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Out of Alignment: Creating a Curricular Plan for Student Success in a Suburban School District

Michael S. Nelson University of Idaho

A Project Submitted as a Justification for Doctoral Candidacy in the College of Education



Abstract School districts today are not judged solely on the quality of their infrastructure, teachers, nor students. Challenges appear around our country with each school being put on notice that it must continually improve to maintain status. Teachers are faced with extensive changes in expectations, standards, and student desire. School districts are forced to choose between making considerable cuts that affect either the human element, or the robust programs based on student needs. In many instances, school districts have decided not to purchase necessary curricular items including textbooks, materials, nor provide professional development. Instead, they have attempted to maintain focus on instruction, hoping that they can cope with outdated resources. Action research will be utilized in this project to provide a roadmap for school districts which may lack sufficient plans or directives in curriculum guides, maps, and assessments. Specifically, potent professional development, reflective practice and efficiency will be explored as these are identified fortes of this research practice (Arhar, Holly & Kasten, 2001). In addition, this paper will address the need for a professional collaborative framework to improve instruction at all grades. Table of Contents 1. 2. 3. 4. Introduction Purpose Statement Definition of Terms Background a. Background to the Problem b. The Coeur d'Alene School District 5. Purpose of Research a. How people view curricula b. Guides vs. Curriculum 6. Implementation Plan 7. Significance Statement 8. Research Questions 9. Methodology a. Research Method b. Limitations c. Delimitations 10. Timeline of events 11. Evaluation Plan 12. Conclusion / Statement of Final Product



Introduction All vehicles manufactured today, regardless of the price point, are similar in structure. All vehicles have tires, an engine, windows and doors, although a different color of paint differentiates and allows the vehicle to be identified by an owner. Underneath this fashioning, however, lies the core of the car. Interrelated parts control structures which allow the vehicle to move, provide comfort, safety and durability. One of the most important systems on any vehicle is alignment, which focuses the effort of all elements to move towards a particular goal. If any one part involved in the alignment is not in sync, noticeable wear and a lack of instructional continuity will emerge. Analogously, a curriculum for any course taught in the United States has similar parts that must be aligned so learning can move forward. A lack of stability and direction in the curriculum may not be immediately obvious to teachers, students, and community patrons. A disconnect becomes more evident over time until deterioration can be found on some elements of curriculum, such as compliance with state and federal standards. Soon after, without restoration, the system will fail to operate effectively, thereby negatively affecting instruction and ultimately student learning. Purpose Statement The purpose of this project is to identify a best practice for curricular alignment in school districts that do not have a written curriculum guide for all taught courses. In addition, recommendations will be made for a process of vertical and horizontal alignment that integrates current district, state and/or federal standards. Following that, this investigation will also consider ways to encourage input and commitment from the stakeholders for a written

' alignment between standards and curriculum occurs (Squires. identifies assessable components. 2009). inside or outside the school. 4. Additionally. skills and thinking processes and assessments (ASCD.a practical guide designed to aid teachers in planning and developing a teaching plan for specific subject areas (University of California-Riverside. 2009). 2009). namely the school and district employees. Some components include: content.the goals for instruction. 1999). If standards contain 'number concepts' in mathematics and the curriculum contains 'number concepts. 5. The guide breaks the curriculum into components / units. Alignment . 2." (p.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 4 curriculum. This process allows educators to see the reliance of their instruction on other content areas and grade levels (Jacobs. identifies the goals for instruction. units. whether it is carried on in groups or individually. Curriculum Mapping . 2009). teachers independently decide how to achieve those goals (Squires. 16) 3. These are usually developed and distributed by state and federal organizations and aligned with assessments mandated to students for graduation or advancement. 1969). Curriculum . Curriculum Guide . Standards .what students should know and be able to do (Squires. but also from the students who will be taught in the new design or have taken the course previously. curriculum has been defined by Kerr (1968) as "All the learning which is planned and guided by the agreement or match between two categories. .a visual method for projecting yearly plans in all grade levels as well as monthly plans for the classroom based on a calendar sequence from month to month. Definition of Terms 1.

such as the learning of present tense or food vocabulary in a Spanish course.the identified elements within a curriculum that should be assessed according to the values of the school district and standards.” with secondary meanings of a “race-course. 8. In fact. these documents are utilized by teaching staff to guide the daily.” “a course. Over the last century.” “a race. all those involved with the instruction of pupils knows what is expected and that student achievement is paramount. 3) . weekly. curriculum has evolved to refer to the concepts that are studied.” “a career” (Egan. socioeconomic status or lifestyle. identifies a high-performing school. or the content. 7. 3) She added. The documentation of such curriculum provides a trust that students want to see and parents today expect. Haycock (2003) surmises that standards themselves do not make a significant difference unless paired with rigor and aligned with those expectations.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 5 6. The first Latin meaning of curriculum was “a running." (p. 1978). They are essential to meeting specific student benchmarks for today's students no matter their ethnicity. Typically in paper form. aligned with standards.the activities that may be used to demonstrate competency of the propositions. She points out.a listing of concepts and activities to be taught in succession over an academic term. Scope-and-Sequence . Cues . Background to the Problem What a curriculum entails is difficult to define. 2002). "Certainly a well-designed curriculum. and monthly units or lessons." (p. "If paired with the academic learning requirements (standards) and research-based teaching strategies / materials. Propositions . These topics are usually copied from the curriculum guide / map (Callison. such as a prescribed online activity or benchmark assessment.

