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Curriculum Maps Aim to Help Bring ELA Standards to Life

If you've been reading this blog lately, you've heard plenty regarding the importance of translating the recently developed common standards into a strong and well-aligned curriculum.

Well, the nonprofit group Common Core issued a revamped set of curriculum maps Monday to help achieve that goal in English/language arts.

Although the first set of maps, issued in draft form last summer, was (and still is) free, access to the new, revised edition is not.

The maps are intended to provide a coherent sequence of thematic curriculum units that connect the skills outlined in the ELA standards with suggested student objectives, texts, and activities, according to a press release. Common Core is working with schools and districts in various states to implement the maps. Arizona and North Carolina, for example, are using them statewide to help districts put the standards in place.

The announcement from Common Core comes the same month that the two lead writers of the ELA standards issued a set of "publishers' criteria" that highlight the key ideas of the standards and describe the qualities of instructional materials they consider a faithful reflection. Also this month, the American Federation of Teachers awarded a new round of grants, including two for union locals in Chicago and Albuquerque, to help bring the standards to life with curriculum and professional-development materials, among other offerings, tied to the standards.

At last count, 46 states and the District of Columbia had adopted the common-core standards. (The latest addition was Washington state, which went from provisional approval to formal approval this month.)

Common Core, led by Lynne Munson—the deputy chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities under President George W. Bush—revised the curricular maps based on feedback and public comments. New features in the revised edition include:

• Guidance for differentiated instruction;
• A revamped pacing guide for K-2 reading instruction;
• A library of 70 digital resources; and
• New writing, grammar, and research activities.

"We believe the common-core standards can only be faithfully implemented through a content-rich curriculum," Munson said in an interview.

She cautioned, however, that the maps, written by a team of classroom teachers, are only a "curriculum-creating tool."

"We've not done the work for everybody," she said. "This is a curriculum tool that defies scripting. You have to sit down with these units and do your own lesson planning."

Common Core also has taken steps to offer a variety of interactive features that allow educators to submit ratings, comments, and their own lesson plans.

A team of experts advised Common Core on the development of the maps, including Antonia Cortese, the secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers; David P. Discoll, the chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board; and Grover J. (Russ) Whitehurst, the former director of the federal Institute of Education Sciences and now the director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution.

Initial funding for the maps was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has been an ardent champion of the common standards and has financially supported a variety of activities to help implement them.

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