Teaching and Learning: Curriculum

The Broad Prize Framework for School District Excellence

Curriculum Requirements

  • The district has a rigorous, relevant, written curriculum.
  • The district curriculum is effectively aligned to state content standards.
  • The district has standards-aligned instructional materials needed to implement the curriculum.

Best Practice Curriculum Documents

Aligning Curriculum to StandardsMiami-Dade County Public Schools
Miami-Dade County Public Schools offers schools several tools to ensure the alignment of the school curriculum with the district’s academic goals and the state standards.

1 – Instructional Focus Calendar - Reading - Grade 6
Describes scope-and-sequence for sixth grade reading program at Ruben Dario Middle School. Also known as a “pacing guide” or “planning guide” in other districts.
What to Notice
The document is laid out chronologically, with one row for every two weeks. Not only does it specify core reading texts, but it also describes remediation and reinforcement strategies, as well as additional resources. Cluster assessments are the final column. Notice that the resources are very specific, including page numbers, so that teachers have easy access to what they need.
Questions to Ask
  • How did the school select Bridges as its core reading text? Was this a district-wide decision? What were the criteria?
  • What kinds of instructional support do teachers receive? Are there school-based coaches? Or does the district have instructional support staff who are available to work with teachers?
  • Did the school develop this alignment document? Or does the district publish this?
> Download Document (pdf)

2 – Curriculum Placing Guide - Language Arts/Reading - Grade 1
Describes scope-and-sequence for first grade language arts/reading program.
What to Notice
This document is narrower than the sixth grade pacing guide above. In the overview, the document describes what the first grade teacher is responsible for. The core of the document outlines all of the content standards that a teacher must cover, organized by “strand.” And these standards are linked directly to the state standards by number.
Questions to Ask
  • How are these standards mapped to the district benchmark assessments?
  • Is there a separate document which maps these standards to resources and potential lessons? What kinds of instructional support do teachers receive in the implementation of this pacing guide?
> Download Document (pdf)

Creating Lesson PlansSocorro Independent School District
Lessons in Socorro Independent School District are expected to be learner-centered, encourage higher-order thinking, and help students take responsibility for their own learning. Additionally, lessons should address a wide array of instructional needs for students. Sample lesson plans from Socorro demonstrate how teachers integrate the district’s instructional models to focus on students and differentiate instruction across the classroom. The plans clearly map the different activities implemented within one lesson, as well as how lessons apply a comprehensive teaching cycle that reviews, spirals and connects lessons to larger units.

1 – Lesson Design Tools
Reference documents created by the district to help teachers develop effective lessons.
What to Notice
The district provides several graphics-based reference documents to help teachers design lessons that integrate the instructional strategies and learner-centered approach. Each document illustrates and explains an abstract concept through detailed examples.

The first document focuses on releasing responsibility of learning gradually from the teacher to the learner. It helps teachers see the behaviors and activities that lead from whole-group teacher-lead instruction to independent student practice.

The second document explains the district’s 60/40 rule to move from teacher directed instruction to student-directed activities. This document describes the behaviors one should see in classrooms, from both the students and teachers.

The third document illustrates a 60-minute lesson broken down in five-increments. It takes the teachers through the lesson planning cycle (introduction, new skill, practice, teacher and review) by describing each activity associated with a segment. This is particularly useful for beginning teachers new to implementing these types of lessons.
Questions to Ask
  • How do teachers learn to apply the different lesson planning and implementation techniques?
  • How are these documents distributed? Do teachers receive them all at once, or are they associated with a particular training?
  • What supports are available to teachers wanting assistance with planning or teaching lessons?
  • Who reviews lesson plans? How do teachers receive feedback on the quality of their planning?
  • How do schools monitor the use of the gradual release and 60/40 models?
> Download Document (pdf)

2 – Sample Lesson Plans
Sample high school and elementary school lesson plans.
What to Notice
The sample algebra lesson plan documents various activities in lessons, as well as the cognitive or 5E level (see “differentiated instructional strategies”). On the left side of this lesson plan you see an opening activity, a teacher-led presentation of new concepts, a student-centered exploration activity, and a closing activity which encourages students to discuss a problem together (a good applicative cooperative activity).