teams of educators then prepare curriculum guides to recognize the instructional practices of the district and their compliance with state and national standards. the classroom teacher can select and teach just about any curriculum he or she decides is important. expecting that the standards of the district / and state are included. Teachers can then employ this document in their lesson planning. content and process aligned to standards and assessments that establish a focus for instruction. Within this framework. More teachers than not go through textbook lessons mechanically: they take the book that is assigned to the course and teach what is in it (Sewall. Squires refines the definition of curriculum as "the district's written plan incorporating aspects of time use. creation of assignments. Goodlad (1984) contends that curriculum is widely understood to be the 'Bible' for classroom instruction whether it takes the form of a curriculum guide. scope-and-sequence. 143). simple chart or a detailed lesson plan. Above the district level. assessment.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 6 Today. a unique dynamic occurs. This practice also provides a framework for classroom instruction to teachers while providing limited flexibility for breadth and depth in the instructional time provided (Idaho State Department of Education." (p. 2008). principals and district coordinators are held responsible for ensuring that all students meet the aforementioned state and federal standards. School . teachers predominantly use a textbook as the basic learning instrument. however. states identify their own state standards as the curriculum and ensure that all purchased materials align with the standards adopted by the legislature. staff development and management so student achievement improves. From the work in individual classrooms. and design of examinations throughout the academic term. 2009). According to English (2000): When the door is shut and nobody else is around. As teachers are provided with copies of a district curricular document.

The district is interesting because of the diversity of educational programs with seven comprehensive elementary schools. there are also three magnet elementary schools. The decisions of a teacher can void the best developed curriculum plans by ignoring them. The Coeur d'Alene School District has not had an employee specifically charged with overseeing the curriculum due to budget cutbacks. the school system recognizes itself as a 'district of choice' which allows students from inside or outside the system's boundaries to enroll at any school through an application process. the district serves four cities with a population of over 70. 114) Background to the Coeur d'Alene School District Coeur d'Alene School District 271. This plan would provide a strategy to earn harmony between instructors and district office administration and provide teachers an opportunity to grow professionally through .400 classified and certified employees. 2011). Furthermore. (p. and an alternative high school. located in Coeur d'Alene. Both of the traditional high schools offer different advanced learning programs. With over 10.000 students and 1. Idaho. a creditrecovery high school. Instead those responsibilities have been shared by district secretaries and upper-level administrators in addition to their jobs managing buildings (both elementary and secondary directors are also principals) and day-to-day needs. a magnet middle school.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 7 structure isolates teachers in self-contained classrooms with children. With this diversity. two middle schools and two traditional high schools.000 (Coeur d'Alene School District. Purpose of Research The purpose of this project is to identify the degree of alignment with state and federal standards for courses taught in the Coeur d'Alene School District and propose a plan to remedy this misalignment. and alone they can make independent decisions about what they teach. was the focus district for this project.

OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 8 the process of curriculum development.e. & Whitehead. a guide for United States History may list events from a particular epoch (i. a text may contain contradictory information or may include a great deal of personalization and interpretation. and many enter the curriculum writing process with limited instruction from the district and other entities (Glatthorn. Since then. coined when textbooks became the starting point for instruction (English. A. Ezarik notes that students routinely have started with page one and finish the term near the end of the text. The end product usually includes a listing of topics to be taught and the amount of time prescribed for students to master the skills within that subject matter. 2006). Although the textbook still plays a dominant role in determining the content of a course. in the case of some elective courses. One example. primarily using the resources included with the textbook for practice and assessment (p.. these points of learning might not match the end-of-term assessments that students are expected to take and pass. The term 'curriculum guide' has different interpretations as the words are fairly new in our lexicon. either as a collaborative group or as individuals. World War II). B. how deep to teach concepts. Some guides may also include suggested lesson activities. and a listing of the main ideas that need to be gleaned from study. Boschee. It should be noted that many teachers have sparse training in curriculum guide design. 2000). Consequently. ways to tailor instruction and assessment to appeal to different types of learners. Teachers are usually the authors of curriculum guides. (usually referred to as 'scope'). F. Additionally. additional . worksheets. it is not always in alignment neither with curriculum guides nor with the applicable standards. this development of a 'best practice' for curriculum alignment may be helpful to other large districts that have not been able to support the hiring of a curricular expert. 53). In contrast.

