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Curriculum Frameworks - Preface

In recent years, people from all walks of American life have participated in wide-ranging discussions about the direction of American education. While the situation is not as dire as some critics would have us believe, there is clearly a need for the review of current school organization, curricula, teaching practices and academic standards for students. As a result of these discussions, many legislators, educators, parents, and business leaders across the nation have initiated projects designed to develop high academic standards in safe learning environments for all students. The Show-Me State is no exception.

A Vision for Missouri Schools

In charting a path for the future of Missouri public schools, a common vision of what that future looks like is an essential first step. These schools must be physically and intellectually safe places for students. In these schools we believe all students are capable of learning and are challenged by high expectations. To meet this challenge, students must have a solid foundation of basic knowledge and skills. In addition, they must also be able to apply what they know.

To support the development of such students, teachers actively engage them in exploring, analyzing and understanding the world. Learning is interesting, hands-on and has real applications that are important to students. We recognize that students learn better, remember more, and develop deeper understandings of both knowledge and thinking processes if they have the opportunity to actively explore content and concepts. They view learning as the on-going process of extending and fine tuning their ideas and understanding through application. As a result, they take responsibility for their own learning, see its worth and make connections to the world beyond the classroom.

In addition, teachers and administrators in these communities see themselves as learners. They gain greater insight into their profession from their experiences among their students and in contact with their colleagues. They constantly seek to extend their knowledge and expertise, and frequently engage in professional development activities to deepen their professional skills and understanding.

The schools we envision also involve parents, business leaders and interested citizens in a multitude of educational activities. In turn, these people accept the responsibility for supporting and nurturing the learners within the school and see themselves as an important part of the learning community.

The Outstanding Schools Act

The passage of the Outstanding Schools Act in 1993 signaled Missouri's commitment to a public school system that purposefully prepares young people for the 21st century and assures our state's continued economic vitality. The Show-Me State has issued an ambitious, common-sense agenda by setting challenging academic standards for all students, by supporting professional development of educators to improve the quality of curriculum and instruction, and by providing more equitable funding for public education. In addition, the Outstanding Schools Act calls for increased accountability in improving student academic performance for all of Missouri's public school districts and school buildings. In summary, it addresses the following initiatives:

The Show-Me Standards - a set of 73 rigorous standards intended to define what students should know and be able to do by the time they graduate from Missouri's public high schools;

Curriculum Frameworks - frameworks for curriculum development in communication arts, fine arts, health and physical education, mathematics, science, social studies and curriculum integration-intended to provide assistance to districts in aligning local curriculum with the Show-Me Standards;

A New Statewide Assessment - a new assessment system of performance events and multiple choice and short answer questions intended to provide an indication of how well students are meeting the Show-Me Standards and how well they compare academically with other students across the nation;

Professional Development for Educators - one percent of the local district's basic state aid and one percent of the state educational budget to be set aside to support professional development-intended to improve student performance through improving the performance of educators; and

Professional Standards for New Educators - professional standards defining what graduating pre-service teachers should know and be able to do as certificated Missouri teachers intended to ensure that there is a strong link between teacher preparation and the expectations of the school community.

Technology in Missouri Education

The Outstanding Schools Act also provides funding through technology grants for districts to obtain and access the latest technologies. The Show-Me Standards emphasize understanding and use of technology as a tool for learning, and Missouri's Frameworks for Curriculum Development suggest many ways to incorporate the use of technology in the classroom. Because students learn and demonstrate knowledge in a variety of ways, technologies can help teachers accommodate the learning and presentation styles of each student, keep students on task, provide individualized assistance and support students who must be absent from class.

Technology also plays a major role in adequately preparing students for continuous learning and for the workplace. More households are becoming dependent on technology (such as subscribing to on-line banking and informational services and operating computers, VCRs, CD-ROMs and voice mail). Growing numbers of jobs require an understanding or use of technology. In fact, we cannot imagine the impact technology will have on the lives of our children and grandchildren.

An important outgrowth of technology in our schools is that it may also enhance the local economy by encouraging schools and communities to share technologies and training. Through the Outstanding Schools Act, our students and other community members will have opportunities to become technologically literate.