The sample second-grade science plan expands more on differentiated instruction by including strategies for at-risk as well as accelerated students. This plan uses a typical lesson planning cycle by having an introduction, review of previous concepts, and an evaluation goal. This is important for ensuring that students are focused on the topic, learn and build upon the new concept, reinforce it through review, and that teachers know how they will determine mastery of the skill or topic.
Questions to Ask
  • What requirements, if any, does the district impose on lesson plan templates? Are there components that all lesson plans must include?
  • Would all teachers in the same subject or grade use the same basic plan? If so, would it be paced around the same time in different classrooms?
  • Who reviews lesson plans? How do teachers receive feedback on the quality of their planning?
  • In the elementary plan, which students receive interventions and how is this list determined?
> Download Document (pdf)

Evaluating Curriculum and InstructionLong Beach Unified School District
Long Beach Unified School District’s research, planning and evaluation office closely monitors all aspects of the district’s instructional programs to ensure they are implemented correctly, are delivered using the district’s Essential Elements of Effective Instruction, and provide desired student achievement results. Data gathered from their extensive evaluations help district and school leaders determine program effectiveness and discern whether problem areas are attributable to program implementation or to the program itself.

1 – Evaluation Plan for Struggling Readers Programs
Comprehensive evaluation plan to review several programs for struggling readers.
What to Notice
This document details the district’s evaluation plan for programs provided to struggling readers. The document explains the focus and purpose of the evaluation, the research questions to be answered, and the evaluation design.

The design is clear and addresses the many factors that contribute to student achievement. All details related to program participants, implementation and student achievement are examined, including student placement, teacher characteristics (like years of teaching experience), and alignment between materials and the grade-level standards. Additionally, the questions attempt to determine whether program success can be attributed to the quality of the teaching or to the program—an important data point that could identify professional development needed for teachers.

The evaluation procedures clearly outline data to be collected, the timeline and the dissemination plan.
Questions to Ask
  • How many programs does the research and evaluation team evaluate in a given year?
  • How large is the program evaluation staff? What types of research and evaluation skills are required to develop and implement the evaluations?
  • Who examines evaluation results? How are they acted upon? What happens to programs that do not achieve desired results?
  • How are evaluation results disseminated? Are they shared with the program vendors or other districts interested in a particular program?
  • How are the evaluations coordinated across the district? Do teachers find the time to respond to survey and interview requests?
  • Is participation in evaluation activities mandatory or voluntary? What tools are used to maximize response rates?
> Download Document (pdf)

2 – Evaluation Tools
Tools used to evaluate the district’s instructional program.
What to Notice
These sample evaluation tools illustrate the depth of the district’s program evaluation. Knowing what variables interact and impact the potential effectiveness of a given program is important for making informed decisions about program selection and implementation.

The three-page sample observation log clearly outlines the lesson elements of the program and provides a rating and detailed explanation tied to the rating. There is ample room to explain any exceptions to a lesson observation; this sample notes that the lesson might be impacted because it was a make-up day.

The two-page observation form using the district’s Essential Elements of Effective Instruction is particularly useful for documenting how teachers implement district-mandated instructional practices. This form also provides a rating and explanations that give detailed feedback for teachers.

The Language Arts Elements Observation Reflection tool and Teacher Interview Protocol complete the data collection process by soliciting information directly from teachers about their lesson, both through interactive interview and independent reflection writing.
Questions to Ask
  • Who develops the evaluation tools? Are the same tools used for different evaluations, or are they tailored for specific subjects or purposes?
  • Who conducts the observations and interviews? What kind of training do these individuals need to conduct the research effectively? How many teachers are sampled?
  • How are the qualitative tools analyzed? Are teacher comments included in the final report or shared with the school principal?
  • How comfortable are teachers as participants in the research? What are they told about the research objectives? Do they appear to trust the process?
> Download Document (pdf)

3 – Evaluation Report
Sample evaluation summary report for an elementary mathematics program.
What to Notice
This summary of an extensive multi-year program evaluation provides crucial information about the success of the program under review, as well as implementation successes and challenges. The report shows that program evaluation is implemented in phases, is executed using appropriate research methods, and yields a lot of important information that extends beyond the target program.

