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PDK CCPS Standard I Curriculum Review

Linda L. Szwabowski

Virginia Commonwealth University


This paper examines the findings of a curriculum management audit conducted by Phi Delta

Kappa. (PDK). PDK conducted the audit in Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) in

September 2007, and presented the findings to the CCPS School Board in January 2008. Owing

to the complexity of the audit, only the findings of Standard I as it pertains to curriculum will be

examined. In addition to background and findings of the audit, legal and ethical issues will be


PDK CCPS Standard I Curriculum Review

In September of 2007, Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) conducted a Curriculum

Management Audit. The audit examined the curriculum management system which had been

designed and implemented by the school division. The adopted policies of the CCPS School

Board comprised the framework used as a basis for the audit. The audit examined the system

from the perspective of five standards.

This paper analyzes Standard I with regard to curriculum. Standard I is defined as follows: “The

School District Demonstrates Its Control of Resources, Programs and Personnel” (2008, p. 13).

The impetus for this audit, as well as others conducted throughout the system, was the

selection of a new Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Marcus Newsome. Dr. Newsome requested

that audits of specified areas be part of the terms of agreement between the school division and

himself as part of his selection as Superintendent. Such an audit shows not only strengths and

weaknesses of the specified areas, but also whether or not the policies and practices are in

compliances with the state regulations. The information gained from the scrutiny could be used

to guide policy and direction in the coming years.

For the purposes of this paper, the PDK requirements for curricular quality control will be used:

“(1) A written curriculum in some clear and translatable form for application by teachers in

classroom or related instructional settings, (2) a taught curriculum, which is shaped by and

interactive with the written one, and (3) a tested curriculum, which includes the tasks, concepts,

and skills of pupil learning and which is linked to both the taught and written curricula”

(p.7).This is commonly expressed as alignment with what is written, taught and tested.

The Curriculum Management Audit was conducted by thirteen auditors from around the

United States of America (PDK, p. iii). The lead auditor, Sue Shidaker, returned in July 2008 to

conduct an intense four day training workshop for central office personnel. The purpose of the

training was to provide an explanation and analysis of the audit. She also provided guidance on

how to implement specific recommendations and the rationale behind the recommendations.

Findings of the PDK Curriculum Audit with Regard to Curriculum

The premise of Standard I is that school divisions demonstrate control of resources, programs

and personnel. There are a number of indicators that can be used to substantiate sufficient

control. PDK (2008) describes them in the report issued to CCPS as follows:

• A curriculum that is centrally defined and adopted by the board of education;

• A clear set of policies that establish an operational framework for management that

permits accountability;

• A clear set of policies that reflect state requirements and local program goals and the

necessity to use achievement data to improve school system operations;

• A functional administrative structure that facilitates the design and delivery of the

District’s curriculum;

• A direct, uninterrupted line of authority from school board/superintendent and

other central office officials to principals and classroom teachers;

• Organizational development efforts that are focused to improve system effectiveness;

• Documentation of school board and central office planning for the attainment of goals,

objectives and mission over time; and

• A clear mechanism to define and direct change and innovation within the school system

to permit maximization of its resources on priority goals, objectives and mission (p.13).

PDK delivered the findings in January 2008: “current policies are inadequate to direct a

sound curriculum management system and establish quality control of the educational

program and organizational operations. Additionally, auditors found the use of the policies

was rarely a practice for determining the basis for decisions except in instances of recent

changes in law; often interviewees were unaware of any policies related to curriculum and

assessment” (pp.14-15).

The CCPS School Board Policy Manual may be accessed online. Most of the instructional

policies are in the 300 section. The 54 page section entitled “Section 300-INSTRUCTION”

has only 6 pages that refer directly to the development and delivery of instruction. Those

policies were last revised in March 1994. Figure 1 (page 6) illustrates the years of adoption

or revision for the eleven policies that deal directly or indirectly with instruction.

Figure 1.

Years of Adoption of Revision for CCPS Curriculum Policies relating to PDK Standard 1

CCPS Curriculum Policies for PDK
Standard 1

700 711 724
Policy Number

500 315.2
400 302 315.1
300 301 315
200 218 203
100 102
1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010
Year of Adoption or Latest Revision

The policies are described briefly below:

 102: Responsibilities of the School Board

 203: Responsibilities of the Superintendent

 218: Accountability

 301,302,302.1:Curriculum Development

 315,215.1,315.2: Charter Schools

 711,724: Planning and Budgeting.

