Core curriculum is selected and designed at a local level based on state requirements and local needs. It must demonstrate accommodations for advanced, on level, and emerging learners.    

The Common Core Standards

Developed by experts and teachers across the country, the Common Core Standards have been adopted by 42 states, 4 U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. The Core Standards establish clear guidelines for what every child should know in mathematics and language arts to ensure students are ready for success beyond the K-12 experience. Click here to read about the development process, FAQ's, the standards themselves, and standards written for your state. 

Curriculum Powerhouses

  • Many districts adopt curriculum developed by curriculum powerhouses. Modern curriculum includes differentiated material for advanced, on level, and developing learners. It also includes online and interactive components that allow teachers to engage learners through multiple platforms. Examples of curriculum/resource powerhouses include: Houghton Mifflin HarcourtMcGraw Hill EducationPearson, Kendall Hunt, and Scholastic.

Where to begin at the local level

Educating children is considered the responsibility of local school city or district board, known as the "Local Education Authority" (LEA). The job of this board is to enforce educational policy, follow federal and state policy, direct how funds are spent, monitor staffing, select curriculum, and collect additional taxes to fund the school system when necessary. 

The Core Standards are a blueprint for curriculum design at a local level. They are the building code; each district/school system writes and adopts the curriculum necessary for their population of learners. After identifying your school district/system's webpage, you need to locate the following information:

1. The high school course catalog/program of studies

Once you have determined which school district or school system your child will attend, the first piece of information to obtain is the high school course catalog. You can likely find this through a simple search with your local school district/system name and "high school course catalog." A comprehensive course catalog will include at minimum the following:

  • Requirements and guidelines
  • General information

  • Alternative programs

  • Department course outlines

...again, more. Beginning at the end of your desired K-12 system and working backwards allows you to help map out a long-range plan and gather an idea of what your end goal or target is for your child. Is it to take Advanced Placement BC Calculus prior to graduating? If so, what year or years is that course offered? Maybe it is to understand what robotics or computer science classes are a part of the current system. It might be to know what technical paths, apprenticeships, or online learning options are available. It very well may be to just see what all your child will encounter before heading out into the world beyond. We guarantee by the time your elementary child is in high school the course selection options will change as curricular needs change, but understanding the options that are available today give you an idea of where your child may end up at the top end of the K-12 design. 

2.  The grouping of grade levels

How are the grades in your district or system grouped together? What is considered to be "elementary," "middle," and "high" school in your locality? Every system is set up different. Typically, elementary is Kindergarten through 5th grades, though the top grade of "elementary" varies. Look on your school's website homepage, as you need to understand the following for each "grouping" your child will come across:

  • What grade levels are grouped together within each school? 
  • What is the curriculum is covered at each level?
    • Does curriculum differ for advanced and remedial learners?
    • When and what secondary languages are introduced? 
    • What type of learning is offered through the general curriculum? (i.e. hands on learning opportunites such as makerspaces, inquiry-based dialogue, real world/performance task applications, built in and supplemental extensions, etc.)
  • What supports are outlined for students performing above their peers?
  • What supports are outlined for students performing below their peers?
  • What social/emotional learning supports and/or curriculum is provided in the school setting? 
  • What technology is available and how is it integrated in the classroom? 
  • What extra-curricular offerings are available at each level?

In addition to the website, if your district/system shares a newsletter or magazine, be sure to read each publication as it is shared. Many schools highlight their learning initiatives and student success in a public format in addition to their website. 

3. The chain of command

If a social media (Facebook, Twitter...)account exists for the following list of parties of your district, you should be following them. This is an easy way to see changes from the inside out. By following your school's leaders, you will gain valuable insight into what your school is doing to meet its mission, overarching goals and progress on initiatives. Following a classroom teacher, you receive an almost daily look into the curriculum in action from the teacher implementing it. Check to see if your school district and these people in your school district have a public account that highlights their hard work for and with students:  

  • The School District 
  • Superintendent/Dean of Schools/Top Administrator
  • Assistant Superintendent(s)
  • Curriculum Development Leaders
  • Technology Integration Leaders
  • Special Education Services Leaders
  • Principals/Building Leaders 
  • Classroom teacher(s)

Ready for more? Pillar 3  takes a closer look into the elementary building set up.





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