A principal or district leader could easily use this report to improve implementation of the program across the district, as well as to justify continuing the program.
Questions to Ask
  • How and to whom are summary evaluation reports disseminated? What specific district actions resulted from the key findings of this report?
  • Does each program evaluation result in a similar summary that highlights program and implementation successes and challenges?
  • What common themes exist across program evaluations?
  • How detailed are the full reports?
> Download Document (pdf)

Aligning Curriculum to StandardsNew York City Department of Education
These tools show how The New York City Department of Education approaches the challenge of aligning schools’ curricula with the state standards. The goal is to align the curriculum both at the macro level—via pacing guides that map out all the content that needs to be covered—and at the micro level, via lesson planning tools that reflect state standards.

1 – Pacing Guide - Math - Grade 5
Lays out scope-and-sequence of math content for fifth-graders. Often called a “pacing guide” in other districts.
What to Notice
In New York City, the planning guides are colored-coded for easy visual identification—fifth grade is blue. On the first page, the district emphasizes a number of recurring themes that tie the content together and can help a teacher create the desired “math workshop” environment. The guide itself links the school calendar to content in the district’s off-the-shelf curriculum, which is aligned to the state standards. A section for notes allows a teacher to use the document as an interactive tool.
Questions to Ask
  • How did the district develop the planning guide? Who was involved and how long did it take?
  • How widely is the guide distributed? Are teachers given any training in how to use it? What kinds of feedback from teachers has the district collected? Do teachers find the document useful? Do teachers across the district use the guide in a consistent manner? Do teacher have the flexibility to deviate from the scope and sequence? If so, under what circumstances?
  • How was the mathematics curriculum selected? How does the curriculum’s focus on the creation of a “math workshop” mesh with the state standards?
  • How often are these scope and sequence guides reviewed?
> Document Coming Soon

2 – Lesson Design Questions
Offers questions that can help refine and improve lesson plans. For use by principals, coaches and other instructional leaders.
What to Notice
Coaches and administrators can use these questions to improve the rigor of teachers’ lesson-planning process. Notice that the document ties individual lesson plans to the overall structure of the curriculum and the lessons that have come before. The document specifically encourages teachers to consider students’ previous knowledge and difficulties with prior content.
Questions to Ask
  • How did the district develop this tool?
  • How widespread is its use?
  • Do coaches and administrators feel that it has been helpful?
> Document Coming Soon

3 – Lesson Plan - Art
Places specific art activity in the context of New York City and New York State standards.
What to Notice
The lesson plan template begins with an overview and purpose, including a direct link to the New York State standards and New York City’s Blueprint Art Strands. The tool provides teachers with a sequential plan that moves from objective setting through closure. Materials and other resources are listed.
Questions to Ask
  • Is this template used solely in art classes, or also in other subjects? How widely is it used?
  • How was the tool developed? Who was involved in the process? Has the tool been revised to reflect feedback from classroom teachers?
> Document Coming Soon

Faithfully Implementing CurriculumAldine Independent School District
Aldine invested a number of years carefully defining, revising and aligning its curriculum throughout the PK-12 pipeline. To ensure that teachers are consistent and successfully implementing the curriculum, the district and schools use a number of tools to monitor implementation, and it provides easily accessible and efficient interventions when those tools reveal a need.

