Curriculum review, a process often referred to as “vertical alignment,” involves a thorough examination of topics and skills being taught. It is both a discovery and school improvement process with each discipline, such as science or language arts, being reviewed from beginning to end. Teachers from each division and discipline, as well as members of a school’s leadership team, engage in conversations about the strengths of the current program and make improvements where repetition or interruptions are noted. Basically, curriculum review establishes the “what” and “when” of a school’s instructional program.

Schools that engage in this process gain four significant benefits:

  1. Balance. Students learn about a wider variety of topics. For example, if teachers in several grade levels teach about mammals but none of them teach about magnets, a science program will be imbalanced. Curriculum review reveals and corrects such issues.
  2. Flow. Skills build on previously learned skills. Skill instruction from grade to grade must be structured so that consistent skill development can occur. For example, if two-digit multiplication is taught in one grade level, but then not addressed or further developed in the next grade level, students may not be prepared to apply the skill in more advanced classes.
  3. Achievement. Research indicates a strong correlation between schools that engage regularly in curriculum review and student achievement. A more reflective learning community produces more robust learning.
  4. Communication. Teachers gain deeper understandings of how their material fits into a student’s development, and this fosters better communication between grade levels and disciplines. It also helps ensure accuracy in what a school communicates about its curriculum.

We’ve been honored to lead this process in schools, and to witness the dramatic advancements and curriculum developments that arise from it. Many discovered improvements can be implemented immediately; others require strategic program and/or professional development. However, the process always results in improvement.

When was the last time your school or organization engaged in this process?