specifying the core concepts that must be taught and prescribing instructional time. such as a unit on evolution or human sexuality in Biology (ASCD. and other components that could be adapted to a broad range of grades. Without these guides. An example of such could be a discussion of angles in a history lesson about the Egyptian pyramids as well as their applications in Geometry. Educational leaders must recognize that a written curriculum is the key to understanding the expectations for student learning. address state and local learning outcomes. and meet the needs of children. building on previously understood concepts in the previous grade or course. 1999). Parents trust that schools and their teachers will compare student work to a set of standards that have been identified by the Local Education Agency (district) or state of residence. For example. school systems produce a curriculum guide for each subject. 2006). build districtwide subject continuity. These guides may be based on the state or regional standards that a school wants students to meet. quality instruction might still be delivered. Essentially. or that are specific to a particular grade (ASCD. School districts are expected to provide quality instruction no matter the challenge. school districts need to develop curriculum guides. 1999). 2000). but the lack of continuity may result in students not receiving instruction that relates to state and district assessments (Hadderman. and is a component for guiding teacher professional development where states are focusing on what is happening in an individual student's growth pattern (Glatthorn et al. the guide may give specific recommendations on a topic. to ensure parental trust. enhancing comprehension of a subject matter referenced in different courses. such an extensive guide looks at what aspects of a topic are to be taught so that learning is contiguous. A guide may also include cross-curricular connections. Overall.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 9 readings. . In a number of instances.

(1991). remediation. District Administrator Magazine (author unknown) reported that these plans should be visible and understood by the students (p. 2009). as standards for just about every course are available (Squires. A written curriculum guide should be available in every classroom. Moreover. 8). P. Specifically. scores on those assessments were not being analyzed nor rewritten consistently. one observation was apparent: teachers often did not understand the expectations for students in their curriculum guides.. In the . nearly 60% of active high school courses did not have a written curriculum guide nor did they have a scope-and-sequence document on file with the district office. In conversations with principals of under-performing schools within the district. In an initial survey of all courses taught at each grade level in the Coeur d'Alene School District. further investigation revealed that many teachers did not have an accurate copy of their curriculum guide. The findings were better at the elementary (80% of courses had a written curriculum) and middle school levels (71%).OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 10 The problem exists in the Coeur d'Alene School District. many of the guides have not been updated after new standards were adopted following the state's six-year curriculum adoption cycle. D. electives. D. however. Although districts are putting more emphasis on those courses tied to making Adequate Yearly Progress (reading and mathematics). Analysis of this problem at each grade level also found that less than 20% of all active courses had current End-of-Course Assessments (final exams) for each semester or grading term on file in the district office. in each building in all districts. that courses are being taught without a curriculum guide or with limited understanding of the standards required. Indeed. and special education classes must also have a written plan based on the need to achieve standards. A lack of these guides certainly provides many teachers the autonomy to teach what they feel is necessary. & Baker. but causes a lack of instructional flow and consistency across schools (Stevenson.

while many new teachers who could have succeeded with more support may leave teaching prematurely because of the overwhelming nature of the work and the pain of failing in the classroom (p. leaving teachers to deliver instruction without a formal plan. 8). This type of empowerment encourages sharing and does not require the allocation of money. Glatthorn (1999) asserts that districts should have a plan of continual curricular improvement so that faculty members can discuss the effectiveness of their lessons. Additionally.most commonly secondary school teachers and elementary teachers in social studies and science . .received no operational curriculum at all. According to Education Week (2011) one-fifth of the new teachers in Massachusetts . this problem is not unique to the Coeur d'Alene School District.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 11 same initial survey. the focus is placed on the sharing of common goals. a key to making curriculum changes in a classroom. these content areas were the least likely to have curricular guides. Notably. 194) The process should also place consistent and trusted teaching methods that have worked into the guide in order to offer consistent opportunities to all students receiving instruction in that course (Glatthorn. Portier (2002) found that students may learn less than they otherwise might. this project will help produce curriculum guides that include the key elements to be taught and best practices for instruction in courses. Instead.14). Ideally. although their success is attributed to statewide practices of teacher effectiveness (p. And only two teachers in the sample said they had a highly specified curriculum for most subjects or classes they taught (p. (p. school or district. 2). Significantly. 2006). These findings were impressive as the state was named in the same article as the most highly achieving state in the union. All of these results are consistent with the Coeur d'Alene School District. Over half of the respondents reported that they encountered a curriculum that specified topics or skills to teach but no guidance about how to teach them.