1 – Curriculum and Instruction Monitoring Practices
Document describing the history of the district’s curriculum improvement efforts and the monitoring processes used to support faithful implementation. Two samples of those processes are included.
What to Notice
One of the pivotal moments in Aldine’s curriculum revision process was its decision to develop district-wide uniform benchmark targets. The benchmarks were implemented to meet the needs of the district’s highly mobile student population and to ensure that intervention could be applied immediately if needed. It is worth reviewing this history to understand how long and involved the curriculum revision process can take.

The district’s comprehensive set of curriculum and instruction monitoring tools covers all aspects of a “continuous improvement cycle.” Key tools are used for detailed instructional planning (see TRIAND lesson plan), monitoring through data analysis and classroom walkthroughs, training to communicate curriculum and instruction revisions, and support and follow-up through structured meetings focused on problem-solving.

The district’s walkthrough process, created by Teachscape, is based on a continuous improvement cycle: 1) focused planning; 2) collecting data; 3) analyzing data; 4) reflecting on data; 5) creating an action plan; 6) implementing the action plan; and 7) evaluating the action plan. These steps represent a very thorough and informative continuous feedback loop.

The items on the walkthrough sheet focus on what the learner rather than the teacher is doing, which aligns with the district’s learner-centered approach.

The TRIAND lesson plan screenshot and actual plan show how easily teachers can plan a comprehensive lesson with all elements considered, including differentiating the lesson by class, vocabulary, assessment, homework, and modifications. There is also an option to indicate whether the plan can be shared.

The fact that these tools connect classrooms across schools (shared lesson plans, classroom observations and walkthroughs, collaborative meetings), schools across the district (district staff development, observations, vertical team meetings), and the district back to schools for support (scorecards and action plans, common planning time, school-based skills specialists) is crucial for creating system-wide alignment and equity. When a student gets the same high-quality math instruction regardless of ZIP code and is able to pick up where he/she left off during a mid-year move, instructional quality becomes more uniform across a system.
Questions to Ask
  • How comfortable are teachers in using the TRIAND lesson plan system? How were they trained to use it? Can they share and access other teacher lessons through TRIAND?
  • How do teachers use TRIAND data to inform their instructional planning?
  • How do teachers respond to these continuous monitoring processes?
  • How do schools build an “open door” climate with classroom teachers for walkthroughs and observations?
  • What happens to the classroom walkthrough data? Is it part of the teacher evaluation system?
  • How do these tools work together to monitor curriculum implementation? How does the monitoring and observation data inform curriculum revision?
  • What is the principal’s role in monitoring curriculum implementation?
  • What steps are taken when the curriculum is not being implemented faithfully or successfully? Is there one intervention that works better than others in this case? How does the district know which interventions are most effective?
> Download Document (pdf)

2 – Requirements for Teacher Common Planning Time
Documents specifying how teachers at each grade level are to use common planning time. Sample common planning time and standards for conducting collaborative planning meetings are also included.
What to Notice
Planning time for teachers is divided into a conference period for instructional preparation and a planning period for meeting with other grade- or subject-level teachers. The planning period remains the same and the meeting days are specified. Also, the upper grades typically meet daily while elementary grades meet once a week (usually on the same day each week), which supports vertical team planning, a must for program alignment.

The district requires that middle and high school teachers meet for interdisciplinary planning three times a week, a conference period once a week, and staff development once a week. This consistent and structured schedule ensures that teacher meetings are instructionally focused and occur frequently enough to enhance instructional alignment.

The schedule itself, shown for one feeder pattern in Aldine, is very straightforward. Scheduling regular, consistent “common” times for teachers to meet is important for making the commitment to regular collaboration.

