The key component to our district-wide efforts to consistently improve the education for all of our students is the absolute necessity for our teachers to have and use a "guaranteed and viable curriculum".
In researching what works in schools, Robert Marzano (2003) found five school-level factors that promote student achievement. Ultimately, Marzano concluded that a guaranteed and viable curriculum is the most powerful school-level factor in determining overall student achievement.
If we truly have a guaranteed and viable curriculum it means that, in our schools:
- No matter who teaches a given course or grade level, we guarantee that topics identified in the curriculum will be covered in every class.
- The content that teachers are expected to address can be covered in the time available.
- Every student, in every class, every day, will be taught the same essential knowledge and skills- the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). (Marzano, 2003)
Brownsboro ISD currently uses the TEKS Resource System (TRS) which is a systematic K-12 curriculum model designed, maintained, and continuously developed by various Education Service Center personnel along with district educators throughout Texas. The purpose is to provide a common language structure, and process for curriculum development. The curriculum model is designated to align the written, taught, and tested curriculum and is inclusive of research and best practices as mentioned in the work of Drucker, Demming, English, Wiggins, Erickson, Guskey, Marzano, Feurstein, and Jacobs, Each year the documents will continue to be aligned to the TEKS utilizing the continuous improvement process as a model for the resources offered to member districts.
According to Marzano, students have the opportunity to learn when they study a curriculum that clearly articulates required standards of achievements.The curriculum components Brownsboro ISD teachers use are based on best practice models from top researchers and enable teachers to align instruction to meet the rigor and complexity required by the TEKS. Therefore, in order to ensure this alignment occurs, Brownsboro ISD teachers are required to use the Vertical Alignment Documents, the Year at a Glance, the TEKS Verification Documents, and the Instructional Focus Documents all of which foster reflective practice and collegial, data-driven dialogue around curriculum.
VERTICAL ALIGNMENT DOCUMENTS
The Vertical Alignment Documents present clearly articulated and aligned standards among grade levels using the TEKS statements and student expectations. According to Marzano's framework, curriculum is guaranteed if districts give clear guidance to teachers regarding the content to be addressed in specific courses and at specific grade levels. Marzano (2003) is a strong advocate of a conceptually-organized curriculum that is clearly articulated within periods of time or across grade levels. He stresses that effective curriculum should emphasize key spiraling components. These components represent the major competencies, ideas, and skills that students are expected to revisit within and across grade levels with growing levels of competence, proficiency, and depth of understanding.
In addition, the specificity of the Vertical Alignment Documents provides a common language and delineation of skills which enables building principals to meet their responsibility of ensuring that the curriculum is being implemented accurately and consistently in every classroom.
The specificity of the Vertical Alignment Documents also gives educators a tangible guide for selecting and reliably evaluating programs, textbooks, and instructional materials in terms of how effectively they meet curriculum objectives.
KEY POINT: Most textbooks are not designed effectively enough to be a stand-alone curriculum or to emphasize key spiraling components. They present concepts by chapters, or in isolation, and often never revisit vital concepts. Textbooks may and should be used by teachers to support the teaching of the TEKS within the scope and sequence design of the TRS. In addition, if a teacher determines students may not have a concept mastered as well as they would like, the teacher can and should use lessons from textbooks to enhance the mastery of TEKS objectives.
However, effective curriculum development helps educators avoid what Tomlinson and McTighe (2006) call "the twin problems" of textbook coverage and activity-oriented teaching with no clear priorities or purpose. They add that this design is directly tied to the following ideas:
- All learners benefit from clear priorities and purposes
- Struggling learners require focus on truly essential knowledge to move forward
- Advanced learners need challenge predicated on essential discipline knowledge in order to develop content expertise.
YEAR AT A GLANCE
The Year at a Glance is designed to present a snapshot of the entire year's instructional plan. The Year at a Glance is a map and pacing guide for units of study. It makes the curriculum viable by ensuring that the teacher has adequate instructional time to present the required content.
Curriculum Mapping is a process for documenting the plan for curriculum delivery over a specified period of time. The current curriculum mapping mode is based on the work of Heidi Hayes Jacobs (2004). To gain insight into gaps, absences, and repetitions in a school or district K-12 curriculum, it is critical to create quality maps. The Year at a Glance, as a curriculum map, provides a springboard for teachers and administrators to focus discussion on a comparison between what is planned and what is really occurring in individual classrooms.
TEKS VERIFICATION DOCUMENT
The TEKS Verification Document in combination with the Year at a Glance ensures that all TEKS are taught throughout the school year. The document lists all the TEKS and details the nine week period or periods that the specific TEK is solely taught or that it is taught in an on-going manner.
INSTRUCTIONAL FOCUS DOCUMENTS
The standards should not be taught alone and should be logically bundled to maximize student learning. The Instructional Focus Documents are used to group the specified standards from the Vertical Alignment Documents and the Year at a Glance into a logical sequence for instruction to maximize student learning.
These documents present the standards that are taught in each block of instruction, the academic language of instruction, key understandings, guiding questions, possible student misconceptions, and performance indicators to ensure that the standards are attained at the required level of rigor.
HOW, THEN, CAN TEACHERS OFFER THE FULL CURRICULUM TO STUDENTS AT A RIGOROUS LEVEL?
The bundling of the TEKS in the Instructional Focus Document addresses this issue so that skills are not taught in isolation; they are offered in rational and reasonable grouping and are presented in a recursive manner so that skills are revisited, expanded, and applied in different contexts.
SUMMARY OF CURRICULUM
The Vertical Alignment Documents, Year at a Glance, TEKS Verification Documents, and Instructional Focus Documents comprise most of the Brownsboro ISD curriculum documents. These documents provide a consistent scope and sequence for instructional delivery and are the foundation for all instructional planning.
The curriculum itself is non-negotiable since we are legally bound as educators to implement the state standards. However, the actual journey that teachers plan with their students may look quite different in that it will be responsive to differing student interests and abilities.