many of the courses did not have complete curriculum guides. In the preliminary Coeur d'Alene School District results. In Coeur d'Alene. 2006). the template contains the objectives for each unit based on the expectations of the Charlotte Danielson framework. Furthermore. By utilizing the current district documents (strategic plan. the time allotted to the unit. there was a noted inability to find the documents when teachers were asked if they had a copy for review.Analysis of Current State of Curriculum In order to understand the scope of the task. beginning the writing process and the activation of a cycle of ongoing reflection and revision. rewritten. but had guides that were outdated.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 12 Implementation Plan Being on the forefront of changes in the politically-charged world of public education and implementing a goal-based approach for an instructional curriculum often go hand-in-hand. which are used to identify the most important topics to include on the formative and summative assessments for each course. a full course curriculum and assessment audit listing all of the active courses in the school district will be completed by reviewing electronic and metal file storage systems and attempting to find a copy of the written curriculum according to the district's preferred template. etc. a four phase plan will begin with an orientation about the state of the curriculum for district stakeholders. a prioritization the curricular needs of the district. Also. (Glatthorn. and vision statements. curricula can be written. This collaborative approach also emphasizes continuous improvement and creates a normal progression that instructional leaders can champion. mission. Phase One .) and involving a wide range of stakeholders. and implemented with general outcomes clearly in mind. To this end. propositions and cues are written into the curriculum guides. A more detailed analysis would also . the materials necessary to complete it and validations that can be utilized to identify whether students completely understand the topic.

Once the priorities are identified. subject review by a department of similarly assigned faculty (grade level or content area) is logical. During this phase. and assessments administered in his/her class (Glatthorn. the development of a comprehensive curriculum map / scope-and-sequence that is intended to promote higher achievement also must include instructional considerations from each teacher. the participation of all teachers who will teach the curricula is essential. skills. content. Phase Two . as each provides information about the content. 183). 1984).OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 13 determine whether courses have a curriculum map (or scope-and-sequence) and whether the district office has a copy of an approved summative assessment that is to be given to each student. Although this team should be composed of any combination of administrators and educators. (p. Squires (2009) pleads that teachers (as a professional team) will also need to chronologically map important skills. Much of this work should have already been completed as schools work to analyze data more frequently with the amount of pressure applied .Planning and Prioritization Once the creation of the curricular committee is complete. Moreover. the team will meet to discuss the priorities of the district in comparison to meeting goals in the specific mission / plans that have been utilized. a district curriculum committee will need to be organized. and assessments addressed in each class taught (how lessons went in comparison to the goals set forth by the committee) and the connections made to other content based on student input / discussion. 168) He also advocates that this information should then be submitted to a team of curricula writers during a specified revision period that takes these suggestions and compares them to the current vertical (year-to-year) and horizontal (teacher-toteacher) alignment of the course (p.

Jacobs claims that: Through the analysis of achievement data and other data in a system. Certainly that is the case for a written curriculum guide. according to the National Association of State Textbook Administrators (2010). the conclusions must be presented to the internal leadership of a school district in order to expose unmet requirements. 24) Specific attention to the alignment of a curriculum has great value to the students of a school district. 2009). With their approval. In the creation of any document that affects students. agreement can be reached between the school district and teachers to ensure that the goals for education are uniform. the foundation that allows all teaching and learning to take place. mapping helps to create buy-in by working collaboratively to identify the strengths and targets for growth. a data-driven focus can also help the curricular development process. a school or district can underscore the need for change. but in many cases. Some teachers use horizontal alignment by team-teaching or simply collaborating with teachers in similar job assignments. Through collaborative work. As the areas of need are identified during analysis. school districts should implement plans to remediate the errors in accordance with their knowledge of personnel. Likewise. many stakeholders will be involved. In preparing a procedure for handling the problem of missing . By actively involving staff in the process. (p. and aligned with the curriculum adoption cycle of state. Curriculum sets the goals for all instruction in a district whereby teachers decide how to achieve their goals within the autonomy of their classroom (Squires. this paradigm creates isolation and indifference to how the course fits in a vertical alignment.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 14 by meeting federal benchmarks. which is every six years in most states.

2005). 2009). usually in the fields of Language Arts.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 15 curricula. Those standards are usually connected to standards generated by other national entities. or the Standards for English Language Arts from the National Council of Teachers of English. and Mathematics. a list of topics that are expected to be mastered at a particular grade level. such as the Common Core Standards. reducing the margin of error. which 47 of the United States have pledged to adopt. a teacher should expect that the standards may shift slightly annually until the test becomes leveled. a statewide summative assessment is connected to the course that must be passed in order to graduate. has a textbook adoption cycle in which . in connection with 31 other states (Ezarik. Especially if an entity has newly prescribed a highstakes test. The second level of prioritization should come from the direction of the individual state. these courses. Idaho. The most logical first step for any curricular development or alignment entails the collection of current standards. must be welldesigned and comprehensive. a prioritization of which courses that are missing curricular documents must be developed first (Squires. When trying to prioritize curriculum writing. These aforementioned fields of study are also the most commonly adjusted to meet the needs of new standards and expectations. This provides crossdisciplinary opportunities for students and does not place the pressure of students passing exams on the soul of one teacher. allowing connections to other fields of study. Reading. such as with Adequate Yearly Progress. In the case of Sophomore English. That assessment is written in connection with the state's content standards. which is a common occurrence at some schools. School districts also need to have the flexibility to adjust vertical and horizontal alignments in order to meet those new standards or risk the consequences associated with having a greater number of students not pass them.

