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Understanding the District’s new core curriculum: a glossary of terms

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Blocks/block scheduling: An arrangement of classes in which the length of periods is extended, allowing teachers to use varied instructional techniques such as labs and student-centered projects. As part of the core curriculum, the School District requires all elementary schools to schedule blocks of 120 minutes of literacy instruction and 90 minutes of math instruction every day. Middle schools must schedule 90 minutes of literacy and math every day. Many high schools in Philadelphia use block scheduling in order to offer more intensive instruction in fewer subjects each semester.

Core curriculum: A set of documents that tell teachers what to teach, what materials to use, how to make accommodations for students with disabilities and English Language Learners and how to include multicultural perspectives in their lessons. The core curriculum is designed to ensure that all teachers are teaching content that is required by state academic standards. This year, the new curricula are available for English/Language Arts in grades K-12, mathematics in grades K-11, science in grades 7-11, and social studies in grades 8-12.

Planning and scheduling timeline: A chart in the core curriculum guide that tells teachers what topics to teach each week, how long to spend on each topic, what materials to use in their lessons, and what state standards to address in the lessons. It also offers suggestions for how to use technology and provides sample PSSA test items and TerraNova objectives.

Professional development: Workshops, classes, or other training that is designed to help school staff, especially teachers, strengthen their knowledge and skills.

Standards: Detailed statements of what students should know and be able to do in each subject at specific points in their academic careers. They are developed by state level education officials – often working with teams of teachers, parents, and school administrators – and are revised periodically.

Teaching to proficiency: Approach in which teachers deliver instruction that is appropriate for the grade level and rigorous enough that students will score at or above the proficient level on standardized tests.

Year at a glance: A guide for teachers found in each core curriculum guide, providing a brief overview of all of the topics teachers will cover each week for the entire school year. It also indicates textbook pages to cover and which weeks students will be tested.

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