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Step 1: SAC Starts Process
  • Curriculum coordinator or SAC chairperson makes room arrangements and gathers all materials for the year (training notebooks, chart paper, butcher paper, colored paper, paper cutter, markers, tape, scissors, wall space, storage space, etc.).

  • SAC members receive an overview of the model.

  • SAC members review the yearly calendar, with timelines and actual meeting dates.

  • At each meeting, chairperson assures that major decisions are agreed upon and recorded and each meeting ends with setting the next meeting’s agenda.

The following timeline is an example for a hypothetical district.

Click the PDF icon to download this example.

Step 2: SAC Collects Information
  1. Creates and distributes questionnaire

  2. Highlights key words in standards

  3. Displays data for preliminary analysis

  4. Plans for follow-up

The following questionnaire is an example for a hypothetical district.

Click the PDF icon to download this example.

Information Gathering

Information gathering is a process the SAC uses for accumulating, synthesizing, and graphically displaying information about the curriculum as it is now delivered.  By focusing on the district’s existing curriculum, SAC members are telling their colleagues that good things are already happening in the academic program, and that the comprehensive review is being conducted because the content of instruction needs to be better focused and aligned.


Today’s emphasis on teacher involvement makes this step critical to the success of your program.  If done correctly, the information gathering phase will help teachers begin to understand that their professional perspectives are just as important as those expressed by so-called experts.  However, at the outset, teachers may neither understand the process nor trust a curriculum leader’s motivation for conducting it.  It is therefore necessary to initiate the activity only after careful thought and preparation.

Information about the real curriculum includes more than the superficial, yet must be limited enough to be digestible.  In other words, curriculum leaders seek topics covered, and information about each teacher’s priority system.  Obtaining that kind of data requires the use of questionnaires and follow-up.

Highlighting the Standards

As the SAC members start the process of developing local curriculum, they need to be aware of what the standards say about their subject.  They have already used the “strands” from the standards document to determine the categories for the questionnaire; consequently, they are aware of the general content and arrangement of the document.  However, they need to become more familiar with what the standards actually recommend for this subject’s curriculum.  SAC members should be provided individual copies of the standards document that they can mark on and keep throughout the rest of the curriculum development process.  The SAC chairperson is responsible for making these copies available.


Most standards documents are written with common features.  The first step is to study your document and answer the following questions.

  • What standards are you aligning to?

  • How are those standards organized and defined?

  • Are there overarching concepts that apply to all standards?

Highlighting Key Words

For curriculum work, it is necessary to look carefully at the most specific description provided and consider the key words.

  1. SAC members should start with the first standard and first benchmark.

  2. Read the first indicator under this benchmark and identify key words (content and verb).

  3. Make note of these words by circling, underlining, or highlighting them, or jot key words in a margin. Sometimes it may be necessary to “come up” with a key word that does not actually appear in the indicator if it is needed to summarize a key concept.

  4. SAC needs to identify overarching concepts in the standards that will be incorporated in all curriculum levels (e.g., math practice standards, science habits of mind).

When SAC members have been through all of the standards for their subject, the highlighted standards documents need to be put away but kept in a safe place until later in the process.  We will return to them when it is time to make detailed decisions about the inclusion and placement of topics in the local curriculum.

Step 3: SAC Analyzes Curriculum / Identifies Problems

A. SAC members adjust displayed information according to follow-up.

When you have finished your follow-up, go to the wall charts and do whatever is needed to do to clarify and to make what’s on the charts “true information.”  For example, take down something if the teacher said, “I really don’t do much with this.  I just talk about it sometimes.”  Add paper for topics you discovered had been left out.  Write more details on paper that’s already up, to clarify the topic listed.  Additionally, change the number of tally marks for how many teachers really do this.  If more than one SAC member followed up with the same grade/course, the information needs to be coordinated.  If uncertain about any items, make a note about the item and save it for later discussion.

B. SAC members cross-reference topics with standards.

Determine the degree of alignment with standards using a cross-reference procedure. By marking both the topic cards on the wall and the standards document, SAC members can: (1) look at the walls and know which topics are or are not also in the standards document, and (2) look at the standards document and know which benchmarks/ indicators are or are not in the current curriculum.

C. SAC Members analyze information to identify problems.

If a gap is found, put a blank sheet of the correct color of paper where the gap exists and use a pencil to write a note about what is missing.  When there are items you question in terms of appropriateness, mark an “A?” in the remaining lower left-hand corner.  (Although identifying what may not be appropriate requires a judgment call, remember that you are only identifying problems at this point, not making decisions.)

The problem that presents itself most obviously is redundancy. All representatives that have a redundancy mark the topic sheets with an “R” in the upper left-hand corner and list the grade levels where the redundancy occurs. What they must decide is whether and how these topics are presented differently and whether it is really necessary for them to be repeated so many times.

Step 4: SAC Creates Focus Areas and Makes Decisions
  • Identifies focus areas for grade levels and courses.

  • Makes decisions about the curriculum.

When all parts of Step 4 are done, the topics remaining on the butcher paper will be used to write high achievement unit outcomes and components.  It is important to recognize that these topics are:

  1. high-priority

  2. grade-appropriate

  3. essential and focused

  4. aligned with standards

Step 5:  SAC Creates Subject Mission and Purposes
  • Prepares Subject Area Mission

  • Converts focus areas to course and grade-level purposes

Social Studies Subject Mission example: 

Students in the Pleasant Valley School District will develop the social understanding, critical thinking, and civic efficacy necessary for making responsible decisions in the 21st century.

Social Issues Course Purpose example: 

Students will evaluate events where civilians were or are under pressure and in conflict to determine how they relate to issues of human and civil rights. 

