Curriculum & Academic Goals
- Standards-based curriculum map continually revised with input from stakeholders at all levels.
- Teachers build fundamental skills early within a cohesive and coherent curriculum, drawing on their professional knowledge to enhance student learning and meet goals.
In higher-performing elementary schools, administrators and teachers view changes to state standards as opportunities to examine and improve teaching and learning. The district encourages continual revision of the curriculum to the standards. Curriculum decisions begin with discussions among groups of teachers representing each grade level in each content area. Results of their deliberations are shared with administrators, and any new initiatives are followed up with appropriate training. At the school level, teachers ensure that fundamental skills are developed early, starting in kindergarten with key concepts in reading, writing, and mathematics and building on these in a coherent sequence at each grade level.
Although it is clear that there is a basic common core curriculum, teachers are encouraged to use their skills and knowledge in creative ways. For example, a teacher who has knowledge of Shakespeare may use his or her knowledge in that area to enhance the delivery of the curriculum. Encouraging curricular creativity is fostered through honest, free, and frank discussions about curriculum. Drama, poetry, and literature provide pathways for this creativity.
Some differences between higher- and average-performing schools
In average-performing schools, academic goals are developed at the district level with little to no input from school and classroom levels. Once set, the curriculum is rarely or sporadically reviewed and revised. Often “the curriculum” is equated to using a specific program or material. In contrast, in the higher-performing schools, all members of the school community share a vision of and feel ownership of the academic goals. They continually refine the curriculum based on teacher input and review of changes to state standards, and they articulate the curriculum in terms of standards-based outcomes.
In the average performers, achievement outcomes are likely to be defined solely in terms of state test scores, and the expectation that some students will not succeed in school is accepted. When fundamental skills are not learned early in the classroom, failing students are remediated. In the higher performers, all stakeholders hold high expectations for student and school performance. In high needs, urban schools, in particular, they ensure that all students learn fundamental skills in the classroom, and they use students’ background knowledge to enhance the delivery of the curriculum.
At Ulysses Byas Elementary, in the Roosevelt Union Free School District, the school improvement plan describes goals, action steps, evaluations, responsible people, and timelines. A teacher at Byas devised eight simple writing tips and developed a rubric that teachers use for student writing across all disciplines.