Six criteria were used to determine whether the CCPS policies for Standard 1 (Curriculum) were

in compliance:

 Criterion A.: An aligned written taught and tested curriculum

 Criterion B.: Philosophical statement of curriculum approach

 Criterion C.: Board adoption of the curriculum

 Criterion D.: Accountability through Roles and Responsibilities

 Criterion E.: Long-range system-wide planning

 Criterion F. Accountability through Roles and Responsibilities

CCPS was in compliance only for Criterion D. The County has hired a non-contractual person to

revise the School Board Policies; the work is yet to be publicly unveiled. While the courts have

routinely placed the power of curriculum instruction in the hands of the local school board, in

accordance with Virginia statutory law, policy 302 hands the responsibility over to the

Superintendent. According to Brickell and Paul (2005), this is a common scenario, owing to the

complexity of curriculum and assessment. Their entire book is based on the premise that it is the

school board that ought to control these policies, and that this is a uniquely American perspective

that can be traced to our beginnings as a democracy. They argue that control of the curriculum by

those with a vested interest is unhealthy, and will lead to less rigorous results.

Legal Issues Relevant to the Topic

The body of the Constitution of the United States does not mention education, but the First and

Fourteenth Amendments have been used in court cases involving Freedom of Speech (First

Amendment), academic freedom, and Due Process (Fourteenth). Since there is little CCPS policy

currently in place to guide curriculum, there is potential for misunderstanding as to what is


There is a paucity of legal cases specific to inadequate curriculum and school boards. An

exhaustive search turned up no legal cases where school boards had been sued over their failure

to properly design and implement an effective system of curricular quality control. When the

courts do rule on curricular issues, research indicates the courts nearly always side with the

school board, citing local control over educational issues.

Even school boards are not without their limits. In writing the majority opinion for Board of

Education v. Pico (1982) , Justice Brennan, joined by Justices Marshall and Stevens, affirmed

that the First Amendment limits the discretion of the school board to remove books from the

school’s library. The key points are the environment (the library), the fact that the school board

ignored its own policy with regard to the recommendations of the school’s committee that

oversaw the selection of library materials, that the compulsory classroom environment is not

equal to a library, where choice of materials is essential, and that a school board may not remove

materials from the school’s library because the materials are distasteful to board members.

When a curriculum has detailed, prescribed material that is written, taught and tested, the teacher

may have freedom as far as the instructional delivery and strategies that are used to reach and

teach the students, but the teacher is limited in the amount of discretionary material that is

provided. The downside to a tightly controlled curriculum is that it may provide little opportunity

for the teachers to exercise their First Amendment rights of free speech and their traditional right

of academic freedom.

The right of academic freedom, while not an enumerated right, is a long-standing tradition in

American society. As the County continues to develop a more tightly controlled curriculum,

there will almost certainly be those who view the revisions as an affront akin to Parducci v.

Rutland (1970). In that case, Jack Rutland, the principal of Jeff Davis High School in

Montgomery, Alabama, fired Marilyn Parducci because she insisted upon assigning a Kurt

Vonnegut story to her eleventh grade class. Ms. Parducci sued, citing her First Amendment right

of academic freedom and her Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. She won and was

reinstated. The firing was expunged.

Since the County did not meet Criterion A , providing a comprehensive curriculum that is

written, taught, and tested, CCPS teachers currently have a great deal of latitude in some areas,

with respect to how they teach the Standards of Learning specific to their disciplines. It may be

difficult without well-defined parameters to know what is engaging and relevant, and what is

pure drivel. We owe it to the teachers to provide them a solid framework from which to operate.

Academic freedom is ill-defined in the courts. One landmark case that is often cited is Keyishian

v. Board of Regents (1967). This case was reversed and remanded in 1995. While interpretations

may change, and curriculum must evolve, a solid base of operations will help to ensure that more

students are given the tools for success.

All school divisions in the Commonwealth of Virginia are under the auspices of the Virginia

Board of Education (Agency 20), whose rules are published online. The Code of Virginia is

published in the Virginia Register. In § 22.1-253.13:3 of the Code of Virginia, one finds that a

school division’s “requirements and guidelines for instructional programs” are answerable to the

Commonwealth’s Board of Education.

As all CCPS schools remain accredited, it is unlikely that the Virginia Board of Education would

take any action. Should CCPS face the difficult circumstance of having a school or schools not

make Annual Yearly Progress (AYP), the division would be required to design and implement a

corrective action plan.

