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Curriculum

Guides instruction for students to learn 21st-century content and skills.
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Curriculum, or course of study, is the content and plan for instruction. It is made up of the instructional resources, methods, and assessments needed to help students develop critical skills and knowledge. Along with high-quality and effective instruction, curriculum is an essential element that enables students to learn and thrive.

QSF LogoResources

Tools

These tools are provided as resources to support implementation of the QSF. Their use is not intended as a requirement for schools and districts.

  • Executive Summary: ELA/ELD Framework External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; Posted 05-Feb-2016)
    The executive summary provides a glimpse into the ELA/ELD Framework and the guidance it provides for educators, including descriptive snapshots and vignettes of grade-level instruction to support education in English language arts and in literacy in history/social studies, science and technical subjects. It is a starting point for professional learning, a concise but still deep overview of student learning and expectations under the California State Standards and a resource for understanding the instructional shifts in English language arts/English language development learning.
  • Executive Summary: Mathematics Framework External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; Posted 05-Feb-2016)
    The executive summary highlights essential information and guidance in the Mathematics-Framework and is intended to introduce the reader to the wealth of information and support for teachers, administrators, and parents/guardians. It is a starting point for professional learning, a concise but still deep overview of student learning and expectations under the California State Standards and a resource for understanding the instructional shifts in mathematics learning.
  • P21 Common Core Toolkit – A Guide to Aligning the Common Core State Standards with the Framework for 21st Century Skills External link opens in new window or tab. (Posted 08-Apr-2015)
    This Toolkit is designed to support efforts of district and school site leaders who are implementing CCSS within P21’s comprehensive 21st century skills framework. It provides an overview of how the P21 framework and CCSS align and support each other through examples and sample lessons. The toolkit identifies useful resources and links for education leaders.
  • Educating English Learners in the Common Core Era: Planning Tools External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; Posted 20-Feb-2015)
    This tool serves as a guide to LEAs continuing to phase in the implementation of CCSS for ELA and Math, NGSS and the ELD Standards. The tool is organized into sections which highlight areas for consideration while districts further develop CCSS and ELD Standards implementation plans in order to maximize the success of EL students.
  • CDE CCSS Implementation Guide (Posted 21-Oct-2014)
    This online Common Core State Standards (CCSS) systems implementation guide was developed to support local plan development. It includes numerous suggestions and resources organized by the seven guiding strategies of the CCSS Systems Implementation Plan for California. These resources support the full implementation of CCSS in the context of a continuous learning process. Also visit the CCSS Web page and the Common Core Search for additional resources to support the implementation of the CCSS.
  • CCSS Resources for Parents and Guardians (Posted 21-Oct-2014)
    CDE resources that have been compiled for parents and guardians interested in learning about CCSS and how to support their child's attainment of these standards.
  • eStandards Application External link opens in new window or tab. (Posted 11-Aug-2014)
    The eStandards Application, available for desktop and mobile devices, gives quick and easy access to California's State Standards in: mathematics, English-language arts, English-language development, and science. The mobile application is available for Apple and Android devices. Search by subject, grade, keyword, or strand/domain and save search results for easy access.
  • Common Core Leadership Planning Guide External link opens in new window or tab.
    This guide offers support and recommendations that address 10 key areas of the new state standards.
  • English Language Development (ELD) Implementation Plan
    The CDE English Language Development Standards Web page provides links by grade level for descriptions and indicators for effective ELD.

Promising Practices

  • Evaluation of the Expository Reading and Writing Course: Findings From the Investing in Innovation Development Grant External link opens in new window or tab. (Posted 25-Sep-2015)
    This report is an independent evaluation of the Expository Reading and Writing Course (ERWC). The ERWC was developed by California Statue University as a full-year grade-12 English course for college-readiness. The ERWC emphasizes an in-depth study of expository, analytical, and argumentative reading and writing. The report reveals a positive impact of the ERWC on student achievement. Educational leaders and teachers will find this document useful. Its extensive description of the ERWC, including curriculum, professional learning, materials, and implementation offers suggestions for improving instruction.
  • Secondary School Courses Designed to Address the Language Needs and Academic Gaps of Long Term English Learners External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; Updated 25-Sep-2015)
    This report provides four specific case studies of innovative courses provided to Long Term English Learning (LTELs) in four school districts. The publication includes a course design and planning checklist.
  • Implementing the Mathematics Framework (Posted 21-Oct-2014)
    Four local educational agencies discuss their implementation work during the July 2014 State Board of Education meeting.
  • California CareerZone Workbook External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; Posted 07-Oct-2014)
    The California Career Zone External link opens in new window or tab. offers this free student workbook PDF that educators can use to help students begin using CareerZone. For additional career development information and resources, visit the California Career Resource Network (CalCRN).
  • K–8 California Common Core Standards Parent Handbook External link opens in new window or tab. (Posted 11-Aug-2014)
    Available in 18 languages, this handbook give parents an introduction to California's Common Core Standards and a summary of what students are expected to learn as they advance from Kindergarten through Grade 8.
  • California Career Center External link opens in new window or tab.
    This resource is focused on serving students and provides resources for counselors, teachers, and parents. The Classroom-Ready Curriculum External link opens in new window or tab. includes 17 lessons to help students map their futures. Some highlights: Lesson 1 is an introduction to the California Career Center for middle school students and Lesson 10 is an introduction to the California Career Center for high school students.