The Missouri School Improvement Program

The Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) provides additional support to these measures by requiring districts to have a long-range plan for ongoing curriculum development and revision, to develop written curriculum guides for all curricular areas, and to implement the stated curriculum. In the second cycle of reviews (1996-2001), MSIP teams will evaluate whether a district's written curriculum addresses the Show-Me Standards. Curriculum guides for at least one content area must be revised to reflect the Show-Me Standards one year after the adoption of Missouri's Frameworks for Curriculum Development by the State Board of Education. Guides for the six content areas contained in the frameworks must be revised to address the Show-Me Standards by the start of the 2000-2001 school year. In planning for curriculum development and revision, districts may wish to consider the Department's schedule for implementation of the new assessment system:

Mathematics Spring 1997
Communication Arts Spring 1998
Science Spring 1998
Social Studies Spring 1999
Health/Physical Education Spring 2000
Fine Arts Spring 2000

The first administrations of the mathematics, communication arts, and science assessments will be voluntary. Districts will be required to administer the new mathematics assessment in 1998 and the new communication arts and science assessments in 1999. At the time each test is required, the Missouri Mastery and Achievement Test (MMAT) will no longer be used to collect state achievement data. The remaining subject areas will be required as noted in the above list. Important curricular areas not included in the state assessment, such as foreign languages and practical arts, will find that the Show-Me Standards encompass knowledge and skills that are applicable for their students as well. In fact, the Show-Me Standards should be integrated throughout the entire K-12 curriculum so that all high school graduates will be better prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The Show-Me Standards

The Outstanding Schools Act requires that the State Board of Education oversee the development of not more than 75 academic performance standards. The Show-Me Standards, developed over a period of two years with input from teachers, school officials and citizens, are the result of this mandate. There are 40 knowledge (content) standards that provide a solid foundation of knowledge in communication arts, fine arts, health and physical education, mathematics, science, and social studies.

Business and higher education communities have pointed out that, in general, students are graduating with some factual knowledge, but they are not skilled in abstract thinking, problem solving, and working cooperatively or collaboratively. Students need practice in integrating, applying and transferring what they are learning in one context or content area to new and different situations. To remedy this, the Missouri teachers who developed the Show-Me Standards proposed 33 performance (process) standards. These standards include important process skills that students should master in order to successfully gather, analyze and apply information and ideas; communicate effectively within and beyond the classroom; recognize and solve problems; and make decisions and act as responsible members of society. (The Show-Me Standards follow this Preface.)

While intended to establish higher expectations for all of Missouri's students, the 73 Show-Me Standards do not represent everything a student should or will learn. Graduates who meet these standards, however, should be well-prepared for further education, work, and civic responsibilities.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education believes that the preservation of local control is a hallmark of the Outstanding Schools Act. Local school districts have the authority, the ability and the resources to develop rigorous and challenging curriculum that will prepare their students to be successful in the 21st century. The Department's role is to support districts in this endeavor, helping them carry out this task by offering technical assistance, professional development opportunities, and new technologies. Each school district must determine how its curriculum will be structured and which methods to use to implement that curriculum in the classroom. We believe that local educators, parents, employers, and community leaders know best how to incorporate the Show-Me Standards into their districts' curricula to meet the needs of their students.

Missouri's Frameworks for Curriculum Development

Missouri's Frameworks for Curriculum Development in communication arts, fine arts, health and physical education, mathematics, science, social studies, and curriculum integration acknowledge that teachers will bring the vision, ideals and principles of the Show-Me Standards into their classrooms in exciting and innovative ways. The role of the frameworks is to provide districts with a frame for building curricula using the Show-Me Standards as a foundation. District curriculum guides furnish the interior curriculum plan and appropriate instruction. District guides probably are not organized in the same way as the six content frameworks. The good news is that they do not have to be. In fact, although the frameworks use a three-column format ("What All Students Should Know", "What All Students Should Be Able to Do," and "Sample Learning Activities"), the committees who wrote the frameworks approached their task in ways that best appeared to fit their particular content areas. For example, the social studies framework is organized around important questions; communication arts, around the four goals of the Show-Me Standards; and science, around the knowledge standards. Each group of framework writers had valid reasons for their organizational plan, just as curriculum developers in each district will and should. Similarly, local curriculum guides should be in a format that is the most useful for the district's teachers.