As with all other meetings in Aldine, the district provides specific guidelines for collaborative meetings to ensure they are structured, focused, and efficient, and that they allow everyone to participate. Every aspect of meeting implementation is covered in the guidelines, including assigning roles such as a meeting facilitator and summarizing key points and action items.
Questions to Ask
  • How has common planning time increased collaboration between teachers?
  • What is the impact of collaborative meetings on curriculum implementation and instruction?
  • How do collaborative meetings differ between school levels, particularly at the high school level?
  • How difficult is it to carve out consistent common planning time at schools? Is it more difficult for high schools?
  • How are teachers trained on the district’s standards for collaborative meetings?
  • What happens when a team or teacher fails to adhere to their planning schedule or the standards for collaborative planning meetings?
  • How is the success of planning meetings evaluated?
  • Do team members rotate the meeting roles, or are they typically held by the same person each time? Are any standards associated with the roles, such as having department heads or skills specialists act as the facilitator?
  • What is the principal’s role in collaborative meetings?
  • Why is team collaboration a priority in this district?
> Download Document (pdf)

3 – Qualifications for Skills Specialist
Document describing the required skills and role of the skills specialist, a campus-based content area specialist who assists teachers with curriculum implementation and instruction.
What to Notice
This position is much like a subject-level “coach,” except that it is campus-based, which is important for providing consistent and accessible support for teachers. Also, while most coaches focus solely on assisting individual teachers, the staff in this position work with the larger school administrative team to improve the curriculum and monitor implementation.

In addition to focusing on instruction, the skills specialist concentrates on other aspects of school improvement, including school climate, personnel and student management, facilities issues, and community relations. Having one person serve as a conduit for specific subjects and issues (like drop outs) creates better instructional alignment, contributes to a sense of collective accountability, and helps distribute leadership throughout schools, an important sustainability factor for improvement efforts.
Questions to Ask
  • How are skills specialists funded? Who or what determines how many skills specialists a campus will have?
  • How long has the skills specialist position existed in Aldine? What prompted the district to create such a position?
  • How are skills specialists assigned to teachers?
  • What do teachers say about working with skills specialists? Do teachers find them to be helpful?
  • How has the presence of skills specialists affected student achievement in schools?
  • How are skills specialists trained? Are multiple people involved in the training?
  • Are most skills specialists developed internally?
> Download Document (pdf)

Faithfully Implementing CurriculumMiami-Dade County Public Schools
Miami-Dade County Public Schools has made an extraordinary effort to upgrade its curriculum and ensure faithful implementation across all district schools. Curriculum tools and pacing guides are made available online to all principals and teachers, and district staff are tasked with visiting schools to assess curriculum implementation and instructional practices.

1 – Overview of Competency-Based Curriculum
Description of Miami-Dade's approach to curriculum and instruction.
What to Notice
Miami-Dade developed an online curriculum aligned with Florida’s Sunshine State Standards. This “competency-based curriculum” (CBC) is designed to provide additional rigor and specificity to the state standards. The CBC can be accessed online at: http://www2.dadeschools.net/students/cbc/index.asp Notice that each subject area offers an overview that describes the district’s philosophy and goals in that area. Each competency reflects the synthesis of several different curriculum objectives.
Questions to Ask
  • How is a competency-based curriculum (CBC) different from what the district used before? What was the process to develop the CBC? How are updates to the CBC communicated district-wide?
  • How did the district train all of its teachers to use the new curriculum and to access the online tools? Does the district offer pacing guidelines to assist in the implementation of the CBC? If so, how are they developed?
  • How does the district measure the success of its online curriculum tools? Do district staff use software to monitor the usage of the tools? Did the district set measurable goals for the use of the tools?
> Download Document (pdf)

2 – Process to Monitor Curriculum Implementation
Guide for tracking implementation of district curriculum in schools.
What to Notice
This document summarizes the district’s approach to curriculum implementation and provides several tools for district staff or school principals to use in the assessment of curriculum implementation and instruction. The district creates instructional review teams that conduct site visits focused on assessing the status of curriculum implementation at a given school. The document contains instructional review tools, a classroom checklist sample and sample implementation checklists.
Questions to Ask
  • How frequently are schools visited by the instructional review team? What factors determine whether a school or classroom is visited?
  • What is the typical end goal of an instructional review, and who is the “customer” for the report? What authority does the team have to implement or recommend changes?
  • Does the district store the data from the review forms in any central database? Have any of the metrics or checklists been correlated with student achievement data? How has the district responded to district-wide trends in these reviews?
> Download Document (pdf)

Revising and Implementing CurriculumGwinnett County Public Schools
The Gwinnett County Public Schools curriculum is a visible priority through open and well-structured processes that connect to all aspects of teaching and learning in the district.

