Last week we spent a great deal of time discussing how we go about providing our students with a guaranteed and viable curriculum. We are going to continue along this thematic path for a few weeks to hopefully give you a better picture of how curriculum is developed in our district.
In review, a guaranteed and viable curriculum means that no matter what teacher is assigned to your child, they can expect to receive the same curricular content at the same depth. The mastery of that content is an article for another day, but you can be assured this critical component will be revisited at a later time.
You will recall the discussion focused on ensuring our curriculum aligns to what we have identified as the essential learning outcomes (which are then aligned to the Iowa Common Core). Once our 3rd grade teachers [for example] have agreed to the essential learning outcomes, we can probably state that they will provide a guaranteed and viable curriculum to all the 3rd grade students. This is often times referred to as horizontal alignment.
Vertical alignment is a process where we work to ensure that our students learn what is necessary to prepare them for 4th grade (for example). During these discussions, teachers from across grade levels meet to see that they are not duplicating content, and identifying and eliminating gaps in the curriculum. Take our butterfly example from last week. What if your child learns about butterflies in 3rd grade only to go on to 4th grade...and butterflies again! Unless the units build on one another (for example in 3rd grade the concept is introduced and in 4th grade it is mastered), we would have a problem.
An even bigger problem is if something else is missed as a result! Using our same examples, let's say we covered butterflies in 3rd grade, duplicated them again in 4th grade, and as a result missed our essential learning about turtles. Then, when our students are administered the Iowa Assessments in 4th grade, they get all the questions on turtles wrong!
Our staff is working hard to make certain that all of our curriculum is aligned both horizontally (all sections of 3rd grade are the same), and vertically (between grade levels). This process strengthens instruction and helps us to eliminate gaps in our curriculum! The end result is higher student achievement!