Matters related to curriculum touch students most closely. They affect what is taught in classrooms and how it’s taught. Curriculum matters!
Many basic decisions about curriculum are matters of law. For example, California requires every school to offer students access to “a broad course of study.” Among other things, that means elementary students, not just their older siblings, should get instruction in science and art. All middle and high school students need some career education. And every student, throughout their time in school, should be exposed to history and civics, along with the basics of English language arts and mathematics.
WHO DECIDES WHAT IS TAUGHT IN SCHOOLS?
Educational standards describe what students should know and be able to do in each subject in each grade. In California, the State Board of Education decides on the standards for all students, from kindergarten through high school.
Standards have the power to change what happens in classrooms because they influence curriculum, including textbooks, learning materials, and tests. The State of California expects school districts to make sure that the materials they use are aligned with the standards, and to that end it recommends textbooks that districts ought to use for grades K-8. However, the state does not adopt instructional materials at the high school level, but has the same expectation regarding alignment with standards.
Decisions on curriculum adoption take place at the local school district level, and many districts differ in how they carry out curriculum requirements. Parents can be stronger advocates for quality education when they understand the issues that underlie those decisions and know what is happening in other communities.