root of the problem, then the SAC will need to consider instructional causes and identify possible professional development needs.)
    • Examine curricula that have been implemented in other subject areas to identify where cross-curricular connections might be improved, or assessment items (especially at the elementary level) can serve more than one curricular area, thereby reducing the number of assessments.
    • Identify courses that may need to be added, removed, or modified.  (For instance, the addition of a compluter applications course at elementary or middle level may make the existing entry-level high school computer applications course unnecessary.)
  2. Make any necessary course changes according to information gathered.
  3. Review and update the subject mission and purpose statements.
  4. Add, remove, or make changes to outcomes and components as warranted, and recode to align to updated state standards.
  5. Identify where common assessments are affected by the curriculum changes and make adjustments to the assessments.
  6. Request professional development where data indicate a need.
  7. Evaluate existing resources for their appropriateness to the revised curriculum, and request new or additional resources if needed.
  8. Present changes to the Curriculum Coordinating Council for approval and recommendation to the Board.

Districts that have used the CLI Model for the first cycle are accustomed to using large sheets of butcher paper on the wall, with color-coded strands for curriculum topics.  Most districts find this is not really necessary in a second cycle, since they are using the existing curriculum as the starting point.  However, some CLI districts have found it helpful to make large-size copies of their curriculum and cut it apart.  They then highlight outcomes and components in color by strand so they can track standards across grade levels.

Depending on the extent of revision necessary or the quality of the assessments in place, the tasks listed above may take one school year or more, if necessary.  Some SACs may find their task can be completed in less than a school year if there are few changes required. 

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