The Common Core and Common Pacing
We received an email from a high school teacher questioning her district’s effort to establish common pacing across the three high schools in the district. She seemed to object to this effort because her subject was nonsequential and asked our opinion. This was our response:
There is a significant amount of research that providing students with access to a guaranteed and viable curriculum has a significant, positive impact on student achievement. Guaranteed means that all students will be taught the same skills and concepts regardless of the teacher to whom they have been assigned. Viable means that the curriculum can be taught in the amount of time a teacher has to teach. If a district is to provide students with a guaranteed and viable curriculum, it is perfectly reasonable that it establish parameters for common pacing.
You mention that your course is nonsequential, but don’t mention the subject. So let’s use US History as an example. Your colleague loves the Civil War and devote six weeks to teaching it. You devote three days to the Civil War. In this instance, you allow a teacher’s personal interest to trump research on what is best for kids. If we use English as an example, you devote a month to writing an effective persuasive essay and your colleagues devote a week. Again, students do not have an equal opportunity to learn.
I should, however, also clarify that establishing district guidelines for common pacing does not mean a district should establish lockstep pacing whereby all teachers are expected to be teaching on the same page on the same day. This kind of rigidity robs teachers of the ability to make adjustments in their instruction based on evidence of student learning.
Most states and districts are attempting to translate the Common Core State Standards into curriculum guides with recommended pacing, so it is not unreasonable that your district would attempt to provide the guidelines that support a guaranteed and viable curriculum.