Addressing Key Priorities in 21st Century Curriculum Design

1. Implement an end-in-mind backwards planning design process framework approach to curriculum development in Alexandria City Public Schools, ensuring that all written curricula reflect:

  • Stage One: desired results that include mastery objectives, big ideas, essential questions, and know/do/enabling knowledge objectives
  • Stage Two: assessment evidence that is balanced and emphasizes authentic culminating performance tasks and projects, ensuring an emphasis upon student application and transfer
  • Stage Three: teaching-learning plan, describing suggested learning experiences and research-based best practices to promote high achievement and understanding for all learners

2. Provide ongoing professional development on unit development using the end-in-mind backwards planning design process. Ensure participation of all teacher stakeholder and "early adopter" groups, curriculum specialists, administrators, and executive staff members.

3. Begin ongoing process of curriculum review and auditing focused on eliminating gaps and curriculum design issues related to the following:

  • Recurrent student achievement problems involving complex reasoning, critical thinking, and problem solving competencies (particularly those identified as systemic priorities, e.g., literacy, mathematical problem solving, critical thinking).
  • Alignment with relevant Habits of Mind (e.g., persisting, thinking flexibly, striving for accuracy and precision) particularly relevant to support student mastery of unit and course/grade-level desired results.
  • Integration of relevant 21st Century Skills (e.g., As identified by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills: core themes such as communication, problem solving, scientific inquiry and hypothesis testing, global awareness, and financial/ economic awareness; learning and innovation skills such as creativity and innovation and critical thinking and problem solving; information, media, and technology skills; and life and career skills such as initiative and self-direction).
  • Incorporating suggestions for differentiation based upon ongoing diagnosis/pre- assessment of students' varying readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles — including articulation of strategies for such special populations as ELL and Special Education.
  • Overcoming historical practices related to the perception of the Standards of Learning and related testing as end-points, rather than beginning/starting points.
  • Ensuring a global/international focus that allows all students to understand global interconnectedness and interdependence.

4. Investigate ways to address the issue of ensuring alignment between ACPS core curriculum and site-based Exemplary Programs (i.e., allowing for school-based creativity and staff engagement in the curriculum development process while ensuring that the core curriculum functions as a unifying structure). For example, ensure attention to areas of alignment and connection between the end-in-mind backwards planning design process and the IB Middle Years Program suggested unit design principles and controlling learning theories and Areas of Interaction (e.g., Approaches to Learning, Environment, Health and Social Education, Homo Faber - Human Ingenuity, and Community Service).

  • Expand discussions with ACPS educators and parent/community stakeholder groups on the emerging vision and models for 21st Century curriculum design within the district, including use of available and future technology-based platforms to communicate about this process and changes related to it (e.g., ACPS Web site; Curriculum Newsletter; Blackboard resources).

5. Begin eliminating alignment gaps and issues related to existing curriculum materials. Commit to ensuring curriculum "transparency," i.e., clear consensus about what currently is available to educators to complement their use of existing pacing guides. As an immediate curriculum design priority, revise formatting of existing pacing guides to make overt and complete references to curriculum guides and other resources and materials currently available via the ACPS Blackboard site.

6. As part of #5 above, develop and integrate into existing "Curriculum" section of ACPS Web site the following resources:

  • A one-two-page synthesis of "21st Century Learning Principles" for every content and program area.
  • A one-two-page synthesis of observable 21st Century classroom behaviors (teacher and student) when these principles are fully operational.
  • Brief elementary, middle, and high school video exemplars reflecting 21st Century learning strategies (existing footage is available for downloading).

7. Revisit and revise (as needed) curriculum design, development, and approval processes and Board of Education policies related to the curriculum design process.