Tools for Action
Quality Curriculum for Student Success
A school’s curriculum is its public statement regarding what students who attend the school will learn. A high-quality curriculum is essential to success for all students. Because of the importance of curriculum, school leaders must seize the opportunity to influence and implement such curriculum to make the best use of the limited instructional time available in the classroom (Danielson, 2006).
As such, IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework (http://www.idra.org/change-model/quality-schools-action-framework/) identifies curriculum quality and access as a critical school system indicator. It includes the educational programs of study, materials and other learning resources, such as technology, and their accessibility to all students. It also relates to assessment and accountability – the school practices related to fair and unbiased assessment of students and degree that schools take responsibility for the academic success of all students.
A Snapshot of What IDRA is Doing
Developing Leaders – IDRA’s Focusing on Language and Academic Instructional Renewal (FLAIR) project capitalizes on the campus leaders, mobilizing the principal, teachers, librarians and support staff as a force to tailor-make a reading program that is research based and that results in better achievement for all students. Working with the school’s teachers and principals, and using the existing curriculum, FLAIR helps transform every classroom into a powerful learning environment, where students and teachers are encouraged to think creatively, explore their interests and achieve at high levels. See http://www.idra.org/content/category/29/211/469/.
Conducting Research – Reading Early for Academic Development (READ) is an IDRA project funded by the U.S. Department of Education to establish early childhood “classrooms of excellence” that ensure reading, cognitive and emotional success. The curriculum is the main tool to raise the literacy achievement of preschool children so that they are ready to begin upper level schooling. IDRA has learned through its research in READ, that there is no perfect curriculum for all situations. Our research shows that schools must use a curriculum appropriate for the teachers and students. For example, in South Texas a significant number of children come from Hispanic families. Thus the curriculum should be bilingual and reflect this cultural diversity in its activities. But a curriculum is only a tool. Teachers need to acquire a deep understanding that the future of these children is in their hands. With this understanding, they need to bring the curriculum alive every day by creating a vibrant atmosphere in the classroom, in which every activity is an opportunity for children to develop their linguistic and academic skills and to reinforce them emotionally.
Informing Policy – IDRA’s Good Schools and Classrooms for Children Learning English – A Guide is a rubric, designed for people in schools and communities to evaluate five dimensions that are necessary for success. Using the resource tools in this publication, based on IDRA research, IDRA is working with school districts to strengthen policies and procedures for effective bilingual education programs at the school level. For more information visit http://www.idra.org/research_articles/ell-education/good-schools-classrooms-children-learning-english/.
Engaging Communities – IDRA is currently working with a New Mexico school district on a multicultural education framework to make sure that all the populations in the school system are getting an equitable education. Central to the framework are standards-based curriculum, monitoring and evaluation of the education plan for student success, and parent and community involvement and engagement.
What You Can Do
Get informed. Visit the web site for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development at http://www.ascd.org to learn more about the issues surrounding quality curriculum development.
Get involved. If you are an administrator, provide the space for your teachers (from pre-kindergarten through grade 12) to plan and attend professional development together so that there is vertical alignment in the curriculum being taught and so that teachers can experience and communicate this with their colleagues. IDRA’s Math Smart! training encourages that continuum across and within grade levels. See article entitled: “Re-Invigorating Math Curricula.” For information on Math Smart! go to http://www.idra.org/services_to_educator/math-smart/.
Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©2006, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Every effort has been made to maintain the content in its original form. However, accompanying charts and graphs may not be provided here. To receive a copy of the original article by mail or fax, please fill out our information request and feedback form. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]