Curriculum and Core Standards

By February 4, 2016Featured

By German Lopez

 

This article has two objectives; the first is to answer some questions related to one of the most important aspects of education, “knowledge”, a concept that translates unto different terms such as curriculum, core standards, programs, expectations, skills, etc. The second objective is to briefly describe the way American Academy of Innovation will approach these concepts.

To start we should ask ourselves the following questions: What is “curriculum”? Who dictates and who applies curriculum? What are the differences between standards and curriculum? Are charter schools obligated to follow such standards?

To be able to understand the scope of these questions, we will refer to different sources and in effect to what the State and federal regulations have established on this topic. Additionally, we will refer to the interpretation given by that same authority, for later reflection on the limitations and prerogatives we have as a Charter School.

Generally speaking, Core or Educational Standards are expectations set by said authority on skills and concepts that need to be taught and students need to achieve to safeguard their success.

            New Utah Core Standards: According to the Utah State Office of Education “The new Utah Core Standards in English language arts and mathematics, based on the Common Core State Standards, establish a framework for high quality instruction. They help Utah teachers ensure academic achievement for Utah students by defining the essential knowledge, concepts, and skills to be mastered at each grade level or within critical content areas. They define what students should know and be able to do to as they move on to post-secondary training, college, or a career. Teachers and local school boards continue to control the curriculum choices that reflect local values. The Utah Core Standards do not dictate curriculum. The Utah Core Standards set clear, grade-level expectations in math and language arts for students, parents, and teachers[1]

            In other words, the Common Core State Standards are merely a clear set of expectations and curriculum standards for the knowledge and skills students need to acquire in English/language arts and mathematics at each grade level to prepare students to graduate college and be career ready. The standards establish what students need to learn, but they do not dictate how teachers should teach.

            Curriculum includes the material and content that is used to teach the standards. In many dictionaries, curriculum is often defined as the courses, programs or syllabus offered by a school, but depending on how broadly educators, administrators, parents or students define or employ such concepts, the term curriculum typically refers to the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn, which includes the learning standards or learning objectives they are expected to meet. The manner in which such concepts or knowledge will be achieved translates unto the the units and lessons that teachers teach; the assignments and projects given to students; the books, materials, videos, presentations, and readings used in a course, and the tests, assessments, and other methods used to evaluate student learning. The truth is that at the end of the equation, teachers are the ones who apply the term curriculum as their specific learning standards, including lessons, assignments, and materials used to organize, assess and teach a particular subject. 2

Who chooses/adopts state standards and curriculum? As per law, the Utah Constitution designates to the Utah State School Board the responsibility to choose state standards. Local school boards and the Utah Legislature do not. The Core Curriculum Standards should enable students to: (a) communicate effectively, both verbally and through written communication; (b) apply mathematics; and (c) access, analyze, and apply information. The Utah Code spells out local school board control of materials. [2]

It is essential to understand that it is not the District or the State Office of Education or Federal Government who selects our curriculum or everyday lesson content, but the American Academy of Innovation Charter School Board, the school administration and the individual teachers. This curriculum generally includes the textbook and programs chosen to teach the everyday lesson content for delivering the standards.

As a charter school and by law, American Academy of Innovation will design its school programs and select instructional material and methods of teaching, which should be supported by commonly accepted scientific standards of evidence, that are considered most appropriate to meet core curriculum with the expectation that each program will enhance or help achieve mastery of the core curriculum standards. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms, as well as select the instructional material they feel is most appropriate for their students.

With regard to State Assessments and Graduation requirements the State Code 53A-3-402, define the norm and which will be adapted to our charter: AAI as a local school board shall: (a) implement the core curriculum utilizing instructional material that best correlates to the core curriculum and graduation requirements; (b) administer tests, required by the State Board of Education, which measure the progress of each student, and coordinate with the State Board of Education to assess results and create plans to improve the student’s progress that shall be submitted to the State Office of Education for approval.

Assessments are a key component that will help students, teachers, parents and administrators to check for understanding and to measure progress. As part of our method, AAI has its own Assessment Department that will help all to evaluate success on a continual basis.   By applying the experiential learning method combined with direct instruction, American Academy of Innovation will strive to prepare students to master the assessments required by the Utah State code which are: New College and Career ready Assessments given to all 8th -11th grade students (ACT and companion assessments, Explore and Plan). SAGE a comprehensive assessment system for Utah. It includes teacher resources and tools for teachers to develop their own assessments (formative), fall and winter computer adaptive assessments with two writing prompts (interim) and spring computer adaptive assessments with two writing prompts (summative). SAGE is unique to Utah and is developed by Utah educators.

It is relevant to note that the Utah Core Standards were built using international data in the benchmarking process, which goes along well with our school mission to adopt the International benchmarking.

American Academy of Innovation will strive to identify students’ specific learning styles and then use a variety of methods to teach each skill and concept while building responsibility and ownership of education in students as they learn to find resources and develop techniques that help them learn using the methods best suited to their individual needs

American Academy of Innovation is unique in its overall educational approach. We will strive not just to achieve the Utah Score Standards but to exceed such expectations. Our purpose is to increase choice in learning opportunities and to improve student learning, as required by Utah Code 53A-1a-503. The unique blend of a strong academic program using experiential learning combined with CTE courses to develop 21st Century Skills, and the international partnerships, will prepare students for success in the global market place.

Overall, AAI will empower students with the tools (knowledge, skills and competencies) they need to succeed throughout their lifetime.

[1]  (http://www.schools.utah.gov/core/Resources/FactFiction.aspx)

 

[2] http://le.utah.gov/code/TITLE53A/htm/53A01_040206.htm