1 – Curriculum Procedures
Curriculum revision instructions and form.
What to Notice
The Academic Knowledge and Skills (AKS) curriculum was developed by the district and community members in the mid-1990s to push for standards that exceeded state expectations. This document provides clear directions on how to propose district curriculum revisions to the AKS. Not only does the document outline well-coordinated procedures, but it also illustrates the transparency of the annual revision process by outlining internal and external stakeholders who are solicited for input.

The form drives alignment with the district’s mission by requiring submissions to indicate how a proposed revision relates to the district’s mission and strategic goals, and how it fills an identified need. The Gwinnett Education Management System (GEMS) oversight committee includes various district and community members (all of whom must apply to be selected for membership), which helps leverage expertise, create buy-in, and adds balance to curriculum development.
Questions to Ask
  • How long does it take for the appropriate committees to approve new courses? How often are brand new courses proposed?
  • Is the same process followed for smaller tweaks to the curriculum, such as the addition of one or two missing academic objectives?
  • What mechanisms are in place to support teachers working together on curriculum revision?
  • How are disagreements on curriculum revisions resolved? Does this inclusive process increase dissent over curriculum content?
> Download Document (pdf)

2 – Academic Knowledge and Skills (AKS) Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI)
AKS CQI PowerPoint, and AKS CQI summary document and checklist
What to Notice
This PowerPoint and text document both explain Gwinnett’s strategic approach to teaching and learning. To ensure the educational program is aligned and seamless, the district created a highly structured and systemic approach that focuses on the AKS curriculum and on continuous quality improvement strategies.

The graphic on page 4 of the presentation illustrates the four “plan, do, act and check” steps, along with the type of activities associated with each. Pages 5 – 14 further detail those activities, and pages 15 – 24 focus on tools used for the various steps.

The AKS-Continuous Improvement Monitoring Checklist is designed to monitor the presence of particular activities under each step. The “Look Fors” included in the second column are helpful to clarify what products and activities should be seen, and for adding consistency to the monitoring process.

The PDF following the PowerPoint provides a useful quick-reference summary of the AKS CQI process and activities, and a blank monitoring checklist.

Both documents clearly summarize and explain a complex, thorough and aligned process that ensures teachers know exactly what to teach, and what their students need. The addition of the seventh step on the PDF, (p. 1) “Maintenance of Critical Concepts for Retention,” is important because it stresses that key information should be periodically reviewed to be maintained and to connect to other relevant concepts. This is a step districts often do not explicitly include in their strategies.
Questions to Ask
  • How are district personnel trained on the AKS CQI improvement model? Does training include central office staff, principals and teachers? How long does it take to train personnel on all parts of the model?
  • Which district personnel are responsible for managing and monitoring implementation of the model? What are their roles?
  • How comfortable are teachers in implementing the model? What support can they receive if they have difficulty with a particular area?
  • How do teachers obtain data for various steps like data disaggregation and mini-assessments? What training do they receive for understanding how to interpret and respond to data?
  • How long has this model been in place? What changes have teachers seen in student achievement with the implementation of this model?
  • Who monitors implementation of the AKS CQI model in the classroom? How many monitoring visits would a teacher receive? How do teachers receive feedback from the monitoring visits?
> Download Document (pdf)

3 – Berkmar High Professional Development Activities for Teachers
Outline of professional development training that supports the curriculum and instruction process. This document outlines professional development activities implemented at one of the district’s high schools.

