Wednesday / May 22

Getting a Handle on Curriculum Chaos

Getting a Handle on Curriculum Chaos

All that is necessary for curriculum chaos in a school district is to rely on everybody doing their best. There are ample examples of everybody doing their best in every academic subject, but for the purpose of this blog I am selecting editing (often called Daily Oral Language). In my seminars I often ask for a show of hands from teachers indicating if they are giving students sentences or paragraphs to edit on a regular basis. Without fail, hands are raised representing elementary, middle and high school teachers. Then I ask, “Is this effort coordinated from grades 1 to 12?” Never have I ever received a “Yes” to this question. So, the expectations for editing in school districts all over is chaotic; every teacher is providing students sentences to edit depending on what they want at the moment or what they have found somewhere, somehow. It is not the teachers’ fault; no administrator ever set aside time for these teachers to coordinate their efforts.

The solution to this chaos is first vertical alignment and then stabilization. Alignment means that the teachers from each grade level write down the editing errors they expect students in their grade levels to recognize, replace, and correct. Vertical alignment means that NO error is written down for two different grade levels. There can be no duplication of errors. This list of errors, from grades 1 to 12 is then posted and distributed. The expected growth in editing is quite visible.

The second step is stabilization, which is the formula for each editing assignment provided. For example, grade 6 students would always need to find 12 errors: one from the grade 2 list of errors, one from the grade 3 list of errors, two from the grade 4 list of errors, three from the grade 5 list of errors, and five from the grade 6 list of errors.

Template for Stabilizing a School District’s Editing Process By Lee Jenkins

Template for Stabilizing a School District’s Editing Process
By Lee Jenkins

The Number of Errors Column states how many errors are to be placed, on purpose, into the editing document – sentences or paragraph.  For, in Grade 1 every editing document has 5 errors selected from Grade 1 editing expectations list.  Grade 8 documents have 12 errors: one from grade 4, one from grade 5, two from grade 6, three from grade 7 and 5 from grade 8.

Once the chaos has been changed to alignment and stabilization, the next step is cooperation in writing the editing documents; i.e. the documents for students to practice their editing skills according to the formula developed by the teachers. There are four sources of authors for these editing documents: teacher teams, older students, parents, and principals. Enlist help from parents and stakeholders whose work schedule keeps them from helping in the classroom, but nevertheless would like to be of assistance. These stakeholders are encouraged to write about a hobby, event or some other topic of interest. These writers would have the formula and they can supply the document for the teacher to review. The same is true for older students who can have assignments to write for younger students.

The included stabilization formula is clearly a draft. Teachers need to determine the appropriate number of errors for each grade level AND the number of errors from prior grade levels. How far back do we review? Grade 6, for example, in my draft, are not reviewing grade 1 errors any more. Is this the right answer? The local teachers must decide the number of errors from current grade level and prior grade levels.

This structure for alignment and stabilization is to be used for every academic subject. “Let’s Fix Spelling,” for example, is one resource to establish alignment and stabilization around spelling in particular, located at  The exact same process described here is used for spelling. The math fluency quizzes, also located at, utilize the same alignment and stabilization process. When these math fluency quizzes were created it was determined that even in grade 8, there needed to be review of grade 1 add/subtract fluency questions. It is a value judgment based upon observation and experience that creates the stabilization formulas.

Teachers really do enjoy the process of alignment and stabilization. They feel honored, trusted, and engaged. Teachers realize that the system is chaotic, but they often have no power to fix it. Administrators have the power to fix the chaos, but often don’t recognize how prevalent it is. Together, teachers and administrators can greatly reduce this chaos.

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Lee Jenkins is a Corwin author, consultant and speaker. His book Optimize Your School: It’s All About the Strategy, was released in June of 2015. His processes are successfully implemented in PK to 12 in all subjects. The major focus is intrinsic motivation through continuous improvement. Because students complete all graphs of data there is extremely high student engagement. Effect sizes have been calculated, based upon John Hattie’s Visible Learning, that range from .65 to over 4.00 with an average of 1.5. He strives to replace “teaching, learning and forgetting” with “teaching, learning and remembering.” Classroom scenes and student and teacher interviews are available through and then clicking on the YouTube icon.

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