Research

  • Improving School Readiness: Formal versus Informal Prekindergarten and Children in Immigrant Families External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; Posted 09-Jul-2015)
    This study provides a first comprehensive review of the role that formal versus informal prekindergarten care in the year prior to kindergarten has played in affecting academic and socio-emotional school readiness for immigrant children. Identifying which prekindergarten care options best facilitate academic and social development, can help to develop more informed policy decisions based on a broader understanding of the effects of early childhood education for a subset of young children in California schools.
  • Recognizing College and Career Readiness in the California School Accountability System External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; Posted 11-Feb-2015)
    From the executive summary: “This paper proposes a set of strategies for identifying and supporting career as well as college readiness within the Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) that will shape accountability reporting for schools and districts. In addition, the paper proposes ways that student accomplishments illustrating career readiness can be included in graduation standards and conveyed to postsecondary audiences.”

Excerpted from CDE’s External Linking Policy: The CDE is providing these external links only as a convenience, and the inclusion of any external link does not imply endorsement by the CDE or any association with the sites' operators.

Definition

“To achieve their full potential as adults, young people need to develop a range of skills and knowledge that facilitate mastery and application of English, mathematics, and other school subjects. At the same time, business and political leaders are increasingly asking schools to develop skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and self-management—often referred to as 21st-century skills.” (1)

California’s State Board of Education (SBE) has adopted statewide academic content standards in all major subject areas, defining the knowledge, concepts, and skills that all students should acquire at each grade level from kindergarten through grade twelve. (2) However, while standards describe what students should know and be able to do as they progress through the grades, they do not prescribe how or when teachers teach the content to meet the goals of the standards. Curriculum is the content of what teachers teach what students study, and the instructional plan for how and when the content is taught. Teachers, principals, superintendents, and local school boards, as well as charter schools and county offices of education, make decisions about curriculum. (3

The four essential components of a strong curriculum are:

  • The standards, goals, and milestones for instruction;
  • The media and materials that provide multiple ways for diverse learners to access learning expectations;
  • The specific instructional methods and student engagement practices that tap into learners’ interests, offer appropriate challenges, and increase motivation; and
  • The means of assessment to measure student progress, identify students’ additional learning needs, and modify instruction. (4)

Instructional Frameworks

While content standards themselves are not curriculum, in California public schools curricula and instructional materials are generally aligned to those standards. (5) The content standards are also the basis of the SBE-adopted curriculum frameworks (6), which provide an outline of the components in each subject area. (7) The curriculum frameworks also provide research-based practices about effective teaching and learning needed to support the academic achievement of all of California’s students, including English learners and those with disabilities.

Importance

In addition to the recently adopted CA CCSSM (1) and the CA CCSS for Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (2), English Language Development Standards (3), and Next Generation Science Standards (4), California has adopted content standards in history/social science (5), health education (6), visual and performing arts (7), world language (8), and physical education (9). California also has Career Technical Education Model Curriculum Standards as well as Preschool Learning Foundations, which include the latest research on early learning. In all subjects for which there are standards, a curriculum is needed to provide the specific content reflecting those standards as well as the plan for instruction.

An effective curriculum increases students’ understanding about the world around them and provides them with knowledge and skills necessary for success in the 21st century. An effective curriculum also provides a roadmap of what students are expected to learn. Mapping a course of instruction that includes formative assessment ensures that diverse learners receive a thoughtful, responsive course of study designed to prepare them to meet grade-level learning goals.

An effective curriculum will:

  • Bring coherence to instruction by articulating goals that are attainable and increasing students’ knowledge;
  • Are thoughtfully planned and aligned to content standards;
  • Include periodic assessments to monitor student learning and modify instruction; and
  • Are appropriately sequenced and related across grade levels. (10)

Characteristics

An effective curriculum reflects current content standards, clearly articulates the content of what students will be taught in each course, and outlines the course sequence. Effective curricula equip educators in a school or district with common expectations for how they will collectively implement the instructional plan so that all students progress. Formative assessments serve as guideposts by which teachers and instructional leaders check for students’ attainment of curriculum-based learning goals and make decisions about future instruction. (1)

An effective curriculum will:

  • Be developed or selected by staff from the local district and its schools, including appropriate grade-level teachers. The curriculum that is enacted in schools will reflect consideration of the climate and culture of the local context while maintaining high expectations for all students;
  • Align with the current content standards and the California academic frameworks for public schools in its goals, objectives, and expected outcomes at each grade level. The local district will develop or select curriculum that equips all students with the knowledge, conceptual understanding, and skills necessary to succeed;
  • Reflect a logical progression of skill development by grade spans. This means that at each grade level, all participants have access to the expected knowledge, conceptual understandings, and skills to be mastered at that grade level. Interventions are provided where necessary; and
  • Include multiple opportunities for formative assessments (2), semi-annual or annual summative assessments, and interventions, as needed.

Standards and Frameworks

  • English Language Development Standards
    Web page for those interested in following the alignment of English Language development (ELD) standards with current English Language Arts standards.
  • Content Standards
    Content standards were designed to encourage the highest achievement of every student, by defining the knowledge, concepts, and skills that students should acquire at each grade level.
  • CTE Model Curriculum Standards
    Web page for those interested in following the revision of Career Technical Education Model Curriculum (CTE) standards.
  • Mathematics Framework
    The State Board of Education adopted the Mathematics Framework on November 6, 2013.
  • ELA/ELD Framework
    The State Board of Education adopted the ELA/ELD Framework at their July 9–10, 2014 meeting.
  • All Curriculum Frameworks
    This CDE Web page provides links to all curriculum frameworks. Curriculum frameworks provide guidance for implementing the standards adopted by the State Board of Education.

 

Questions: Quality Schooling Framework | QSF@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0836 
Last Reviewed: Thursday, October 12, 2017
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