Friday, July 19, 2013


This month I'm at school working with a couple other teachers on writing our new Common Core curriculum.  Something that slightly interesting to mention is that I teach at a vocational school so our district is made up of only high schools.  Because of this the kids are all coming from different middle schools and different backgrounds.  It also means that the curriculum I'm working on will not only be for the the teachers in my building, but for other buildings as well.

My district has decided to use the model curriculum that New Jersey created.  Each course is broken down into five units, spanning seven weeks each.

From the NJDOE website:
Unit 1 begins with setting the stage for work with expressions and equations through understanding quantities and the relationships between them. The work in unit 2 will build on the grade 8 concepts for linear and exponential relationships. Success in unit 2 will lay the groundwork for later units where the students will extend this knowledge to quadratic and exponential functions. 
The standards included in unit 3 blend the conceptual understandings of expressions and equations with procedural fluency and problem solving. The students will not encounter solutions of quadratic equations that are complex.
The standards presented in unit 4 involve functions and extending the concepts of integer exponents to concepts of rational exponents. The understandings will be applied to other types of equations in future courses. Unit 5 will build on previous work with descriptive statistics. Linear models will be used to assess how a model fits data.
Every unit is split into 6-10 Student Learning Objectives (SLOs).  Also provided is a sample assessment for each unit.  We have been working on breaking down the SLOs, looking at the corresponding standards and basically just trying to figure out what the heck it all means and what we're supposed to be teaching.

Our current curriculum is pretty traditional.  We use this book:

...start in chapter 1 and go from there.  There are a couple sections that are skipped here and there, but overall it's pretty straightforward.

Instead of taking our current curriculum and trying to fit in the standards it feels more like we are starting from scratch.  The NJ Model curriculum is totally different than what I'm used to.  We are taking the model curriculum, interpreting each objective and then trying to figure out how to teach it.  Often the objectives match up with a textbook section, but they're certainly not in order.  A number of objectives aren't in the textbook at all so we're also looking for outside resources to include.

I'm still not entirely sure what my feelings are on the whole thing.  It isn't optional so complaining is pointless, but I think that it's going to be a significant change.  It seems that many of the sections I have taught aren't quite there anymore.  It's also no longer really possible to just plan by flipping the page to the next's going to take significantly more effort to plan lessons.  And being the person that is going to introduce this change to the teachers in my school will also be quite interesting.

So who else out there is writing curriculum? What are you thoughts?

If anyone else is using the NJ Model Curriculum I would LOVE to hear from you.

Coming up is a couple different resources I've found to be really valuable in helping to unpack and make sense of the standards.


  1. I feel your pain! Common Core really does make it seem as if you're starting from scratch. I also agree that sometimes it is hard to know what you are supposed to be teaching at different times. At least you are not doing it along though. I am a singleton in my building and had to teach 7B-10A. By March, I thought I wasn't going to make it. I am not sure what model we used and don't think there was a process implemented beforehand. It was more like, "Go forth, decipher, teach, and be awesome". LOL Sorry, I'm no help. :-D

  2. I have been working with my district in Texas for a year, to implement next year. TX didn't adopt Common Core, but every 5-6 years or so they do a complete revision. It's certainly going to be a big shift in middle school!

  3. My state adopted CCSS when it first came out. We have taught Common Core for two full years. It is tough, especially when trying to find resources. We didn't have a model. Our district just gave us the standards and said to deconstruct them. It is pretty much starting from scratch. We tried to fit the CC into our materials already and it was HARD. You have to take the CC and fit resources to it. Good luck!


  4. I'm right there with you. The last math book adoption saw our district buy CCSS-aligned textbooks since we were beginning our transitional period. For middle school, the books don't match state standards well, so the book is really more an occasional resource since we can't even use it for homework assignments much of the time.

    Now our state has put CCSS implementation on hold and we're still stuck with our books. So for the only math course I teach we decided to do our own thing. It turned out we could hook most of the state content to one overarching theme. It means not following our district map, but since everything's up in the air I don't think it will end up being a problem. But it's a lot of work! Even so, I feel better about math than I did last year.

  5. North Carolina has a great resource called Unpacking Standards - For 6th grade, they listed what was new for CCSS and what was put into another grade. I just checked, and the Algebra one doesn't seem to have that feature, but it's still interesting and could be useful. I wish I had found this back when my team was literally flipping back and forth with copies of the standards to figure out what was new.

    We have a really good math series, we were lucky and with the transition our math department head made sure to get those in the budget. As a 6th grade teacher, I know what you mean about the kids coming from different schools. Multiplication of fractions was moved down to 5th grade, and we end up having to teach it anyway because the students come in at different levels.

  6. That's the same book we have, too, and you're right that it's not a great match to CCSS. We're using a lot from SAS Curriculum Pathways, a free online program. I used it some last year, mainly the PDFs and not the lesson modules because they kept freezing up on my computer. We're not one-to-one with technology, so I would just project the lessons I wanted to use parts of.

    Also check out the Dana Center out of Texas for some rich tasks. I believe that's freely available online, too.

    I second Hannah's recommendation on the North Carolina document. My district relied heavily on them as we wrote our curriculum documents.

    The thing I'm fretting about is that our Algebra course had 15 assessed standards under state curriculum and we're moving to the 60 standards of CCSS Algebra I. Wowzers!

  7. I really liked the NJ Model Curriculum (I used it as a resource for 7th and 8th grade.) Another resource you should look into is the NJ Center for Teaching and Learning

  8. I am in MD and we have also adopted the CCSS and are a PARCC state. Our state has been working for the past 3 years to prepare for the transition to the Common Core. Our state dept (MSDE)has posted some curriculum resources that are available to anyone at You do not need to login to access our Unit Plans and lesson seeds. Click on Curriculum Resources on the home page, then the High School tab to access the materials for Algebra I, II, and Geometry. It is all a work in progress - there's not much there for Algebra II and Geometry, but a good bit of resources are available for Algebra I.

    My county chose to venture away from the state unit plans and we have created our own scope and sequence based on the Dana Center out of TX:

    I'll be following your blog closely to see how/what you decide to do! I've been teaching for 20 years and feel like a first year teacher planning for Common Core!!

  9. I'm on my school's rewrite team as well - talk about overwhelming! We spent about six weeks last summer completely rewriting the Algebra curriculum. We started with note cards with the standards on them and giant pieces of blank chart paper. We interpreted and deciphered, grouped, created units, and then wrote assessments. It was a HUGE undertaking but I love our finished product. Of course we tweaked throughout the year and will probably continue to tweak, but so far I'm loving the depths to which our students are learning. I hope you end up in a very positive place at the end of your journey. Best of luck!!


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