Overview of the Sharon Public School Learning Standards
Welcome to the section of the Sharon Public Schools website devoted to the curricular content taught in our schools. The Sharon Learning Standards are aligned with the standards recommended by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The district utilizes the DESE recommended learning standards as the minimum benchmark for students to master, and we are pleased to note that the standards established and published by the district often set a higher benchmark of excellence for our students. In most cases, this means the Sharon learning standards provide students an in-depth analysis and exploration of content and ideas that exceeds what is called for in the DESE's curricular documents. This does not mean the district necessarily has more standards than those established by the DESE. It simply means the district is looking for greater content depth over breadth.
It is important for viewers to understand that the district's curriculum is continuously evolving so that we may provide the most up-to-date, relevant, and rigorous curriculum possible for our students. As a result, additions or revisions to the district's learning standards will be posted as soon as possible after being reviewed by the appropriate curriculum coordinator. In addition, classroom teachers and entire departments often work collaboratively with the various curriculum coordinators to review the district's learning standards. This work occurs during professional development time embedded into the school day, and smaller groups make use of summer planning time to work on various curricular projects.
The Sharon Public Schools subscribe to a process of curriculum planning called Understanding by Design (UbD). National education experts Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe author this process. Two resources that may be helpful to understanding this curriculum design process better are Wiggins and McTighe's Understanding by Design (1998) and John L. Brown's Making the Most of Understanding by Design (2004). The Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) based in Alexandria, Virginia publishes both resources.
Understanding by Design is a curriculum planning process divided into three separate parts. The first part involves "big picture" thinking and planning as it relates to the identified content/standards. This stage of the process is often called "Desired Results" and involves the following:
- The identification of state and/or local topical learning standards;
- The "Enduring Understandings" associated with the standards. This implies the identification of the overarching content "big ideas";
- The identification of the "Essential Questions" being investigated within the content;
- The "Key Knowledge" students will know, do, and understand as a result of learning the content; and
- The "Key Skills" students will be able to identify and demonstrate as a result of learning the content.
In Stage 1 of UbD, it is critical that educators evaluate the content from more than the perspective of what they want students to know, understand, and be able to do. At this stage, educators need to consider how the content integrates with other disciplines, how it is relevant to everyday living, and how a deep understanding of the standards will influence students' view of content and evaluate its impact on an educated mind. A detailed analysis of Stage 1 curriculum development is critical for all published learning standards if educators are to move beyond planning activities and, instead, plan learning.
The second and third stages in the UbD model involve:
- Assessment Evidence during which curriculum planners design systems in which students will demonstrate their understanding of curriculum content through performance tools such as products, projects, assessments, observations, and a facile use of available technologies. These assessment data should include both formative (frequent checks of understanding) as well as more summative assessment tools, and the
- Learning Plan which involves the sequence of learning experiences, and the types of instructional approaches utilized by classroom teachers.
As the reader can see by looking below, the various content areas are listed as links, and once the reader clicks on a link, the K-12 curriculum documents will appear by grade level. Most of the documents linked to this part of the district website are written in the UbD style. Currently, the UbD format is not always consistent between and among the various curriculum documents but, over time, and for the ease of use for teachers, parents, and the community, the district's learning standards will all look similar in style and format.