History of The Curriculum Crafter® Tool
Kent ISD began developing a K-12 aligned curriculum for all content areas in the early 1990’s after Michigan’s PA 25 mandated a core curriculum for the state. Kent County Collaborative Core Curriculum (originally referred to as KC4) was developed for teachers by teachers and has evolved into a complete and highly respected curriculum. The curriculum is housed within a dynamic, web-based structure referred to as the Curriculum Crafter® Tool. The Curriculum Crafter® Tool, including both the web structure and the embedded K-12 curriculum, are revised periodically to maintain a strategic alignment with grade level and high school content expectations.
Since curriculum development is a dynamic process, the old way of managing content with "3-ring" binders, electronic files, printing and distributing documents became slow, costly, and burdensome. We realized our vision to create an "always on, always updated web-based tool in August 2008 with the introduction of Curriculum Crafter®. With the advent of our web-based tool, our customers got the easy access and other advantages they had requested. They were then able to update, revise, and align curriculum in a fraction of the time. Creating and maintaining curriculum can be a time consuming process and many teachers have find it difficult to do their main job of teaching while also having the responsibility for creating and updating curriculum. The web-based Curriculum Crafter® Tool simplifies curriculum development and has virtually eliminated the need for teachers to spend long hours in curriculum development and planning meetings. Changes are easily made with just a few clicks.
As budgets have continued to shrink and expectations have risen, Curriculum Crafter® has continued to stay on top of the extra demands and requirements made on educators. Curriculum Crafter® instructional units are organized in a developmentally appropriate and purposeful sequence. Each instructional unit builds on the next for a smooth academic flow of content to put students in the best position for success. In addition, Curriculum Crafter® provides an easy to use mapping function that will allow users to customize the sequence and duration of instructional units to fit the needs of each school or district.
While Curriculum Crafter® is currently aligned to Michigan's content expectations an exciting project is underway to align it to the national standards for each content area. Once released, an alignment will be made with the Common Core State Standards, developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative, for English Language Arts and Mathematics. The content expectation codes of the aligned expectations are listed within each lesson. The priority content expectations in Curriculum Crafter® which have been designated by a collaborative Kent County initiative appear in red type, while the remaining supporting content expectations are in black type.
In addition to the core content areas, for which curriculum has been developed, Curriculum Crafter® also includes the framework for non-core subjects. This means that the content expectations are in the Curriculum Crafter® Tool, and the local district can develop their own courses to align with these state expectations. Currently the framework is in place and available in Physical Education, Health, and Technology, with plans to include World Languages, Visual, Performing Arts, and Applied Arts as well as other sets of expectations in the future. The Curriculum Crafter® Tool also contains the options of adding in to the program the Preschool Early Learning Activities in the strands of Intellectual Development, Language and Early Literacy Development, Creative Development, Physical Development and Health, Early Learning in Science, and Early Learning in Social Studies.
Course and Lesson Sequencing in Curriculum Crafter®
Every Curriculum Crafter® course is organized as a series of units called Academic Standards or Standards. These units are categorized by the strand to which they align, listed in the order in which those strands occur in the content expectation document published by the Michigan Department of Education. Generally, this sequence in Curriculum Crafter is the order in which Kent ISD recommends the units be taught, strand by strand. In addition, the order within each strand is generally the recommended sequence. However, there are exceptions (often in the secondary courses) when the order recommended by Curriculum Crafter does not fall neatly into that sequence. In such cases, the Standard Statement (the TLW statement for the unit of study/Academic Standard) is followed by a note in parentheses stating the recommended instructional sequence. This is especially true in the history strand of social studies courses, where the order is usually chronological, and is also important in mathematics, where each subsequent standard builds upon the concepts and skills of previous standards within the strand. However, if teachers are progressing through one strand and wish to provide a change of pace for their students, they could teach a unit from the other strands without an instructional problem. For example, after teaching several units of the Numbers and Operations strand, the first standard from the Measurement strand could be taught. Or if teachers wish to teach about graphing from the Data and Probability strand early in the year in order to apply that learning all year in science and social studies, there would be no instructional reason to prevent that change in sequence.
Another exception occurs in the English Language Arts courses, which are based much more upon process skills than content-specific knowledge and skills. As such, it often makes better instructional sense to group related reading, writing, speaking, and listening units together as a comprehensive unit that incorporates all the skills around a particular genre. For example, in the fifth grade ELA course, one of the reading standards is to read historical fiction, and a writing standard is to write historical fiction. Rather than follow the given sequence in the reading strand followed by the given sequence in the writing strand, teachers will generally want to combine the two into a unit that incorporates these two reading and writing standards. Also in fifth grade, there is a poetry writing standard and a listening standard that incorporates active listening to poetry. These two units can likewise be combined into a more comprehensive poetry unit. In these cases, the sequence is not indicated, because the combinations will vary according to district and school discussion and decisions.
Ultimately, the sequence in which units are taught is a district decision. As mentioned above, the recommended order of instruction is built into the structure of each Curriculum Crafter course, but for instructional reasons, the sequence can be changed.
Within each standard, the recommendation concerning the sequence of the lessons is different from the standards. In this case, the lessons were developed with the given sequence in mind. Very often, the lessons are scaffolded to build the instruction of each subsequent lesson upon the learning of the earlier lessons. Districts may choose to insert additional lessons but should be cautious about changing the sequence without carefully considering the impact.