A Simple Curriculum Alignment Activity

A Simple Curriculum Alignment Activity
Curriculum alignment is often viewed as a daunting task. Some companies and consultants
provide costly, comprehensive alignment services in which virtually every state curriculum
standard or standardized test item is linked to specific instructional materials and teaching units.
The enormity of this task appears overwhelming to teachers who struggle to find enough time to
complete even routine duties, so not many schools have tried to undertake a curriculum
alignment task on their own.
What is Curriculum Alignment?
Curriculum alignment means assuring that the material taught in the school matches the
standards and assessments set by the state or district for specific grade levels. It is a way of
"mapping" the curriculum onto the standards to be sure that the school is teaching the content
that is expected. In states that use tests to assess student mastery, schools may also align their
curriculum with the content of the test to assure that students have studied the required content
before taking the tests.
Why Do It?
Increasing demands for accountability mean that schools must document that they are achieving
the objectives mandated by state standards. In some cases, districts must submit curriculum
guides that show how the instruction at each grade level is linked to state, national or local
standards. In others, students are expected to pass tests that are based on the standards.
Whatever the mechanism, standards are deeply imbedded in public opinion and state law. They
are not going away any time soon. Communities are insisting on strong performance, and, in
some regions, teacher and administrator compensation is based on how well students perform on
mandated tests. Standards have become a very high stakes issue in public education.
How Do I Do This Without Killing My Faculty?
In most cases, raising teacher awareness about standards and when they are to be addressed is
enough to make significant gains in aligning curriculum with state standards. One Florida
principal used a very straightforward activity that helped teachers become aware of the Sunshine
Standards and how to address them in their classes.
1. Make Time. Use staff development time to conduct the alignment activity. Planning days
scheduled before school in the fall and the first inservice days in October may prove to be
enough time to get the job done.
2. Keep it Simple and Focused. Provide teachers with copies of the state standards for each
subject and grade level in the school. For a follow-up activity, obtain sample items from
the state mastery test. These can form the basis for aligning the curriculum with the state
assessment as well.
Reprinted from www.principalspartnership.com, with permission of
The Principals’ Partnership, a program of Union Pacific Foundation
3. Make it Realistic. Assemble teams of teachers by subject area, grades 9-12. (Depending
on the testing cycle, it may be good to include middle school teachers as well.) Have each
teacher bring to the workshop (1) copies of the teacher's edition of textbooks they use, (2)
unit plans, and (3) supplementary instructional materials. Focus on the material they use
most of the time, rather than abstract curriculum guides or plans.
4. Raise Awareness and Keep it Raised. Give each teacher a set of highlighters in different
colors. Ask them to page through their instructional materials, keeping the standards
beside them, and highlight the sections of the materials that coincided with the state
standards. For example, if a standard calls for students to be able to "identify the causes
of the Great Depression," the teacher highlights that topic and content in his or her text or
other teaching material. By highlighting the teachers' editions, teachers are continually
reminded of standards-based content while planning daily instruction.
5. Decide When, Where, How Much and How Often. After linking content to standards, ask
each subject matter group to review the standards and, for each one, determine at which
grade level and in what unit (1) the standard is introduced, (2) the standard is
emphasized, and (3) the standard is assessed. This helps the team assure that all standards
are taught and assessed at some point during the high school grades. In fact, it also
identifies areas that are neglected or over-emphasized as well, and allows the teachers to
make more balanced decisions about their curriculum.
6. Think Interdisciplinary. After the content specialists have done their work, seek help
from other faculty. Department chairs review the content standards from other disciplines
and identify ways that their department might support one another's instruction. For
example, one reading standard may require that students distinguish fact from inference.
The reading teacher can provide tips to the other teachers on how to incorporate that skill
into their normal reading assignments and discussions. Teachers then highlight their
teachers' editions with another color to identify standards from other subject areas that
they can reinforce in their own classes.
7. Share Ideas, Tips and Practices. At every team and faculty meeting ask teachers to share
a strategy or tip they found effective in teaching a specific standard or skill. Or, following
a classroom observation, the principal might ask a teacher to do a "Five Minute
Inservice" on an effective approach they were using in class.
8. Don't Forget the Test. A follow up activity involves repeating a similar process with
sample items from the state mastery test. Teachers are asked to review all the items and
identify where in the curriculum the student would have learned the material needed to be
successful on each item. This helps to identify gaps as well as places where one content
area can be bolstered by teaching in another subject.
The net effect of this kind of planning is that teachers are able to map their existing curriculum
onto state standards and tests. It does not require a huge curriculum revision effort or massive
infusions of money and time. It simply requires a structured plan of action and a useful departure
from normal "staff development" activities. It also has the additional benefits of opening up the
curriculum to thorough internal review, stimulating dialog across disciplines on how to approach
standards in an interdisciplinary way, and sharing effective instructional strategies. It is a good
example of how a faculty can take the "problem" of standards-based accountability and turn it
into solid curriculum planning.
Reprinted from www.principalspartnership.com, with permission of
The Principals’ Partnership, a program of Union Pacific Foundation
Resources for Curriculum Alignment
[email protected] For Teachers provides lesson plans linked to the state standards for each state.
Curriculum Alignment Module from the National School Boards' Association "Tool Kit"
Alignment Information from the Florida Department of
Written by J. Howard Johnson, Ph.D., College of Education
University of South Florida, Tampa FL
Reprinted from www.principalspartnership.com, with permission of
The Principals’ Partnership, a program of Union Pacific Foundation