The Task Force was unanimous in their assertion that the COVID-19-related crisis has allowed us to examine how we design our curriculum, teach our students, and monitor their progress. Their recommendations reinforced the adage that in crisis there is opportunity. Their recommendations included the following:
As schools plan to reopen in the coming months, the next academic year can be a vehicle for transforming education as we know it. Curriculum leaders Fenwick English and Allan Glatthorn consistently emphasized that curriculum is not just written guides and lessons. Instead, it is a system for promoting and monitoring student learning. The COVID-19 crisis has accented the interdependence of the various levels of a curriculum system articulated by English and Glatthorn:
The Ideal/Organic Curriculum: The documents and media used to express a district’s values and guiding principles, including vision and mission statements. Does the district’s ideal curriculum reflect a commitment to the health, well-being, social-emotional growth and academic achievement of all learners accented so powerfully during this national crisis?
The Taught Curriculum: What actually occurs in classrooms as teachers implement the written curriculum with learners. Are classrooms inviting and engaging communities of learning? Do students see the purpose and meaning of the content and skills they are studying? Are classrooms personalized and differentiated to address students’ varying readiness levels, interests and learner profiles?
The Supported Curriculum: The range of resources, professional learning and support systems necessary to ensure that all instructors are effective with their students. Do all students have equitable access to needed resources, including internet access and hardware needed for distance learning? Does professional learning contribute value to teachers’ expertise and competency to reinforce students’ access to a rigorous and engaging curriculum and address the individual needs of all learners?
The Hidden Curriculum: The unconscious or unexpressed issues that arise when there is a lack of alignment between or among various levels of the district’s curriculum. Do staff or students experience a sense of mixed signals or contradiction between what is articulated and what is practiced? Are there areas in your curriculum system that show issues related to misalignment?
The Written Curriculum: The written guides and supporting lessons used to inform the teaching and learning process within a district. Are curriculum guides written to articulate a clear sequence of standards implementation while advocating for teaching-learning activities aligned with the needs of the Whole Child (i.e., health and physical development, social-emotional development and academic achievement)? Is the written curriculum clear, coherent, aligned and culturally responsive?
The Assessed Curriculum: Those components of the curriculum identified for purposes of progress monitoring, assessment and evaluation. Does assessment focus on key power standards for which all students are expected to achieve proficiency? Is assessment balanced in its approach, emphasizing a combination of diagnostic, formative and assessment feedback? Does assessment support the learning process rather than detracting from it (i.e., emphasizing student feedback and coaching rather than mechanical teaching-to-the-test)?
The Learned Curriculum: The knowledge, skills and habits of mind acquired by students within the context of their formal school experience. Do all students develop proficiency of identified curriculum power standards? Do the various levels of the curriculum support student growth and development in becoming a life-long learner? Can every student see himself or herself in the curriculum they are studying?
What are the implications of reopening and the upcoming academic year for curriculum, instruction and assessment? The following action steps surfaced throughout the task force discussions:
1. Revisit Your Ideal/Organic Curriculum to Address Emerging Priorities: How do your vision, mission and guiding principles reflect the priorities and lessons learning during the crisis?
2. Ensure That Your Written Curriculum Integrates Social and Emotional Learning: How can you use the COVID-19 crisis as an entry point for discussing and addressing gaps or structural issues related to your written curriculum, including its pacing and sequencing?
3. Develop Recommendations and Performance Indicators for Instruction That Addresses the Whole Child and COVID-19-Related Issues: What are the unique challenges and needs that both students and staff will have as they reenter school and adjust to this new normal?
4. Determine How Your Assessed Curriculum Will Need to Change in Response to Student Needs: To what extent does your assessment system need to be revised and expanded to ensure a balanced approach to student progress monitoring?
5. Assess Your Supported Curriculum to Ensure It Reinforces Your Reopening Infrastructure: To what extent did the COVID-19 crisis reveal inequities and disproportionality concerns related to textbooks, supporting materials, technology and distance-learning resources, and emerging professional development priorities?
6. Expand Your Focus on Student Learning to Include Support and Monitoring Related to Issues Extending from COVID-19 and School Reopening: To what extent is reopening an opportunity to examine and adjust your approach and focus related to monitoring student progress and achievement?
7. Evaluate Potential Gaps and Contradictions That May Result in a Hidden Curriculum During Reopening: How do patterns and behaviors observed among students, staff, parents and community members during school closings suggest areas in which omissions or contradictions are evident in your district’s curriculum system?