the course would be put on an elevated priority.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 16 all curriculum adjustments are approved within the state after being screened for content. taught and tested curricula matches the expectations of the state and most likely the school district. these courses will next be reviewed. As an example. Because of the number of students served. and also to create a list of textbooks provided by publishers that meet those standards from which the district can choose to purchase. For another example. the severity of need (i. which does not connect with the state adoption cycle. when. However. what should happen if a course is neither in the core curriculum. scope and content. the State of Idaho is planning major revisions to Professional-Technical courses in the coming school year. Certainly. presentation and quality (State of Idaho). subjects in Idaho are on a six-year cycle. scope-and-sequence or other supporting documents (Glatthorn et al. This allows states to realign their expectations for each of the prescribed courses in a subject area. courses for revision or curriculum adoption should be prioritized according to the number of students enrolled in the course.. in 2014. such as the prescribed adoption of Social Studies materials in the 2010 school year. 2006). scope-and-sequence.e. the course . end-of-course assessments. how many documents are missing) and by balancing the number of changes made to the standards by other agencies. in situations in which massive changes are mandated in the title. End-of-Course Assessment. nor supplementary materials approved by the school district. nor in line for an adoption according to the state timeline? At this point. the missing curriculum for the course entitled "History of Sports and Entertainment" taught at both of the district's two traditional high schools has a total enrollment of 318 students but does not have a school boardapproved curriculum guide. It is imperative at least to review currently adopted curricula or fill holes for courses missing a curriculum guide. It would ensure that the written. For instance. organization.

Teams of educators should be charged with this purpose.Curriculum Writing With the identification and scope of the problem. Wehby & Smithson. curriculum writing can take place.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 17 should be reviewed and re-presented for re-adoption through the normally accepted district policy. According to Jacobs. and department chairpersons (Glatthorn. naturally) and the discussion on the progress of the curriculum should be ongoing even after approval by the school board (Glatthorn. a district representative will be able to use this project to identify the best ways to tackle curricular development while not overstepping the boundaries . Led by an interconnected leader at the district level who provides a clearly-stated vision for written and implemented curriculum in the district. the team investigates whether building or district resources permit such a vision to become reality. and might include central office personnel. Phase Three . instructional leaders. Once teacher teams are organized. 2010). with representation from the student body (excluding assessment writing. Writing a district curriculum should not be done in isolation. It becomes a way of doing business" (2009). This organizational hub should be composed of educational leaders within the school or system. "Schools that have been successful at integrating curriculum mapping over the long term have done so by making it a part of their culture. Once the review is complete. the benefits of curriculum mapping become apparent: issues in sequencing of instruction become obvious and easily correctable (Kurz. 2006). After this information is collected. the labor-intensive portion of curriculum mapping is complete and the review process begins. Elliot. 2006). This task should be completed by small teams isolated from outside influences and noises to keep the focus on improving instruction.

making learning more relevant. While curriculum mapping is an intense and time-consuming undertaking. improvements to instruction such as vertical alignment.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 18 provided by district policies and collective bargaining organizations. Additionally. revision and reflection so that any school district can appropriately focus their attention on student create a cycle of review.). 1) As teachers begin to build on interdisciplinary connections. 2006). increasing the relevancy of skills and content in such courses.) asks that a different review team composed of instructional leaders from throughout the school reviews the map in search of common points of instruction. about alignment. all of which must provide buy-in in order for the results to be acceptable. n.d. elimination of redundancies. This team of reviewers informs teachers of overlaps in the content or major assignments to promote interdisciplinary connections. each member of the teaching faculty has the ability to assure vertical and horizontal alignment and segue the guide into a more detailed evaluation as the course is being taught (Glattorn et al. teachers can verify skills or content addressed in other courses and alter their unit plans to a higher cognitive level. Horizontal alignment. often referred to as "pacing guides. (p. standards-based assessments (West-Christy. West-Christy (n. Such alignment is crucial in school systems dealing with state-mandated. horizontal alignment. The activity ties to the second overall purpose of the project ." assures that all teachers of a common grade level address specific subject matter following the same time line. Upon review of the preliminary completed guide.d. specifically. students naturally begin to link information between and among courses. After vertical and horizontal corrections have been made. The first area of professional development should be an overview of the district's mission and vision concerning curriculum and. and .

Review teams work regularly to maintain an up-to-date curriculum map that can be reviewed quickly and efficiently by novice and veteran teachers alike.Piloting and Implementation From time to time. when it was written and how it was put together. In recent years. Additionally. as well as the adoption of new classroom materials. With these same challenges.d. teachers have been asked to do the work themselves often doing so in isolation from others and eventually not providing copies of their work for others to see. Phase Four . These regularly scheduled reviews preserve an on-the-same-page mindset among educators. Once a new curriculum guide has been developed. asking and answering the questions that drive effective instruction. usually connected to a lack of a district curriculum director. 2009). This results in having multiple copies of the slightly different documents in teachers' hands across district buildings.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 19 facilitation of interdisciplinary linking build stronger curricula and improve instruction throughout a building (Jacobs & Johnson. if a copy is found. the new curriculum will need to be piloted in order to make sure the curriculum is effective. teaching staff can be unaware as to whether a document exists or. Schools with established review teams are keenly aware of the changes that impact instruction and assure that such changes are reflected on the curriculum map in use (West-Christy. the goal of continually improving curricula has been put on hold because of reduced opportunities for professional development and less funding for new materials. A curriculum guide is a work-in-progress and schools that view it as such create and recreate review teams for it. n. and to make changes before it is . always looking for ways to build bridges among curricula.). curricula guides are rewritten based on changes of expectation for students or pedagogy.

