One of the messages often heard in school districts is that the language arts and math curriculums have been revisited, revised, completed, implemented, and revisited/revised again and again—for the past ten years—but there has not been time to address any other subject’s curriculum. Other subject areas have always been in the talking stages but never in the action stages.
We at Curriculum Leadership Institute (CLI) understand that in the current political atmosphere, students and teachers (and thus their schools and districts) are held accountable to language arts, math, and now science. This means the bulk of curriculum and improvement efforts falls into one of those three areas, and mostly into language arts and math.
This is very frustrating to those who teach other subject areas and is a disservice to students. Research and experience have indicated that the more areas of engagement students’ brains experience, the stronger their learning and, in some cases, the faster their learning.
At CLI, we start planning the curriculum process by establishing a Long Range Plan (LRP), setting a time frame for each subject to be addressed. The cycle established by this plan includes development, implementation and validation of the curriculum, resource selection, and development and validation of assessments. This LRP takes all subject areas into consideration and establishes when each one starts the cycle, and when it will be revisited some years later. The LRP allows for one core area to be addressed at a time, along with additional areas that complement the core rotation. For instance, it makes sense to address the health and wellness curriculum at the same time the science curriculum is being written.
However, there is still the issue of “Who goes first?” What should be considered when making this decision? CLI recommends answering the following questions to determine an LRP.
- Student data: Which data can best be used to help us make the decision and what does that data indicate?
- Textbook cycles from past adoptions: What are the oldest existing textbook adoptions? Where is the greatest need for resources to support successful implementation of new curriculum?
- Professional Development: How much professional development is needed for the potential new demands of the curriculum and at what points will that professional development be most necessary and productive? Considerations should include costs and time required, as well as who would be impacted.
- State education department schedule: Does the state department have its own LRP – or can one be predicted by past cycles? It makes sense to coordinate our curriculum development cycle with that of the state, since new standards might be adopted or implemented at the state level.
- Existing curriculum: What is the oldest curriculum in the district? Which is most recent and most closely aligned to the current standard needs? Which curriculums are unfinished or missing?
In CLI districts, the Curriculum Coordinating Council (CCC) uses these questions to prioritize curriculum needs, and to begin building an LRP that communicates the cycle of curriculum development, implementation, resource selection, and assessment writing and validation for all subject areas. The LRP is usually extended through a 12-15 year period, and is revisited as necessary if one of the decision-making factors used changes significantly. The CCC also uses the LRP to check progress and assure they are planning ahead for professional development needs inherent in the process.