The Guidance Documents found on the website for the Virginia Department of Education

(VDOE) provide a 1999 memo for K-3 reading and mathematics. The memo directs school

divisions to maintain records of K-3 student achievement in these to areas. Elsewhere on the

VDOE site, one may find in the core curricular frameworks a number of sample questions and

strategies relating to student success, pacing guidance, and other strategies to guide classroom


The other VDOE Guidance Documents are scattershot, referring to specified populations (i.e.

Special Education, Gifted, Limited English Proficiency) or programs (i.e. Character Education,

Personal Finance and Driver Education). Interestingly enough, all the documents listed have

dates of 1999-2003. Presumably they have been reviewed in the not too distant past.

One might suppose that the VDOE is loathe to intrude upon the local school board’s sovereignty,

provided that the school division in question is one that produces successful students as

measured by the Standards of Learning (SOL), meets the very basic requirements set forth by the

Standards of Quality (SOQ) and has followed the letter of the law for the Standards of

Accreditation (SOA).

The SOQ were amended in 2007. Standard 7, § 22.1-253.13:7, deals with school board policies.

It says that policies must be reviewed every five years, and reviewed as needed. It would

behoove CCPS to add a “Reviewed Date” to the end of each School Board policy so that

interested parties can easily note which policies have been reviewed within the past five years,

and which are coming up for review.

Thankfully, although the CCPS Curriculum Audit (PDK, 2008) revealed several areas

in need of remediation, to date there have been no court cases involving the fact that the

management system in place revealed weaknesses to be discussed when Standards 2 and 3 are


Ethical Issues

Into the midst of all the change that is happening with regard to the curriculum comes a

thorny problem that may impede the necessary changes to policy as well as curriculum revision:

a budget challenge of great proportions. How heartbreaking this must be for the CCPS School

Board, particularly those long-serving members who have strived to provide innovative students

to our students! Even Solomon might pause at the decisions to be made. The good news is that

some relief has been provided of late. The bad news is that some outstanding educators will still

lose their jobs, and students will undeniably be affected.

The poses a question on the Ethics of Critique: How will decisions made by the CCPS School

Board impact specific groups? Will the disparities revealed by the Curriculum Management

Audit (PDK, 2008) remain in place until the school division is in a stronger place financially?

An additional question is raised from the perspective of the Ethics of Justice: Is it fair that the

implementation of some programs designed to help implement the CCPS Design for

Excellence be delayed at some schools because CCPS wasn’t able to budget implementation

across the board? For example, the expansion of elementary world languages has been put on

hold for next year. This means that students at the schools who had been in the pipeline for

next year will now have to wait a year or more to begin study of a second language. By

happenstance, the majority of the schools that implemented a world languages program in the

first two years tend to represent higher socio-economic areas of Chesterfield County.

Middle and high school programs are being affected as well. In both “core” and

“non-core” areas, principals are having to make tough decisions about smaller programs. In

Utilitarian terms, “What is the best use of the limited resources so that the most students will

receive the greatest good (happiness) for the greatest good?”

For the coming fiscal year, The Principle of Benefit Maximization (“getting the most ‘bang’ for

our buck”) will almost certainly take precedence over the Principle of Rational Benevolence

(promoting the well-being of others). This is unsavory, to say the least. It doesn’t mean that the

school division is no longer committed to the Design for Excellence. The non-consequentialists

are not out of the game. The principle of equal respect will win out in the long run. As moral

agents, it is our responsibility to speak up for what is right (Strike, Haller, Soltis, 2005). What is

right is not always that which is easy to do.

As we seek to provide our students with “21st Century Skills”, we must be steadfast in our belief

that the hard work of change is in the best interest of our students. We will find a way to make

it happen.

Keyishian v. Board of Regents ( No. 105) 514 U.S. 673 (1995) 255 Fl Supp. 981,

reversed and remanded.

Board of Education v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853 (1982), U.S. Supreme Court Bound Volumes, United

States Supreme Court, retrieved March 19, 2009, from .

Brickell, H and Paul, R. Curriculum and Assessment Policy: 20 Questions for Board Members,

The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 2005, Maryland.

Chesterfield County Public Schools, School Board Policy Manual, Instruction, retrieved March

19, 2009, from .

Parducci v. Rutland, 316 F. Supp. 352; (M.D. Al.1970) U.S. Dist. , retrieved from LexisNExis

April 21, 2009


Phi Delta Kappa International. ( 2008). A Curriculum Management Audit of the Chesterfield

County Public Schools. Bloomington, In: Phi Delta Kappa International.

Virginia Board of Education

Virginia Register

Virginia Standards of Accreditation

Virginia Standards of Quality