and delivery strategies in the version of the curriculum that will eventually be presented to the board of trustees. 260) . Research Questions / Approach This research would be conducted in a qualitative manner where a majority of the examination will be based on observations and interviews. It is relatively easy to carry out and it can make classroom experiences more enjoyable for students and teachers alike. utilizing action research. purposeful conversation. and ability to revise the curriculum based on the evaluation feedback received from the pilot are allocated (I-Tech.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 20 distributed and approved by the school board. the process should include a comprehensive evaluation of the curriculum’s efficacy and utility in allowing students to meet the standards. 2010). materials. Pilot testing will only be effective if resources. The findings received from the pilot should be continually reviewed and brought back to the curricular team to revise expectations. This type of approach was selected because. 2008). With the purpose of identifying which sections of the curriculum meet requirements and which sections need strengthening. as Pine (2009) lies out: "it provides for an ongoing process of study in which teachers examine their own teaching and students' learning through descriptive reporting. time. enabling them to improve educational practices or resolve significant problems in classrooms and schools (Stringer. 93) Action research is also purposeful as it is a process of systematic inquiry that provides educational practitioners with new knowledge and understanding." (p." (p. content. and critical reflection. collegial sharing. Mertler & Charles (2005) reaffirm that action research can be useful for solving an immediate problem. They surmise that action research "has great potential for bringing our improvements in teaching and learning. In partnership with the recommended phases of implementation.

In this light.Qualitative research seeks to provide thick descriptions of contexts and participants so that others apply the findings to their own situation. What steps should be taken to ensure alignment for courses taught in an individual school or district that incorporates current standards? 3. seeks to create a wide understanding of a complex issue. the nature of qualitative research allows readers to make their own decision about the credibility of the work. being essentially naturalistic. As there are great differences in the character of school districts and their employees.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 21 Based on the fact that action research is also the least precise of the methods (Mertler & Charles. How should districts create a balance between personal needs of teaching professionals' concerning autonomy. the research questions are simple but interrelate to identify which variables provided greater influence on the alignment. the possibility exists that the recommendations will not be as applicable. Specific limitations are present because the field of education is constantly adapting to changing needs. the researcher could have used prolonged engagement with a number of school districts with varied characteristics to gauge effectiveness of the intervention. 1. How does curriculum alignment affect student learning? 2.  Conformability .  Transferability .Although controls will be applied. Among the limitations of this methodology are:  Credibility .Action research and the topic of curricular alignment have a great deal of flexibility / perspectives that must be matched with the goals of the individual school district. . 2005). and expectations for students created by state or national entities? Limitations Action research.

adoption and alignment. (Mertler & Charles.  School districts have different levels of curricular alignment and may not have any courses that are taught without a curriculum guide or scope-and-sequence. reliability and validity. 27-28) Additionally.  Some school districts have unique steps that must be completed prior to the curriculum writing process which include community member reviews and subcommittees. Specifically. several electives are not shared between schools. Methodology Action research is well suited in the field of education as it is a "process of systematic inquiry to provide educational practitioners new knowledge and understanding. (pp. no educational model can be transferred to every school district without having elements which are not as applicable or important. 2005) Delimitations Certainly. enabling them to improve educational practices or resolve significant problems in classrooms and schools (Stringer. but may also be dissimilar. which is not often motivating. Stringer asserts that action research works well within a cycle of work. 2007). The findings are limited to the setting where the research was done. action research can allow for an increase of scope of work as .OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 22  Action research is most subject to errors of bias. implementation and usually results there is an increase in collegiality and sharing of activities and materials after the reflective practice.  Many school districts offer elective courses that have fewer connections to core curriculum standards which may attract limited interest for aligning with other content areas. so those teachers will have to work independently. Additionally. such as curriculum writing. This study recognizes that:  The study was based on the needs of one school district which has similar characteristics to others.

