4. Curriculum

In Adventist schools, the philosophical foundation of educating the whole student—spiritually, intellectually, physically, and socially—is the basis for our unique curriculum. Standards for student learning have been developed to fulfill this primary objective. Denominationally prepared curriculum resources have also been created to support this goal for student learning through an integration of an Adventist worldview across the curriculum.

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Student learning is the focus of the entire school program. The curriculum is the plan that determines what students are to learn and guides teacher instruction. As the instructional leader, the principal must understand the essentials of a sound, balanced curriculum. The principal is accountable for an effective school-wide instructional program as measured through the accreditation process and through the union or local conference curriculum-review process. Some leadership responsibilities of the principal as they relate to curriculum are:

  • Setting aside time for collaborative curriculum planning.
  • Leading faculty in the review and interpretation of student-achievement data.
  • Leading faculty in professional development that improves instruction based on student-achievement data.
  • Encouraging adoption of best instructional practices and innovation.
  • Ensuring that teacher instruction implements the curriculum standards.
  • Providing visible instructional leadership through regular classroom visitation.
  • Following accountability protocols to ensure that Adventist standards and resources are utilized by teachers in curriculum planning and instruction.

SPIRITUAL CURRICULUM

A primary focus of an Adventist school should be an intentional plan for nurturing students’ spiritual development. This spiritual curriculum should be integral to all that happens on campus, both inside and outside the classroom. Beyond offering a Bible class in each grade, a school must create activities that will help students develop a deep relationship with Jesus Christ. These activities are most effective when age-appropriate student input and leadership are included. Some types of activities that might be included are:

  • Bible-study groups and baptismal classes
  • Chapel programs
  • Special church services on and off campus
  • Class worships
  • Community service projects
  • Mission trips
  • Vespers
  • Weeks of Prayer

CURRICULUM STANDARDS

Standards for student learning have been developed in subject areas under the direction of the NADOE. In developing these standards, resources such as the compendiums of current state/provincial standards and subject-area standards developed by professional organizations have been referenced.

Standards identify what a student should know and be able to do upon completing a course. Standards are to be used by the teacher in planning, implementing, and assessing the instructional program. It is the principal’s responsibility to:

  • Ensure that standards are available to and utilized by the teachers.
  • Provide training for teachers in the use of the standards.
  • Determine that assessment is aligned with the standards.

COURSE OUTLINES / CLASSROOM HANDBOOKS

Teachers should create a course outline / classroom handbook to guide instruction throughout the school year, ensuring that each standard is met. A process should be established by the principal for the review of course outlines by the school curriculum committee and/or principal. Course outlines should be on file in the school office and are customarily distributed to students at the beginning of each course. Course outlines include elements such as:

  • Classroom management policies (e.g., attendance, classroom behavior, teacher contact info, etc.).
  • Course description and overall plan of instruction with topics covered.
  • Identifying standards to be met in each of the topics of instruction.
  • Planning for evaluating student progress, mastery, and reporting aligned with the standards.
  • Grading components.

TEXTBOOK LISTS

NADOE coordinates the review and adoption of textbook resources. The recommended textbooks are to be used in all schools, grades, and subject areas.

The principal is to conduct a textbook audit for curriculum-review reports and the evaluation self-study reports. If a teacher wishes to use an alternative textbook, it must first be approved in writing in accordance with adopted procedures as delineated in the union Education Code.

GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS

Minimum graduation requirements for both elementary and secondary schools are delineated in the union Education Code. The principal must also be aware of applicable state/provincial requirements that are to be met by graduating students.

Following the process outlined by union and/or local conference policy, schools may choose to establish requirements that exceed the minimums outlined in the union Education Code. Upon approval, these requirements must be published in the school bulletin.

ACADEMIC CREDIT

Traditionally, academic credit for secondary courses is based on the following: 

  • Credit for regular courses, including laboratory courses, is one-half (0.5) Carnegie unit or five (5.0) semester periods. These courses are to meet between 200-275 minutes per week for one semester. Credit for courses that meet for less time is to be prorated.
  • Credit for private or small-group music lessons is one-half (0.5) Carnegie unit or five (5.0) semester periods for the equivalent of one lesson per week, with practice periods to total a minimum of 200 minutes per week for one semester.

Transfer Credit

Secondary students may take courses from other schools, such as local private or public high schools, correspondence schools, distance-education schools, community colleges, etc. A secondary school should adopt a policy regarding the acceptance of external credits from these institutions that is aligned with the union Education Code and state/provincial regulations. Such a policy should also include references to courses that could lead to credits earned for both secondary and college/university transcripts where allowed by the union Education Code, collaborating colleges or universities, and state/provincial regulations.

