Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum

Key Concepts:

  • Guaranteed & viable curriculum: Teacher teams provide all students the same essential learnings regardless of who is teaching, and (2) all students can be taught in the time allotted (Marzano, 2003). Teacher teams work collaboratively to ensure that every student learns the knowledge and skills that the team has agreed are most essential for that unit.

  • Unit: A small group (typically 2 to 5) of essential learnings that are taught within a determined amount of time and include common formative assessments to determine whether each student has learned what is essential. Units are developed by teacher teams at each school. 

  • Common formative assessments (CFAs): Teacher-developed assessments to determine whether each student has learned the  identified essential skills and knowledge within a unit. Common formative assessments include unit pre- and post-tests as well as quick progress checks throughout the unit.

  • Formative assessment: Using the results of assessments to make instructional decisions. 
    • Teachers use assessments formatively when they review the results to make better instructional decisions for their students, including identifying which students need additional time and support and which students need enhancements to their learning.
    • Students use assessments formatively when they have multiple opportunities to demonstrate that they have learned the essential standards.

  • Summative assessment: Using the results of assessments to determine the final outcome of instruction.

  • Essential learnings: The skills and knowledge that teacher teams have determined are most essential for students to learn within a unit.  To establish a guaranteed and viable curriculum, teachers teams must eliminate and prioritize content by identifying what is the most essential for students to learn. Essential learnings have 
    • endurance (knowledge and skills that last over time)
    • leverage (usefulness in other subjects or areas of the curriculum), and 
    • readiness for next levels of learning. 
Teachers should work collaboratively in teams to clarify essential learnings because collaborative study of essential learnings promotes clarity, consistent priorities, and is crucial to develop common instructional pacing. Collarborative work on essential learnings helps to establish a viable curriculum that all teachers have ownership of. Stephen Covey (1989) wrote "Without involvement, there is no commitment. Mark it down, asterisk it, circle it, underline it. No involvement, no commitment." (excerpted from Learning by Doing, Ch. 3)

To view our current curriculum resources, including our essential learnings and pacing guides, please visit the Instruction tab at