Vertical Alignment Math Curriculum

What is vertical alignment? Why is it important? What is vertical team planning? There are lots of questions surrounding vertical alignment in schools. It is great that these conversations are happening because vertical alignment is essential in all content areas, but especially with math curriculum.

This blog post will...
  • explain what vertical alignment is and why it is important
  • describe vertical team planning, how to implement it, and how to improve it

What is vertical alignment?
Vertical alignment is a strategy for improving how a school system’s standards, curriculum, assessments, and instruction connect to one another to produce a balanced and comprehensive education where concepts and skills build off of one another.

Why is a vertically coherent math curriculum important?
A vertically coherent math curriculum is important because of five main reasons:
  1. Students are provided a comprehensive curriculum that exposes them to a wider variety of topics.
  2. Students are provided a progressive curriculum that guides them through a sequence of skills that build upon one another.
  3. Educators develop a deep understanding of how their curriculum fits into a student’s development and school experience.
  4. Educators across grade levels increase communication and collaboration.
  5. Educators and administrators are better equipped to accurately describe and communicate information about the curriculum to students, parents, and school officials.

What is vertical team planning?
Vertical team planning is a team of school administrators and educators coming together to carefully examine how standards, curriculum, assessment, and instruction align. The purpose of this practice is to improve curricular connections by identifying weaknesses (overlapping content or gaps) in order to produce an effective and appropriate instructional program for students as they progress through the education system.

What do I do if my school does not have vertical team planning?
If your school does not have vertical team planning, try one of these five ideas:
  1. Communicate with your building’s administration to see if they can arrange a time for educators across grade levels to meet.
  2. Create a questionnaire for educators to fill out to identify what is being taught in their grade.
  3. Initiate 1:1 conversations with the educators in the grade below the one you teach.
  4. Talk to the educators in the grade above the one you teach to inquire about what foundational skills they would like to see students enter their classrooms equipped with.
  5. Create a Google Sheet with columns for each grade level to fill-in. This will show at a glance what content is being taught.
How can I improve vertical team planning at my school?
If you are looking to improve vertical team planning at your school, take a look at the list below to see what you may be missing:

  • include administrators
  • designate facilitators
  • create clear expectations as a team
  • set goals
  • create a non-judgmental and respectful environment
  • use positive language
  • embody a growth mindset
  • focus on student needs, learning outcomes, and achievement
  • use consistent language when referring to strategies, skills, content, and resources
  • utilize the Understanding by Design approach and start at the highest year and work your way back
  • share ideas, strategies, and resources
  • ask questions
  • build relationships with unfamiliar individuals on the team
  • plan for the next meeting or two

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