One of the most important tenets of School in the Park is that our curriculum is standards-aligned, meaning that we are working in tandem with the Rosa Parks and Wilson teachers to help students achieve the subject-specific California state standards that they are held accountable for at their grade level.
What are the state standards, and where can I find them?
English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics
California is one of the 45 states that adopted the national Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA and Math. In CA’s version, minor additions to the standards were made to maintain consistency with previous state standards, but for the most part, they are identical to the national version. This is helpful because the national CCSS website is much easier to use. The numbering of the standards is the same for both versions.
CCSS ELA standards can be found here: http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/
CCSS Math standards can be found here: http://www.corestandards.org/Math/
Similar to ELA and Math, California adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and made minor additions/clarifications that do not change the substance of the standards. And, like CCSS, the national NGSS website is much more user friendly.
The NGSS can be viewed here: http://www.nextgenscience.org/overview-dci
One distinction between the national NGSS and the CA version is with regards to the middle school (grades 6-8) standards. The national NGSS does not break middle school standards out by grade level – instead, all middle school standards are for all grades 6-8. The CA State Board of Education, to comply with existing policies, broke the standards up by grade level, which can be viewed here:
Following this breakdown can be helpful in trying to align with what our Wilson science teachers will be teaching at each grade level, but it’s not mandatory to do so because (1) Wilson science teachers may or may not follow this breakdown, and (2) students are only tested in science at the end of 8th grade, meaning that as long as everything is covered at some point between 6th and 8th grade, students will (theoretically) be prepared for the test.
California’s History-Social Science standards are more traditional, and haven’t received a flashy national upgrade.
You can view them here: https://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/histsocscistnd.pdf
In lieu of a nationally or state-led effort to up the depth, rigor, or relevance of the standards, the state has recently released a new History-Social Science Framework, which can be thought of as a companion piece to the standards themselves. While the standards are very detail-oriented, the Framework is helpful for pulling out big-picture themes and understandings that students should be focusing on; and while the standards are very content-oriented, the Framework connects them to the same kinds of processes called for in CCSS and NGSS (such as inquiry, investigation, critical literacy, and arguing from evidence).
The H-SS Framework can be found here: https://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/hs/cf/hssframework.asp
Visual and Performing Arts
California’s Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) standards will soon be updated to align with another national curriculum movement: The National Core Arts Standards (NCAS). NCAS is a fantastic upgrade to the current CA VAPA standards; like CCSS and NGSS, NCAS is process-oriented, opening the door to arts education that is deeper, more rigorous, more relevant, and more closely connected to other subjects.
The deadline for a draft of the new standards is January 2019, but it’s unclear when they will be finalized and officially adopted. For now, the current VAPA standards can be found here: https://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/vpastandards.pdf, but NCAS is still a wonderful resource for planning: https://www.nationalartsstandards.org/
When is the right time to look at the standards: at the beginning or the end of the curriculum update process?
When creating new curriculum, the planning process should begin by reviewing the relevant standards, and choosing one or two to base the curriculum on. If the curriculum has already been created, the standards can be a helpful reflection tool to assess whether the existing plan is hitting the mark for students.
How many standards do I need to include?
There is no required number of standards that must be met in each SITP curriculum.
…But the more standards, the better, right?
Not necessarily! All of the standards are pretty complex and difficult to fully meet in the 5-day time frame that we’re working in at SITP. It makes more sense to choose just one or two standards and focus on those, than to try to cover several.
How do I know if I’m meeting a particular standard?
Read the standard carefully, and think not only about the subject/topic/content it deals with, but how the students are being asked to work. For example, are they being asked to analyze? Design? Investigate? Explain? Compare/contrast? These processes are the key to the standards, because they describe what the students should be able to do. Therefore, in order to truly meet a standard, your curriculum must address the content and the process that the standard calls for.
My curriculum kinda-sorta meets a standard, but not completely. Is it worth including?
If your intention with the curriculum is to move students closer to meeting that standard, even though they won’t be able to master it by the end of the week, and your activities reflect that intention, then yes, include it. If it’s more of a coincidence or afterthought, then leave it out.
My curriculum focuses on one core subject (e.g. science, history-social science or art) but the activities cross over into other subjects (e.g. we do an art project around a history topic, or we do a lot of writing on a science topic). Should I include standards from other disciplines, or just stick to the main one?
Cross-disciplinary curriculum is fantastic, and it’s a lovely natural bi-product of authentic learning. Whether or not you formally call out a standard from another subject area in your curriculum, again, depends on your intention. If you are explicitly trying to develop students’ skills in this secondary subject, and you are going to assess their work and give them feedback on that skill, then yes, include the standard. If you are engaging that secondary subject less formally, then it’s still very valuable, but there’s no need to include the standard.