Rather than just static subject-related courses, the topics on this list are designed to support the Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) framework (see previous document). For example, the first training activity, “Collaboration for Achievement,” ties to one of the “Look Fors” on the AKS CQI Monitoring Checklist – evidence and documentation of weekly meetings. The “Collaboration for Achievement” offering trains teachers how to work together effectively to improve student achievement. Another activity, “Focus on Best Practices,” ties directly to the AKS CQI steps 5 and 6-- “immediate extensions” and “immediate interventions.” For example, teachers learn how to help struggling students understand content through graphic organizers, or how to extend lessons to more applicable activities like comparing and contrasting. While many similar activities were found in other Gwinnett school professional development offerings, there are still school-specific activities, like the cluster vertical math team activity at the end of this plan.

Overall, this document exemplifies important alignment between training and expectations, as well as flexibility for individual school practices.
What to Notice
The lesson plan template begins with an overview and purpose, including a direct link to the New York State standards and New York City’s Blueprint Art Strands. The tool provides teachers with a sequential plan that moves from objective setting through closure. Materials and other resources are listed.
Questions to Ask
  • Which of these training topics are unique to this school, or which are implemented district-wide?
  • What type of follow-up is provided after the training sessions? How does the school or district evaluate the effectiveness of the training sessions?
  • Who leads training sessions? Is the training conducted in house, or are consultants or other district members involved?
  • How does the school decide what topics it should include in professional development? How much freedom does the school have to make these decisions?
> Download Document (pdf)

4 – Curriculum parent letter – Fourth grade
Letter to parents explaining the district’s curriculum, assessment, graduation and grade-level requirements.
What to Notice
This comprehensive parent letter explains everything parents need to know about their child’s education in the district. It clearly lays out promotion requirements, testing schedules, and specific learning objectives in each subject for a particular grade level. In addition to these details, the letter ends with one page of bullet points on how parents can help their children in school.

This document not only serves as a vital communication with parents, it also illustrates the importance the district places on involving parents in their children’s academic program.
Questions to Ask
  • Is this letter provided to parents in other languages?
  • What resources are available to parents if they have questions about the contents?
  • What kind of response from parents has the district received in reaction to this letter?
> Download Document (pdf)

Selecting and Implementing CurriculaLong Beach Unified School District
In an effort to encourage effective decision-making at the district level, Long Beach Unified School District developed rigorous tools for the evaluation and comparison of different instructional materials that are under consideration for use by its school. In addition, the district has established an interactive process for the implementation of new curricula, ensuring that teachers' questions are answered quickly.

1 – Middle School Instructional Materials Score Sheet
Provides a framework for the evaluation of candidate materials by district reviewers.
What to Notice
The layout of this tool is visually clear and reflects the content: A cover scoring page provides an overview of the criteria, and the following four pages provide a rigorous rubric which communicates––implicitly and explicitly––what the district is looking for.
Questions to Ask
  • How was the scoring sheet developed?
  • Who reviews new instructional materials? What kind of training do they recieve?
  • Who collects and analyzes the score sheets? How are the results disseminated and used? What is the final decision making process, and who is the decision maker?
  • How often does the district undergo this kind of review?
  • How were the five finalists determined?
> Download Document (doc)

2 – Curriculum Standards Evaluation Form - Science
Allows a reviewer to rate different science curricula based on their alignment with state and district content standards.
What to Notice
At this point in the process, the district has determined the five finalists for its eighth-grade science curriculum. This three-page form gives reviewers the opportunity to evaluate each of the five options in the context of their alignment with the state and district standards. Notice how specific the tool is —Reviewers are looking for specific vocabulary words and concepts in the reviewed materials.
Questions to Ask
  • How was the evaluation form developed?
  • Who is responsible for completing the form? How many reviewers are involved in the process? What kind of training do they receive in how to use the tool?
  • Who is responsible for collecting the forms and disseminating results? What is the process for making curriculum decisions?
  • How often does the district undergo this kind of review?
  • How were the five finalists determined?
> Download Document (doc)

