Curriculum Maps and the ALCAN Highway

Years ago, my wife and I travelled cross country in a Ford Ranger truck from Warrensburg, New York to Homer, Alaska. We logged 10,000 miles in little over six weeks, and with GPS in its infancy, our travels were guided by maps of the Alaska-Canadian Highway contained in The Milepost. We knew where we wanted to go, but The Milepost and its various roadmaps revealed the hidden gems along the route, and most importantly, spots we could count on to get gas and provisions. We used The Milepost to monitor our progress, plan side trips, and make certain we had the provisions and resources necessary for the trip’s duration. Without The Milepost and its road maps, we would surely have gotten lost, off track, and unlikely to reach our desired destinations. And so it goes with curriculum maps.

Curriculum maps are an educator’s road map that describe what students will know and be able to do on a monthly basis. Fenwick English introduced the concept of curriculum mapping decades ago, and Heidi Hayes-Jacobs used digital technology to bring curriculum mapping to the mainstream. By detailing the content, skills, assessments, and essential questions taught on a monthly basis, curriculum maps reveal the hidden curriculum each teacher follows from start to finish. Maps allow teachers and principals to monitor progress, make adjustments, and plan the necessary instruction that engage and equip students for success. With Race to the Top and the Common Core Learning Standards front and center, curriculum maps are a vital resource schools need to traverse the various standards and curriculum revisions.

Much as my wife and I collaborated to use The Milepost on our trip, curriculum maps allow teachers and principals to plan the learning for their students. As tangible data bases, curriculum maps serve as a bridge between administrators and teachers, allowing principals to more meaningfully engage in conversations with teachers about curriculum, instruction, and assessments. In both formal and informal ways, curriculum maps help cultivate communities of practice within a school. Whether conducting assessment audits, cross walking curricula to the Common Core Learning Standards, or conducting data-driven instructional practices, curriculum maps are an important tool for improving student achievement.

Time is a scarce commodity, and curriculum maps are one research-proven strategy administrators and teachers can use to quickly make informed decisions that improve student learning. Reflecting back on our trek to Alaska, I can’t imagine managing such a trip without a map. Likewise, implementing common core learning standards and data-driven decision making without a map to guide and inform our efforts is an exercise in futility. So, on this wild RTTT ride, be sure to have those curriculum maps readily available to help guide this important work.

One response to “Curriculum Maps and the ALCAN Highway

  1. I love Fenwick English. Am I dating myself? He also said “Your best teachers are mavericks!”. (This was before John McCain made a joke out of the word…)
    Still I have always found him to be right on this. How does that fit in with the APPR mandates? I would encourage all school leaders to be careful about making sure we don’t throw away the mavericks. They are going to push back against paperwork, bureaucracy and being forced into a box. They are also the ones who make a real, memorable, positive difference for kids.

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