*(Focus areas:  current and past events, human rights, and civil rights.)

Step 6: SAC Writes High Achievement Unit Outcomes and Components
  • Groups topics to make connections

  • Converts topics into outcomes and components

The Importance of Word Choice in Writing Curriculum

The wording of curriculum is critical to successful classroom implementation.  The course purpose — as well as the essential outcomes that follow — must be stated in measurable language.  This means that not only are ambiguous behavioral objectives not acceptable, but there can be no vague references about what might be presented, introduced, taught, heard, learned, studied, or covered during the course of the school year.  Instead, describe the student’s knowledge, performance, or behavior in action terminology that can be measured, preferably stated in the higher cognitive levels of analysis, application, synthesis or creation, and evaluation.

Click here for numerous examples of Bloom’s taxonomy levels, with definitions of each level, a sampling of appropriate verbs, and a sample of related products.  Remember that a verb taken out of context can often be classified in more than one level of Bloom’s taxonomy.  In fact many verbs and products can overlap, depending on their use.  The context of the curriculum statement will guide you in determining the cognitive level of the verb.  For example, the verb “choose” could be classified at both the knowing level and the evaluating level.  In the statement “choose the correct definition from a list,” the verb is at the knowing level.  In the statement “choose an appropriate problem-solving strategy” the verb is at the analyzing and evaluating levels.

How Will I Know Results-Based Curriculum When I See It?

Evaluate the curriculum against these seven criteria:

Curriculum Evaluation

On each page you will see a set of boxes.  The small box says:  Rank.  In this box, type a number from 1 to 4, with 1 representing the best quality.

In the “Notes” box type a short explanation.  What makes this curriculum a good one, or what is not good about this curriculum?

Download this PDF with four pages of sample “curriculum.”  Evaluate each sample and then rank  according to  quality. Use Acrobat Reader to take advantage of the fillable form.

Step 7: SAC Critiques Entire Curriculum
  • Reads curriculum aloud, checking for clarity and rigor.

  • Corrects typos and convention errors.

During the writing process, SAC members often split into small groups or pairs to prepare their

outcomes and components.  Two or three people can share ideas about how to combine topics and what words to use that best convey their thoughts.  These small groups work on only one or two grade levels or courses, while other small groups or pairs work on different grade levels and courses.  The completed products are typed in a format that follows the district’s guidelines for curriculum documents.

When all SAC members have finished writing their outcomes and components, the SAC is ready to complete a curriculum “read-through.”  In this process, all SAC members reconvene as a single, full group.  The separate sets of typed outcomes and components are combined into one document, which is made available for all SAC members.  Some districts provide hard copies for SAC members to use; other districts use LCD projectors (or similar technology) to display the curriculum for all to see.  During a read-through, the entire curriculum is read aloud, and critiqued by the full SAC. This is a crucial step in the curriculum development process. Although the small-group members all approved the curriculums they themselves prepared, they had the advantage of conversation at the time.  They could explain their thought processes and reasoning, and discuss choices.  However, someone who was not a part of the group and not privy to those conversations might very well have a different interpretation of the finished statements, or might find them to be unclear or vague.  During the read-through, these discrepancies, as well as typos and convention errors, can be discovered and corrected.  SAC members also watch for alignment, to assure no steps have been left out or exactly repeated.  They also critique the curriculum for rigor, assuring that all outcomes are considered “high achievement,” requiring higher levels of thinking  and dynamic student involvement.

The Curriculum Coordinator or SAC Chairperson should facilitate the read-through process.  It is important to stress that as a group we are critiquing, not criticizing – we are just trying to make the best document we can.  No individual should take offense if a statement is questioned, or if changes are suggested.  When ready to begin, one person is asked to read the earliest grade level’s curriculum aloud, reading one “outcome/components” section at a time.  It is recommended that the reader not be someone who helped prepare that grade level’s curriculum originally, as it is too easy to read what one knows a statement should say rather than what it actually says.  SAC members then approve the statements as written, or suggest changes.  A designated person can make the changes electronically as they are agreed upon.  The reader then continues with the next set of outcome/components.  When one grade level is finished, another reader starts on the next level.

This PDF is a checklist of things to look for that can be used to help guide SAC members as they complete their critique.

Step 8: The New Curriculum Document

The new document contains more than the actual curriculum.  SAC members also write introductory pages and any other pages necessary for a complete, professional document.  Time should be set aside to deal with these additional document pages as well as to organize the entire document.  A decision must be made regarding the district’s curriculum format.  The completed draft includes the following:

  • Acknowledgements of those who prepared the document, and effective dates

  • Table of Contents

  • Introduction, including explanation of the numbering system (grade/course code), and any philosophical decisions made, i.e. use of particular programs, whether cursive handwriting is taught/required, fluency in reading, etc.

  • (Optional) Course sequence changes, detailing how major changes would be implemented in the district, such as how changes in prerequisites or required credits would affect each graduating class.

  • District mission statement

  • Subject mission statement

  • Course and grade-level purpose statements for all grades/courses

  • (Optional) Curriculum-at-a-Glance shows only the purpose statements and outcomes for each grade level and course.  They are printed in a “list” format, in a fairly small font, so the essential curriculum for all levels can be included in only a few pages.

  • Separate pages for each grade level/course with purpose statement, high achievement unit outcomes and components

  • (Optional) Appendix materials

  • (Optional) Glossary

Step 9: SAC Plans Validation

The Subject Area Committee plays a vital role in facilitating the curriculum validation process. By collecting feedback from teachers during implementation, the SAC can make informed decisions regarding revisions.

Download a Curriculum Validation Form in one of the following formats: 

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