In September, several members of the CA BOCES ISS team had the opportunity to attend the Staff/Curriculum Development Network conference with Larry Ainsworth, educational expert on standards and formative assessment. It was an intensive day of exploring curriculum development through prioritizing standards. Members of the team worked with other Curriculum Coordinators from across the state in Math, Science, ELA, and Social Studies to examine the standards, learning how to prioritize, and the implications such work has on curriculum and assessment.
Because each discipline has dozens of standards, Larry Ainsworth argues that to develop curriculum, prioritizing the standards is a critical step in the process. Throughout the work we did, Larry made sure to say that just because some standards are prioritized, it does not mean the other standards do not matter. We worked with an analogy of a fence, seeing prioritized standards as posts and supporting standards as rails. Seeing standards in this light can help teachers determine what to elevate in instruction, and what standards are foundational to building other skills.
In his book, Rigorous Curriculum Design, criteria is established for looking at each standard to determine whether it should be prioritized. There are four lenses to examine each standard through: Readiness, Endurance, Leverage, and External Exams. Readiness represents how the standard prepares students for next level learning. Endurance of a standard determines whether it’s a concept or skill that lasts over time. Leverage of a standard means that it has interdisciplinary connections. Finally, standards should be looked at through how they are assessed on external exams.
Due to the size of the group and the multiple different disciplines we were working with, we examined the standards through for readiness, endurance, and leverage. In small groups, teams reviewed standards at a particular grade level through the lenses, trying to establish a list of standards that should be prioritized. The conversations were fantastic and allowed for in-depth discussion on not only the standard, but the implementation of the standard in the classroom.
Because of the depth of analysis of the standards, Brendan Keiser and Sarah Wittmeyer facilitated the prioritization process with the Middle School/High School English Language Arts CLC in October. Teachers were divided by grade level bands, and in small groups looked at the standards through the first three lenses.
After the standards were reviewed through those lenses, we added in the data from the 6-8 ELA State Tests and the English Regents Exam regarding the most frequently assessed standards. This allowed for another layer and added in-depth discussion on what standards should be prioritized.
The purpose of the activity with the CLC was not to give teachers a list of standards to prioritize in their curriculum, but rather to give teachers a protocol by which to examine the standards. The process included discussions on unpacking the language, understanding what the standard looks like in the classroom, and the importance of the standard at the particular grade level. Teachers walked away with the ability to replicate the process in district, but also a more comprehensive understanding of the Next Generation English Language Arts Standards.
By: Sarah Wittmeyer, CA BOCES Professional Development
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