Aligning Instruction to Standards: A Local Approach: In Response to a Curriculum Management Audit, This District Created a Plan of Action That Resulted in Better Alignment of Instruction to State Standards, Based on Local Assessment

Article excerpt

In the fall of the 1999-2000 school year, the Rosedale Union School District took a bold step in critical self-evaluation. At the request of the superintendent, the Board of Trustees approved a comprehensive curriculum management audit.

A curriculum audit is a powerful, comprehensive management tool that gives schools and their communities the impetus and means to systematically design and align curriculum, instruction and assessment. Such a system enables the school district to make maximum use of its resources in the education of its students.

In the spring of 2000, the audit team offered written recommendations for the improvement of the Rosedale Union School District. One of the most ambitious of the recommendations was to "establish and implement a comprehensive district assessment program to provide meaningful data for decision-making in student learning, program evaluation and the improvement of teaching." Thus began a 24-month timeline of change.

Motivation for change

The results of the curriculum audit were shared with the Board of Trustees, administrative staff, teachers and community members (via a district newsletter). A committee representing all stakeholders was then gathered to recommend a plan of action. Without exception, the primary recommendation of the committee was to allocate all resources necessary to develop a student-assessment program aligned with state standards as well as the written and taught curriculum.

The stakeholder group called for an evaluation tool that would be administered multiple times per year (to coincide with grading periods), and to provide feedback on the effectiveness of instruction. The committee agreed that a pilot year for development and field testing should be allowed.

Preparation for change

With help from our assistant superintendent of curriculum, we began a search for a published assessment program to monitor the district's 3,700 first-through eighth-grade students. We quickly discovered two things:

1. For our size district it could easily cost more than a half million dollars to purchase an instrument linked to the standards in the areas of reading and math.

2. The reported reliability and validity of most assessment instruments were too low for high-stakes decision making. Although we initially believed finding an assessment tool would be the least of our worries, this part of the change process took approximately nine months.

Given the tough financial times we all face, our superintendent quickly ruled out the very expensive programs. The remaining choices left a lot to be desired. Any way we looked at it we knew whatever was purchased, we would still have a lot of work ahead. Finally, the district decided to purchase an item bank of standards-based test questions.

Along with this purchase, we moved a classroom teacher into the district office and placed him on special assignment for one year. The teacher we moved had extensive knowledge of both the California Standards and computer technology. Our teacher spent the next 10 months in test development, field-testing, providing teacher in-service and monitoring test results for any unseen problems.

What to test

The easy answer to what to test is, of course, the California content standards. Our district chose to address reading, writing and math proficiencies. The challenge was less what to test, and more how and when to test.

At the beginning of the 2001-2002 school year, we asked for teacher representation from each of our then seven schools to help determine a scope and sequence for our test. The committee ended up having one teacher per grade level from each site at the elementary level and two teachers per grade at the middle school (one reading, one math). There were two such meetings.

The primary task for our large-scale committee was to have these representative teachers return to their individual sites and meet with grade-level staffs. …