having an approach that encourages the teaching staff to create a systematic process of inquiry and reflection. (p. curriculum maps / scope-and-sequence. In addition to multiple copies and editions of electronic curricular guides stored on an internal server. courses were approved for teaching without a written curriculum and these courses have not been adapted for several years to the new standards presented by the state and the developing national Common Core standards. the original date of school . an extensive review of the curriculum of an individual school district was conducted. Largely. Pine (2009) believes that action research will allow the researcher to study the perceptions of curricula in our target district and provide for 'catalytic conceptualizations' where ideas are used to guide professional growth. 237) Procedure In order to fully understand the scope of the problem. how a written and aligned curriculum impacts the work in the classroom and student learning "is directly relevant to classroom instruction and learning and provides the means for teachers to enhance their teaching and improve student learning. copies of similar curriculum were found in filing cabinets. With the conglomeration of the documents. Far from an 'extra' that teachers must somehow cram into an already challenging work schedule. In this case. action research can be integrated into regular classroom activities to assist them to enhance student learning and improve professional practice" (Stringer. while not overwhelming or demanding. such as the sharing of lessons. is paramount. folders and on several computers and workstations throughout the school district. Over the course of many years without a point-of-contact for curricular maintenance and oversight. the accompanying End-of-Course Assessment. 2007). For the purpose of this research.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 23 developed elements become the springboard for new opportunities. an inventory was created identifying the lack of curriculum guides.

faculty and supervisors must be expected to follow the written curriculum and make constant comments as it is piloted as directed by the Board of Trustees. administration. involving a variety of stakeholders and following procedures created by the district to allow for creativity. a meeting was held with the Associate Superintendent and Superintendent to inform them of the scope of the problem. Additionally. The entire curricular analysis process should be overseen by a representative of the district office and a small committee of interconnected faculty. district patrons and the Board of Trustees. a proposed curriculum adoption review cycle was created (Figure 1). based on the literature review and experiences from the classroom. When the data were compiled. but also for conformity.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 24 board adoption as well as last update of the document showing any changes that were made in any of the areas of the document. All must be prepared to make monies available allowing for staff and curriculum development. Timeline of Events The commitment and collaboration of several groups. building leaders and district office. parents. is a vital component of the curricular planning model. At the completion of the review and development process. but to ensure alignment to content standards and strong instructional opportunities for teachers and students. such as content specialists. including the teaching faculty. . This would conform to the Board's pledge to support a continuum of learning and define the long-range plan. It must also be well understood that the results of this ongoing evaluation are not to be used to evaluate performance. Faculty and school and district-level educators assist by forming various committees. and time to satisfactorily complete a detailed program evaluation. support staff.

meeting dates / times to all district employees. Receive approval from district cabinet. an ongoing needs assessment should be performed. hierarchy.2 1. Send purpose. responsibilities. Task 2 1. responsibilities and hierarchy of the committee. Present draft documentation to district cabinet.3 1.2 Select Membership for District Curriculum Committee April. district office personnel and community members that have an interest in the curriculum design process. 2011 Identify date of first District Curriculum Committee meeting. communicating about changes being made to content standards and recommendations for the curricular planning teams. 2011 Prepare a draft of the purpose.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 25 directors and master / consulting teachers. Model For Curriculum Review And Curriculum Planning Goal One: Establish a District Curriculum Council Objective 1. Strategy 1 . 1.1 Establish Purpose.5 Identify impact areas to existing school board policies. 1.Use existing means of communicating professional development in the district to open participation to all grade levels and content areas.1 .4 1. Responsibilities and Hierarchy March. . Task 1 1.Identify educators. As this "Curriculum Council" defines the strategies and timetables for the work of the faculty.3 Create press release / website announcement for community involvement. Work with Policy Review Committee to align board policy and procedure with new purpose documentation.1 1.

Task 2 2.Orient to the current norms of the district to create a framework for committee work.6 Create application or interested person list to examine committee parity. Inform participants of their selection and remind of first meeting date and time. Goal 3: Conduct Evaluation of Existing Curriculum Objective 3. Include during first meeting of District Curriculum Committee Objective 2.5 1.1 2. May.2 Create a university course for participants as a remuneration option. Idaho Content Standards as well as organizational standards to set understanding for alignment.1 .3 2. April.Decide the steps for curricular review / implementation in the district.4 Create a visual model of the curricular review process. Orient to district vision framework / long-range plan.1 . Select representative members. Goal Two: Construct a clearly understood curricular review process Objective 2. 2011 Discuss State of Idaho curricula adoption cycle.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 26 1. . Strategy 2 Task 1 2.2 .6 Provide proposed framework and discuss effectiveness in meeting needs. 2011 Use Student Management System and District Drive to collect / tabulate.Conduct Evaluation of Existing Curricula Task 1 3. Discuss Core Standards. Refine and share with district leadership and provide as policy recommendation. 2.4 1.5 2.1 Update Curriculum Audit May. 2011 Prepare a PowerPoint presentation with essential documents.

