Saturday, August 27, 2011

Curriculum Audit: Part 1, Identifying High Priority Standards

To begin our work with curriculum this year, each department will perform an audit of its curriculum.  Each curriculum will be audited for what is essential, important, and good to know.  This will involve a commitment to quality and (sometimes) difficult conversation.  As a department, you will be stronger as a result of these conversations, and you will have prioritized your curriculum besides.  In order to audit your curriculum effectively, you will need to identify high priority standards which inform your curriculum.  These high priority standards will act as a kind of DNA code for how you prioritize your curriculum.  You will choose aspects of your curriculum that meet this code in the most engaging, coherent, and purposeful way; this will help you identify what is essential.
So before you begin determining what is essential, important, and good to know in the district curriculum, please engage in the following:
  • A student who understands retains more, can think more flexibly, transfer more knowledge and skills to unfamiliar situations more accurately, and can make connections between/among disciplines.  A student who just knows a lot may struggle with some or all of the above.  In your discipline, what can a student who understands do well? Compare this to what a student who just knows a lot can do (or not do).
Understanding the distinction between understanding and knowling a lot will help your department determine what is at the heart of, or essential to, your discipline.  It's an excellent warm-up for identifying priority standards.
  • Determine which GLEs and Common Core Core State Standards (CCSS) are priority.  GLEs are generally more content-based, and CCSS are generally more skill- based.  Consider the following when prioritizing GLEs and CCSS, ultimately priority standards should meet all three below:
    • Endurance (Importance to Life): Will this standard provide students with knowledge and skills beyond a single test date?
    • Leverage (Importance to School): Will this standard provide knowledge and skills that are of value in multiple disciplines?
    • Readiness (Importance to the Next Level): Will this standard provide the students with the essential knowledge and skills that are necessary for their success in the next level of schooling?
Those standards which meet the test for all three (that is, they have endurance, leverage, and readiness) are your highest priority standards.  Keep this work because as you move forward, you may determine that others, which may meet only two of the three tests, for example, may also be priority.  Click here for a template to assist with this work.
You may also wish to consider (now or later):
  1. The standards published by your discipline's national organization (prioritize them if it's helpful).
  2. Any historical data regarding which standards are tested on the MAP (or the EXPLORE or the SRI, etc.) and how are students fair on assessments.
  3. Any current data about your current students that can help shape decisions around planning and teaching. (This question is sometimes better applied once you have crafted units around essential curriculum.)
Once you have determined which standards are high priority, there are two possible next steps which I will describe in a subsequent Learning Designs post. Ultimately, this will result in two revised/revisted/reconsidered unit plans for this year.  (More information on this to come; please trust the process or ask questions in the meantime.)
Please let me know how I can be helpful to explain, facilitate, or participate.

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