Curriculum Review

On October 23, I began a blog post trying to collect my thoughts around our work in standards over the past four years. As I have organized (and reorganized) those thoughts, the post has evolved into plans for a presentation at the 2017 Iowa Bandmasters Association conference as well as a companion website of "how" we did our work in standards. This is the first in a series of posts detailing the "how."

Every K-12 music teacher in Ankeny went through the curriculum review process in 2012-2013. As part of that process, they developed a Music Curriculum Review Summary upon which we based our work as a data-driven professional learning community. This year (2016-2017), we have been reviewing our decisions, ensuring we are adequately answering the four fundamental questions of a high-functioning PLC:

  1. What do we want students to learn/know/be able to do? (Standards)

  2. How will we know they have learned it? (Assessment)

  3. How will we respond when they have not learned it? (Remediation)

  4. How will we respond when they have learned it? (Extension)

Dr. Wendy Barden uses a similar infographic in her workshops on standards-based grading:


In our world, her levels of standards-based instruction and assessment blend together as we teach towards standards, formatively and summatively assess those standards, and respond to the data collected from those assessments.

Curriculum Review Process

The information included in this next section comes from our latest Curriculum Review Guidelines (September 2016), a Google Doc for which I do not have the rights to share. I have, however, been given permission to share content from that document. More information can be found on our district's Teacher Leadership blog in a post on Curriculum Review.

Here is what our district provides for our Curriculum Writing Cycle:


Vocal and Instrumental Music are currently in Year 5 (2016-2017) of the process, having gone through curriculum review in the 2012-2013 school year. Based on how Science (Year 1) and Career & Technical Education (Year 2) are going through the process this year, I am imagining Vocal and Instrumental Music Teachers will be permitted to apply for the Curriculum Leadership Team. This team will consist of representation from "all buildings, all grade levels, and all courses," "support areas" (instructional coaches, special education, gifted and talented, teacher librarians, and English as a Second Language teachers) as needed, and elementary and secondary administrators. Based on those descriptions, we'd see something like this:


I'd be curious how this would play out for all of our music teachers. All of us have a number of roles across different courses and several across different buildings.

Year 1: Grade Level Standards

The first thing that the CLT focuses on is building a background knowledge in content literacy using the Iowa Core literacy standards. The team then "generates a philosophy, or mission statement (emphasis mine), that addresses what an Ankeny Community Schools graduate should know and be able to do as a result of the learning the student gains from coursework in this content area." This Mission Statement helps develop the Course Purpose that "outlines the focus areas for each grade and course. The Mission Statement and Course Purpose guide the Grade Level Standards. At the secondary level, the Course Purpose is turned into a course description. These quotes and paraphrases come from our Curriculum Review Guidelines.


Next, using national and/or state standards, the Curriculum Leadership Team begins unpacking the standards. The purpose of unpacking the standards is to clearly determine and articulate what we wants students to Know, Understand, and be able to Do. This process aligns with the first question high-functioning Professional Learning Communities tackle, "What do we want students to know and be able to do?"

Curriculum Review Guidelines, September 2016

I imagine that in this stage of the process, we would look at the National Core Arts Standards as well as the Iowa Core Curriculum's Instrumental-Vocal Music Companion. I'm curious how we will work with their General Music Companion. From our previous curriculum review, we identified the following standards for 6-12 Vocal/Instrumental Music:


"Due to the large number of Iowa Core standards, it becomes necessary to organize the content/skills into a manageable document for teachers." (Curriculum Review Guidelines, September 2016). We are asked to prioritize standards into three separate areas: focus areasfoundational areas, and introductory areas.

According to the Teacher Leadership post about Curriculum Review:

Focus Areas are the content/skills ALL students WILL know and demonstrate by the time they exit their grade or course... (70% of instructional time)

Foundational Areas establish a solid understanding for the next grade or course... (20% of instructional time)

Introductory Areas provde just that - an introduction or overview of content/skills... (10% of instructional time)

"To communicate ongoing student progress towards mastery of the required standards, Grade Level Standard Rubrics will be created." (Curriculum Review Guidelines, September 2016). After the 2012-2013 curriculum review, we developed and refined the following wind and percussion rubrics:


Similarly, teachers will develop common formative assessments during Year 2.

Next, "Learning Targets are created from the Grade Level Standards and Components. Daily Learning Targets are simple, student-friendly statements describing what a student will know and demonstrate as a result of instruction that day."

Then, the CLT develops curriculum maps. "Guided by the work of Hayes-Jacobs (1997) and Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins (UbD - 1998), curriculum review team members generate unit (themed or by content/skill) expectations to be taught and assessed."

Finally, the CLT creates a professional development plan "to support the full implementation of the curriculum in the content area."

Years 2 and 3: Resource Selection and Development of Common Assessments

"The next task of the CLT is to identify, analyze, and select curriculum resources that will best support the delivery of the new curriculum." As part of the 2012-2013 curriculum review, our team identified the following resources:

  • Grades 6-7: Student Instrumental Course: Level 1, Alfred Music

  • Grades 8-9: Student Instrumental Course: Level 2, Alfred Music

  • Grades 10-12: Rubank Advanced Method: Volume 1, Hal Leonard

"CLT members collaborate to create content-area common assessments for each grade level and/or course... Authentic, valid, and reliable common summative assessments are created by the CLT representatives.  Rubrics for the assessments are created at this time.  In addition, common formative assessments used as evidence of learning are created - along with rubrics or supporting documents required for implementation."

Years 4 and 5: Implement and Monitor

We have tried a number of different ways of implementing our designed curriculum, many of which I have detailed in other posts or on our data-driven website:

  • Vertical Teaching: Our 6-12 team of five teaches lessons and ensemble rehearsals across three buildings every day.

  • Standards-Based Practices: Our district asks us to implement standards-based (now standards-referenced, more on that in a future post) practices in our teaching.

  • Takadimi and Solfege: We use takadimi and solfege to teach rhythmic and tonal literacy, respectively.

  • Collecting Data: This has looked different nearly every year we have implemented it! Check out Year 1, Year 2, Year 3, and Year 4. We have also begun recording assessments this year.

  • SmartMusic: We currently have our feet in both worlds of the Classic SmartMusic and the new SmartMusic Web.

  • Infinite Campus: Our district uses Infinite Campus as a reporting tool. We have been adapting it to work with our standards-based practices.

  • Solo Project: All of our 6-12 students prepare and perform a solo as part of our curriculum.

  • Ensemble Project: All of our 9-12 students also prepare and perform a small ensemble as part of our curriculum.

  • Jazz Band Standards: We spent time developing standards for our extra-curricular jazz ensembles.


Burton Hable

Burton Hable is an instrumental music educator from Central Iowa. In 2013 he helped open Centennial High School in Ankeny, the first time in forty years that a school district in Iowa expanded to two high schools. He served there through 2018 as Assistant Director of Bands: conducting the 10th Grade Symphonic Band, directing the varsity Jazz Collective, co-directing the Centennial Marching and Pep Bands, teaching music theory, and providing individual and small group lessons to brass students in grades 6-12 at Prairie Ridge Middle School, Northview Middle School, and Centennial High School. During his tenure in Ankeny, enrollment in band grew from 450 to nearly 700, the jazz program expanded from four to seven ensembles, and ensembles under his direction were invited to perform at Iowa State University, Harper College, and the Veterans Day Parade in New York City.