As the writers worked on developing the frameworks, they asked themselves questions that are very similar to what local curriculum developers must ask: How do we see the Show-Me Standards playing out in this content area and across the curriculum? Are there important areas addressed by the standards that are not included in our current curriculum and how should we address these? Are we presenting a balanced curriculum, K-12? Are we giving students opportunities to apply in real situations the knowledge they have learned? How will the emphasis on what students know and are able to do change instruction, or will it? Do our assessments model and support the taught curriculum? In essence, the framework writers have tried to make the work of local curriculum committees easier by establishing a relationship between the Show-Me Standards and the K-12 curriculum in the six content areas. For some districts this step is unnecessary; for others, it will help give much needed direction.

In addition, the frameworks provide indicators of what students should know and be able to do by the end of grades 4, 8 and 12. They contain suggested resources, discussions of issues and current practices, and examples of quality student work. Many of the suggested activities encourage an integrated, interdisciplinary curriculum. In fact, the final section of Missouri's Frameworks for Curriculum Development provides a discussion of how districts might begin to explore the advantages of curriculum integration.

Meeting the Challenge

We know that, in most cases, the level of expectation and the interest of the students determine the level of performance. When schools set high standards and provide access to meaningful curriculum for every learner, students and teachers flourish. Success for all students is not a dream but a reality.

With the advent of the 21st century, we are on the threshold of more life-changing events than we can ever imagine. Computers and technology are making our lives both more productive and more complex. The Internet, fax machines, fiber-optic networks, and voice mail are changing the ways we communicate and do business. Information on every topic is readily available at the push of a button. Two bread-winners per family are the norm rather than the exception. Workers can no longer select a particular career and expect to do the same job in the same way year after year. As citizens, we must be prepared to make important decisions which will affect the lives of future generations in positive ways. The challenge we face now is how to educate our children to be successful as individuals and as members of society in a world that most of their grandparents would not even recognize. Working together, we can do it. What an exciting time to be involved in the education of Missouri's students!

Strategies for Including All Students

We believe virtually all students are able to learn, even though all students are not succeeding in school. Many of them fall behind and leave school before graduation. These strategies help all students become more engaged in learning:

  • Use a multi-sensory approach to teaching and learning, including auditory, visual and hands-on techniques
  • Present concepts in several ways, linking them to what students already know and checking frequently for understanding
  • Model learning strategies and encourage students to talk about their own thinking and learning processes
  • Teach students how to organize their thoughts using drawings, charts, outlines, thumbnails sketches, and computer generated flowcharts, spread sheets, and databases, etc.
  • Encourage students to use technology as a user-friendly tool for learning
  • Use questions and approaches that require inquiry, problem solving and the synthesizing of ideas
  • Provide equal opportunities for all students to participate in class activities
  • Adapt materials to accommodate students with special needs
  • Provide real-life and work applications of what students should know and be able to do
  • Develop a classroom assessment program that allows all students to show what they know and can do

Curriculum Frameworks Are Resources-
  • To assist districts in developing curriculum consistent with the Show-Me Standards
  • To indicate what students should know and be able to do by the end of grades 4,8 and 12.
  • To support teachers in providing high-quality learning experiences for all students
  • To suggest examples of hands-on, real-world activities and classroom performance assessments
  • To suggest effective learning and teaching strategies supported by research and practice
  • To initiate discussions concerning curriculum integration within and across classrooms
  • To provide examples of quality student work requiring knowledge and application of that knowledge

Curriculum Frameworks Are Not-

  • Not required by law for district use
  • Not detailed lesson plans for curricula
  • Not items on which all students must be tested
  • Not directives for uniform programs or textbook adoption
  • Not mandates for inclusion of specific teaching methods or programs
  • Not a format that all district curriculum guides must follow