Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What’s In Your Curriculum?


Well, it’s summer time, and that means our focus on curriculum for next year is in full swing in many schools and districts. And, with the CCSS Standards for each grade level and course in Mathematics and ELA only one year away from full implementation, many school districts are trying to understand what exactly needs to be the “Curriculum” that will respond to those standards. 

The CCSS for Mathematics provides the vision for what students should know and be able to do at the completion of each grade level in elementary school and lower middle school, and at the end of each course in upper middle school and high school mathematics. 

In the PLC culture we refer to this as the Guaranteed and Viable curriculum.

At the school district level, trying to place the best features of the CCSS for Mathematics – focus, rigor and coherence (through the progressions of standards) is quite the challenge.

In some ways it is a good news/bad news scenario.

The good news is that the mathematics “Curriculum” at every grade level has the potential of not being so book dependent as in the past.

The bad news is that the mathematics “Curriculum” at every grade level has the potential of not being so book dependent as in the past.

Meaning? Every state and district committed to the Common Core needs to reverse past practice. Rather than the book or textbook program becoming the “Curriculum”, the CCSS M gives us a chance for the book or textbook (whether digital or not), to be used as one aspect of a well designed and thought out locally designed “Curriculum”.  Thus the book is important and should ensure coherence, rigor, and focus of the CCSS Content Standard Clusters, but it is not as important as the on-going professional development and continuous knowledge capacity growth of the teacher and teacher team. It is the teacher and teacher team that makes the curriculum come to life! 

One of the more positive features of the CCSS K-12 mathematics standards is the theme built on focus - less is more - fewer standards and more time to teach them deeply at every grade level. As your collaborative teams begin the work of unpacking the content standards in 2013-2014 this feature will be revealed. The CCSS translates to about a one-third to one-half reduction from the number of traditional state standards - depending on how the CCSS curricular frameworks unfold for your state or district.

Many of the CCSS standards also require students, led by their teachers, to develop rigor - more complex reasoning skills. The grain size of a unit of instruction is no longer the traditional  “one standard – one lesson” per day pace. The CCSS requires your collaborative teams to shift well beyond 90+ discrete “bodies of knowledge” for a grade level or course in a given year to a bigger “chunk” or body of knowledge aimed more at the “cluster of standards” level – the “big ideas” of mathematics for that grade level. 

 With the CCSS, the idea is to zoom out a bit and think of a grain size of learning built upon a complete unit or chapter of study consisting of a cluster of 4-6 standards lasting three to four weeks. A “unit” now refers to a period of instructional time, not necessarily a discrete unit of mathematics content, as has traditionally been the case. This is because the mathematics domains of the CCSS are connected and integrated in meaningful ways. And the Mathematical Practices are the glue that pull them together.

To help find this middle ground between the CCSS Standards Vs. A defined textbook “Curriculum”, and with the help of several colleagues - most notably Gretchen Mueller, Jessica McIntyre, Gwen Zimmermann, Juli Dixon, and recommendations from the Dana Center - we provide one possible scenario that helps to cluster each of the grade level standards into a course.

In this blog I present a scope and sequence for each grade level K-8 that might be of use in your mathematics “Curriculum” work over the next 2 years. It worked well to facilitate the hard work done by District 54 in Schaumburg, Illinois. It is only one suggestion and a resource as your local district and school teams wrestle with what to do.

I hope they help. I also hope you are having a good summer!

           


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