Monday, April 25, 2011

Common core model curriculum design begins in Massachusetts, part 1

In Marlborough, MA today 200+ teachers, administrators, district, and state personnel met to begin the design of model curriculum and embedded assessments for educators across the Commonwealth.  This initial gathering of individuals, who will spend time together over the next 3 years (till the summer of 2014), was introduced to the goals, scope and theoretical underpinnings of the "MA Curriculum Project: Building an Understanding-based Curriculum & Assessment System."

First, the goals of the project were largely defined in , but it was compelling to see the following words of the application come to life:
Principals and superintendents also identified model curricula and instructional resources as top priorities. The PreK–12 teaching and learning system will include model curricula units and lesson plans based on common standards that are aligned within and across grade levels. (p. 15)
The opening presentation demonstrated, on the one hand, a wonderful balance between the strong local quality of education in Massachusetts and the academic freedom of individual teachers, and on the other, a desire to bring the collective power of a statewide initiative to empower districts, schools, and teachers with resources and models to implement the new Massachusetts frameworks.  Furthermore, it creates, finances, and equips a group of individuals from across the state at all levels of education for the hard and time-consuming work of alignment "within and across grade levels," so that districts, schools, and teacher's can experience the new frameworks as an opportunity rather than a burden.

Second is the scope of these curriculum design committees.  In general each discipline (mathematics, history/social studies, ELA, and science) will produce 25 model instructional units with 25 associated embedded assessments for a total of 100 model units and 100 embedded assessments.

Third is the theoretical framework that Massachusetts will be using to achieve its goal of providing a coherent underpinning both for the model units but also the broad contours of how curriculum is understood:  Understanding by Design.  For the entirety of the project (till 2014), Jay McTighe will be supporting the development of the "macro" architecture of essential understandings and questions into which the model units will reside and reflect, and how these units can cohere K to 12 within a discipline.  Jay also introduced the idea of developing what he calls "cornerstone assessments" that provide "authentic" and engaging moments where students have the opportunity to embody and fulfill the essential concepts and practices of each discipline (more of this and examples in part 3).

Part 2 to this post will delve deeper into the details of the meeting, specifically as Web 2.0 applications were discussed as part of the curriculum design process and in what ways technology will be harnessed to disseminate the model units (the creation of PBS MediaLearning was announced--a joining of teachers' domain and PBS).

Part 3 to this post will provide a description as well as the organizing visuals and maps for the project. I hope to have those to share within the next two weeks.

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