The first component of our Hebrew Academy Curriculum Design framework, curriculum alignment, shows what we will teach in each subject area and at each grade level.
How did we begin? First, our teachers assembled their curriculum for each grade level and aligned it with the state's Standard Course of Study. Then they organized the components of the curriculum visually. On the horizontal axis, we listed each grade level from kindergarten through eight grade. On the vertical axis, we listed each academic subject area. Next, the teachers identified which skills students should be able to demonstrate in each subject area and grade level.
Building on the curriculum alignment component, which shows what we will teach, the curriculum map illustrates when we will teach it. It displays the skills in the order they will be taught in each grade level. To determine the mapping sequence, we evaluated research across a number of areas, including best practice teaching methodology, cognitive learning theories, and brain research.
As we laid out the objectives across the curriculum map skill by skill, grading quarter by grading quarter, and grade level by grade level a bigger picture began to emerge. We saw that we needed to strengthen connections among and between grade levels and subject areas. Taking advantage of this new perspective, we decided to thematically align instruction across the subject areas in each grade level, when appropriate. Not only did this approach make better sense to us, but we knew it would make better sense to our students and parents.
Of course, just because our teachers have a plan for what to teach and when to teach it, does not automatically mean that students will learn it. Toward that end, we developed quarterly assessments and minimum standards of achievement for each grade level, known as curriculum benchmarking. This alignment with the curriculum and assessment data assures valid and reliable information is created. This is a simple process of quality control identifying children who have mastered skills and those who have yet to master them. The value with this components is that we are measuring what and how much a child has learned rather than measuring what was taught.
These multiple assessments (which are correlated with the curriculum alignment and curriculum maps) allow us to collect objective data throughout the school year. This helps us determine where children are, and where they need to be, to successfully pass local academic standards and the End-of-Grade Test administered in grades three-eight. This also enables us to provide timely interventions in the classroom or enroll students in special programs to assist them wherever they need it.
Students who attend our school from kindergarten through eigth grade will be benchmarked against minimum grade level expectations 36 times in that six-year period using multiple assessments. The wealth of data we accumulate allows us to look at each child longitudinally, determine how to best help each reach their full potential, and determine what interventions are most successful. It is at this level where we begin to collect objective data on individual children or groups of children. This data tells us what child has mastered skills and objectives and what degree they are mastered. This tool also allows us to forecast trends, evaluates interventions, and to better comply with "Leave No Child Behind" (LNCB) legislation.