3 Share results with district leadership and District Curriculum Committee.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 27 3. Task 3 3. June. 2011 4.Organize for Curriculum Writing Task 1 4. Discuss the importance of flexibility for special needs or advanced students.5 Task 3 4.2 Task 2 4. 2011 Reach out to teachers of affected courses for their assistance. 2011 Choose three random courses mathematics and language arts (correlation to ISAT standards) and try to associate with current standards. Evaluate work for formatting and compliance. Set dates / times and facility needs for curriculum writing. July. etc.3 4.7 Task 4 4. 2011 .1 4. Identify Consistency with Current Standards May. June. Goal 4: Begin Writing and Revision of Existing Curricula Objective 4.4 Prioritize Importance of Courses for Revision / Writing May.8 Empower curriculum writers to follow provide input on the process. 2011 Discuss necessity of having all courses with curriculum balanced with need to maintain consistency with state adoption cycle.1 .4 Set Date / Expectation / Remuneration for Writing May. Send curriculum for board review / adoption.) should be visually consistent and provide information for parents and students. 2011 All documents (curriculum guide / scope-and-sequence.2 Task 2 3. Orient Curriculum Writers to Process Discuss vision / plan / challenges and standards for writing. Strictly follow district guidelines for curriculum writing. 4.6 Monitor and assist as needed to ensure consistency.

4 5.5 Task 3 5. Contact content teachers of current year Idaho review.OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 28 4. Maintain integrity of curriculum on internal and external websites. Evaluation Plan Ongoing Ongoing review of the implementation plan and piloting process will be noticeable. frequent reports will be given to the chairperson that identifies the number of courses out of compliance. Review and Recycle Objective 5. Goal 5: Monitor. . 2011 Begin discussions of curriculum writing process / goals and needs.Collect feedback from educators piloting new / updated curriculum. Ensure that changes being requested are concurrent with department. Curriculum Committee reports to school board for action.1 . a curriculum revision cycle (Figure 1) has been created that allows school districts to identify and maintain consistency of district curriculum while at the same time focusing on the changing standards from other organizations. Task 1 5. 2011 Identify areas of first semester curriculum that needs refinement. Additionally.2 Task 2 5.3 5. Maintain vigilance on existing curriculum Identify changes from standards-granting organizations.9 Communicate results to stakeholders and further review and revisions. December.1 5.6 Set Date for Curriculum Writing Follow-Up December. Conclusion / Statement of Final Product As a guide toward the process. The researcher will maintain contact with the head of the curriculum committee to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses in the implementation phases. The diagram allows personnel to identify the point on the cycle that a particular course is at and what the next steps of implementation may include.

This dynamic process reflects collegial practice.   .OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 29 In conclusion. One potential method of doing this is through the process known as curriculum alignment. the development of a shared curriculum and system of revision and evaluation should be considered by the Coeur d'Alene School District. one that will allow the district to maintain high standards and ensure that students in classrooms will be able to meet them. ensures that students receive current instruction. provides opportunities for professional development and makes a platform available for feedback gained in the instructional process. Certainly. this practice is about building consensus.

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Virginia: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development. Elliot. G. (2009). (2008). A.An Exclusive Interview with Gilbert T. (2010). B. Clowes . and resources for effective professional development. Thousand Oaks. Textbooks: 'Where the Curriculum Meets the Child' -. Retrieved from: http://www. Retrieved from http://www. S. C.idaho. 44(3) 131-145. The Journal of Special Education.harvard. The curriculum mapping planner: templates. The Harvard University Gazette. Idaho State Department of Education. CA: Corwin Press. Retrieved from http://www. C.School Reform News. Haycock. A. Closing the Achievement Gap. Kurz. & Clowes. Piloting a curriculum: evaluating the effectiveness of a new training. Boston. Operating without a curriculum. (2001).by George A. D. Sewall. Alignment of the International Training & Education Center for Health (2010). Mertler. (2005). Sewall . Changing The curriculum. tools. Wehby. & Charles. (1968).OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 31 Hayes-Jacobs. J.sde.heartland. Thousand Oaks. 58 (6). 6-11. Rules regarding the Idaho curricular adoption process (pp. H.go2itech. & Smithson. Curriculum alignment: research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. & Johnson. Inc. Introduction to educational research. 1-3). (2008). A. G. (2009). Teacher action research: building knowledge democracies.html Squires. G. Planned and enacted curriculum in general and special education and its relation to student achievement. Alexandria. Retrieved from www. Kerr J. MA: Allyn & Bacon. Educational Leadership. ( _Curriculum _Meets_the_Child_An_Exclusive_Interview_with_Gilbert_T_Sewall. London: University Of London Press. (2009). . CA: Sage Publications. K. March 21).

Riverside. Retrieved from http://www.. (2004). D. District Administrator. Sociology of Education. The benefits of curriculum alignment. State control of the curriculum and classroom instruction. Roadmap to success: A curriculum mapping primer. Action research in education.). (n. Stringer. 64(1). 1. NJ: Prentice Hall. J. 2004(7). E.d. Approval Plan Glossary: Non Subject and Descriptive Retrieved from http://lib. Unknown. Upper Saddle .ucr. (2007).OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 32 Stevenson. (1969). (1991). University of California . Initials. D. West-Christy. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. & Baker.glencoe. P.

Proposed Curricular Adoption and Review .OUT OF ALIGNMENT: CREATING A VERTICAL PLAN 33 APPENDIX Figure 1 .