CURRICULUM AUDIT

The principal must follow the union and/or local conference policy for curriculum audits and provide leadership in preparing and delivering the school’s report. Some states/provinces and accrediting agencies may also require annual reporting.

EVALUATING CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION

The principal should regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the academic program. A variety of evaluative methods should be used, such as:

  • Reviewing visiting committee reports
  • Analyzing course outlines
  • Observing instruction
  • Mapping the curriculum
  • Conducting exit interviews
  • Administering graduate follow-up studies
  • Monitoring subject-area trends
  • Assessing student learning through performances, demonstrations, writing samples, portfolios, and exhibits
  • Surveying stakeholder groups (e.g., students, parents, constituents)

STANDARDIZED TESTS

A standardized testing program assists the school in measuring student learning and planning for improvement, and provides accountability to stakeholders. The principal must lead faculty in reviewing and analyzing test data, while ensuring appropriate use for decisions about student learning and program improvements. This may occur through a designated testing coordinator or a small committee appointed to assist in planning and implementing the testing program. The principal should regularly reference testing data in reports to various stakeholder groups.

The testing program may include such tests as:

Achievement Tests

Norm-referenced standardized tests are used to identify student achievement in basic skills. The analysis of test results should inform teachers of the need for possible changes in the instructional program and also help in determining individual student academic needs.

Each school is to participate in the union-adopted testing program. The principal must ensure that the testing program is administered effectively and that the results are used in a way that will improve student learning.

College Entrance Tests (e.g., SAT, ACT, PSAT, PLAN)

Secondary schools should offer college entrance examinations to students. Senior academies should register with the national testing program providers to be a non-Saturday testing center. The principal is to ensure that the tests are available to students and administered in accordance with testing program requirements.

Career Tests

Secondary schools should provide various career tests and personal-interest inventories to assist students in developing post-secondary plans. Generally, this is most effective when implemented through a school-wide comprehensive guidance program. Some career tests that can be used are:

  • JOB-O
  • Cops, Caps, Copes
  • Kuder Occupational Inventory
  • Self-Directed Search
  • Strong-Campbell
  • ASVAB (administered by the Department of Defense)

Other Tests

Advanced Placement (AP) Exams: These College Board® tests are offered each spring on prescribed dates. They may provide students advanced placement in specific subjects upon entrance to college/university, which is determined by the college and by the student’s score. While it is beneficial to students if AP courses are offered on campus, this is not required.

Cognitive Abilities (CogAt) Tests: The union-adopted testing program may include standardized cognitive-abilities testing in at least two elementary grades.

Criterion-referenced Exams: Schools may elect to offer standardized examinations that measure specific subject-area learning. Currently, no criterion-referenced tests are recommended by the NADOE.

State and/or Provincial Exams: Course exit examinations may be a graduation requirement in some state/provincial jurisdictions. The principal must ensure that the school follows the mandated program. Where not mandated by law, the principal should consult with the LCOE and UCOE before deciding whether or not to participate.

Grade Placement Tests: To assist in the accurate grade level placement of a student applying to a school for the first time, the following are grade level placement tests for consideration: QUIC Tests from Scholastic (on-line) (Grades 2-12). Universal Screening in Literacy: DIBELS Literacy and DIBELS Math (K-6).

HOMESCHOOL STUDENTS

Schools may admit students who have previously been enrolled in homeschool. Homeschooling varies widely in instructional design and the use of curriculum resources. Therefore, part of the admissions process should include appropriate documentation to evaluate student learning. This should be completed before grade placement and/or granting secondary credit for homeschool subjects. Schools must follow union/local conference policy and applicable state/provincial regulations regarding the acceptance of homeschool credits and testing for grade placement.

Generally, secondary credits that are accepted from a homeschool should have grades recorded as a pass/fail. Credits already granted for homeschooling by another accredited school should be accepted.

The principal should ensure that the school has a policy regarding homeschool participation in academic courses and co-curricular activities. Such a policy should include consideration of student accident insurance, tuition/fees, supervision, etc.

INNOVATIVE AND ALTERNATE CURRICULUM APPROVAL

The principal should encourage faculty to explore innovative curriculum and instructional programs that have been shown to enhance student learning. Such programs must continue to be faith-based and meet NADOE standards.

Before implementing an innovative or alternate curriculum, consult the union Education Code for the authorization protocol. Successful innovations require that the principal plan for staff development, effective implementation, and regular program evaluation.