3 – Teacher Survey Instruments and Results
Assesses teachers’ understanding of new instructional materials and curricula and ensures that teachers have answers to all the questions they have posed.
What to Notice
When implementing a curriculum, Long Beach puts considerable effort into evaluating how well teachers have absorbed the material. These documents reflect the district’s thoughtful approach to teacher training and curriculum implementation:
  1. Pre- and post- survey data, showing that training was successful in increasing teachers’ understanding of the target material.
  2. A schedule for teacher focus groups, in which the district probed teacher attitudes and concerns about the literacy program.
  3. A hard-copy survey of teacher attitudes about Open Court, the district’s literacy program.
  4. A series of frequently asked questions to be published to help teachers deal with common concerns about the Open Court curriculum.
Questions to Ask
  • What kinds of training were offered in between the pre- and post-survey data?
  • Who conducted the teacher focus groups? How did the district creating a trusting environment in which teachers would feel free to share their concerns openly?
  • Who was responsible for developing the teacher survey? How were the results compiled and disseminated?
  • How were the Frequently Asked Questions identified? Where were the answers published? Were they posted online?
> Download Document (doc)

Supporting Curriculum FidelityLong Beach Unified School District
To ensure the curriculum is implemented effectively and with fidelity across the district, Long Beach Unified School District teachers are provided with comprehensive pacing guides that move from a year-at-a-glance across grade levels to specifics such as pacing, tasks and instructional resources.

1 – Curriculum Guide
Sample curriculum planning guide and tools for English Language Arts (ELA), grades six through eight.
What to Notice
This teacher-developed curriculum guide directs and aligns delivery of the district’s curriculum. It departs from typical curriculum guides with its different levels of curriculum views, particularly at multiple grade-levels.

The “year-at-a-glance” document on the first two pages illustrates uniform structure and alignment across grade levels. For ELA, a teacher can clearly see the division between fiction and nonfiction, the genre, and organization of learning clusters which are numbered. Since this structure is repeated across grade levels, students moving from one grade to the next will already be familiar with the vocabulary and activities associated with a particular task like “sentence and its parts.”

The detailed grade-level pages provide activities related to each learning cluster, with the year-long essential question found across the top, and assessment information at the bottom. The organization of these pacing pages (seventh-grade literature pacing guide), along with the seventh-grade Language of Literature Cluster standards, show the district’s commitment to covering all areas of language arts holistically. The unit culminating tasks illustrate how all the literature skills are brought together through authentic tasks such as the development of a new teen magazine.
Questions to Ask
  • How do teachers access the pacing guides? Are they provided on a web-based system?
  • Where do teachers obtain the tools within the toolkit?
  • How were the curriculum guides developed? How often are various subject-level curriculum guides updated?
  • How has the implementation of similar instruction across grades impacted student achievement? Does it encourage vertical instructional planning among teachers?
  • How are teachers trained to use the pacing guides? What support is available for teachers having difficulty maintaining instruction according to the designated timeline?
  • How do teachers react to the pacing guides? Do they perceive them as helpful or as barriers to creativity
  • What happens with culminating tasks? Are they considered to be performance-based end-of-unit tests? How are the products graded?
> Download Document (pdf)

2 – Core-Subject Survey
Survey to teachers covering the language arts curriculum guide, materials and content, department meetings, and professional development needs.
What to Notice
This survey is designed to gather important feedback from core-subject teachers. It is simple, well-constructed, and provides a good balance of open-ended and short answer questions. The survey starts with a list of changes for the year to focus survey respondents on those changes.

In addition to illustrating the district’s efforts to gather and respond to teachers’ needs, the survey also demonstrates how the district systemically ties together the curriculum guides, instructional resources, data practices, department meetings, and professional development. This is key for implementing a well-aligned continuous improvement process to support curriculum and instruction.
Questions to Ask
  • Who constructs the survey each year? Is it implemented by the central office?
  • What happens with the survey results in terms of dissemination and addressing findings?
  • How many teachers take the survey? Is it administered by department? How is the response rate?
  • Are there similar surveys for non-core subject teachers?
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