There has been an upsurge in curriculum alignment actions among educational institutions in an attempt to reinforce the efficiency and effectiveness of instructions and assessment programs (Marsh & Willis, 2003). The need to eliminate the differences in both learning and teaching has compelled leaders in educational settings to examine the concepts and skills taught in educational institutions (Marsh & Willis, 2003). Also, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program of 2002 justifies the significance of curriculum alignment activities (Clarke, Kayona, Ruebling & Stow, 2006).
In curriculum development, there are three essential areas that need great considerations. One, the curriculum document needs to “give direction, focus, and accountability in the learning environment. (Clarke, Kayona, Ruebling & Stow, 2006). Two, the curriculum document should be revised on a regular basis by at least two educational leaders and three; student outcomes that recognize what the learners acquire prior to graduation should align with the standards set by the state.
According to Clarke, Kayona, Ruebling & Stow, (2006) many educational institutions have not yet integrated successfully the essentials standards within their curriculum nor maintained a written document to guide instruction. Again, the important role of leaders in educational setting to develop and implement curriculum is evident with the alignment of taught, written and tested curriculum. Clarke, Kayona, Ruebling & Stow, 2006) also affirms that the lack of curriculum alignment can result to lower achievement where educators teach contents that is not part of the curriculum document and nor is it part of assessment material.
This dissertation will analyze the curriculum articulation and alignment between elementary school and middle school social studies, specifically, fourth and seventh grade. Inclusive of this dissertation will be a plan to improve curriculum articulation and alignment between elementary school and middle school social studies as well as improve the academic progression of student and the consistency of the curriculum. Summary of Original Analysis The curriculum for the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction is a standards-based design that lays emphasis on the student’s ability.
The curriculum is divided by subject, grade level and standard. It explains the core contents for each subject with proficiency descriptors. The curriculum document is relevant to the mission of the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction as well as the objectives for the subjects. The Social Studies curriculum document for North Dakota Department of Public Instruction has five major themes for both elementary school and middle school as well as benchmark expectations in each category. The main ideas and academic expectations are the same for both schools.
The design of subject matter for adjoining educational stages includes concepts, skills, understandings, and the core content useful in assessment. The curriculum documents of North Dakota Department of Public Instruction for the elementary and middle school comprise vertical alignment between the adjoining educational levels. The concepts, skills and understandings become more complicated amid the two educational levels. Therefore, learners should understand the concepts and skills of the elementary school before learning the concepts and skills of middle school.
The concentration of the elementary school is narrower than that of middle school. The curriculum documents of both elementary and middle school do not exhibit horizontal alignment. Improvement of curriculum alignment, student progression and curriculum consistency Curriculum alignment is necessary to guarantee harmony between the curriculum’s intentions and the instruction of the curriculum by testing what is taught. In effect, there is little or no space left for differences in curriculum implementation.
The educational leaders thereafter, assess educators by the degree in which the learners meet the set standards through standardized examination (Marsh & Willis, 2003). The vertical alignment links subjects that express a relationship and a particular order and then match the curriculum to the particular order. In this, students will gain vital knowledge prior to the next subject. The alignment aids in material reinforcement and offers teachers knowledge in relation to students’ ability.
In addition, Melvin (2007 notes that vertical alignment enhances learning for students as well as communication between teachers at various educational levels. Horizontal alignment transversely brings together curriculum objectives between subjects. Horizontal alignment benefits learners in that learning transmits to new situation where students realize the significance of the knowledge gained (Wraga, 1999). The social studies curriculum within the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction between elementary and middle school, puts emphasis on standards and outlines objectives needed by students to learn.
So as to improve curriculum alignment, it is necessary for curriculum at adjoining educational levels to lay emphasis on these objectives at every appropriate occurrence but not only within a particular grade. Glatthorns (1999) suggests it is important that the curriculum contain objectives for constant development, which can center on learning as well as testing when probable. Again, the curriculum should include enhancement units for all learners. Educators can then assess the standards and align the taught, written and tested curriculum.
By gathering the acknowledged state standards and applying resourcefulness, tutors can develop unit which, will be interesting to the students. Teachers’ flexibility can also be put in play where the curriculum can be adjusted to meet the requirements and capability of the learners. In this strategy, educators align the written curriculum with the tested curriculum and the taught curriculum with the written one. As they implement the curriculum, In addition, teachers can include objectives for ongoing development and enhancement units.
This process will allow learners to achieve high grades on tests while the ongoing students will have units of study that are comprehensive and thus will get their interest (Glatthorn, 1999). The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction maintains a standards-based curriculum that contains list of fundamental details and abilities at the lower end of Bloom’s Taxonomy, with no intention for connecting the fundamental details into more important outcomes of learning.
Marsh and Willis (2003) contends that the progression that has been mandated by state would then be trussed by practical and fundamental knowledge with minimal consideration of lasting learning competency that is necessary to life as well as other areas of learning. A curriculum that lays out the necessity to address all students and concentrates on cognition development at a higher-level whilst keeping the standards-based curriculum is the most suitable to put into practice for the two adjoining educational stages (Wraga, 1999).
A combined curriculum that is integrated, inclusive and student centered with holistic and multicultural aspects will enhance curriculum alignment both horizontally and vertically. In addition, this kind of curriculum will enhance learners’ academic progression and assist in curriculum consistency. Wraga (1999) admits that the standards-based curriculum must contain curriculum alignment of a larger curriculum that ensures lifelong learning.
A curriculum that contains intrapersonal improvement encourages the learners to discuss learning and associate in relation to the learners’ life. Teaching and nurturing social skills through the curriculum allows cooperation of learners with other individuals, builds conflict resolution skills, and assists in team building. The curriculum within the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction shall integrate multicultural aspect so as to align the curriculum with the today’s society. Learners will get to value diverse culture and as a result develop communication among cultures.
An all grade inclusive curriculum which is also adaptive is valuable to all learners; it will offer equal learning opportunities to students with disabilities as well as allow all students to embrace diversity among individuals. A student-centered curriculum focuses on the learners but not the curriculum materials, content to be covered or written goals. When there is implementation of a standards-based curriculum in association with a combined curriculum and high-stakes testing, students are assured of quality education.
Layton & Lock (2007) asserts that student assessments are vital and in an effort to assist in academic progression of student educators should build tests that assess student learning correctly and adjust tests for the at-risk learners. Educators can unearth better ways of evaluating test results so as to identify learning needs of students and revise instruction. In addition this plan integrates authentic assessment. Authentic assessment demands the relevance and integration of skills vital to solve complicated problems and allows enhanced substantiation of the students’ ability to prosper in all situations.
Learners have a chance to explain themselves allowing teachers to better understand the learning process and get instant feedback for learners. Furthermore, the application of authentic assessment sets up teacher collaboration and collegiality as well as expands the reflection and inquiry by the teacher. Conclusion Curriculum alignment involves matching a curriculum’s content to the use of tests so as to assess the learning of student (Marsh & Willis, 2003). Curriculum alignment calls for educational institutions to ensure consistence in the objectives, guides, textbooks, and tests that make up the curriculum (Marsh & Willis, 2003).
Leaders in educational settings determine academic achievement through standard testing as a means to find out what happens in schools. Institutions of education emphasize effectiveness through increasing academic achievement where they term decline in academic achievement as a problem in the quality of the curriculum. Thus, aligning the intended curriculum with the taught curriculum seems to resolve this problem (Marsh & Willis, 2003). By integrating the previous aspects into the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction curriculum, a more significant learning experience can be achieved by both educators and students.
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