News and Speeches

Chancellor Walcott Announces New Curriculum Selected For City Schools To Prepare Students For More Rigorous State Standards


New high-quality curriculum options align with the Common Core and will be available for grades K-8 this fall

New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott today announced the selection of new high-quality Core Curriculum options for grades K through 8 that are aligned to the Common Core Learning Standards. New York City is among the first large urban school districts in the nation to select curricula aligned to the new standards, which have been adopted by 45 states and Washington, D.C. and provide a clear picture of what students need to learn each year in order to graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and careers. Building on its work over the past three school years to support teachers and school staff with the transition to the Common Core, the Department is recommending a set of math and English curriculum options for grades K-8 and will spend the coming months supporting principals and teachers in becoming familiar with these new materials. Schools will have the opportunity to order materials later this spring and begin using them in classrooms in the fall.

“Over the last few years, thanks to the work our schools have been doing to transition to the Common Core standards, we have made significant progress toward our goal of ensuring that all of our students are ready to take on the challenges of college and careers,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott. “After a rigorous review of dozens of materials, we are ready to recommend a strong set of first-generation curricula that will support our educators in continuing this most important work.”

“The Common Core standards represent an opportunity to improve the quality of teaching and learning in schools across the City,” said Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky. “The curricular supports we are recommending are another addition to the important tools schools are equipping themselves with to help improve outcomes for students.”

The process of selecting the new curricula began last June when the authors of the Common Core standards released a set of rigorous guidelines called the “Publishers’ Criteria,” designed to guide curriculum vendors in aligning their instructional materials to the Common Core in elementary and middle school. NYC was one of 30 urban school districts across the country to commit to using these criteria to evaluate curriculum materials. That same month, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) shared sample test questions and information about how State tests for grades 3-8 would begin to change in the spring of 2013 to reflect the Common Core. With this critical guidance in place, NYC began conducting an intensive research process to find the highest-quality Common Core-aligned curriculum materials for elementary and middle schools in both English and math. Teacher-leaders from across NYC worked with national experts, districts across the country and network and central staff to evaluate a wide array of curriculum resources.

“New York City is paving the way for other major city school systems across the country by adhering to a rigorous and transparent process for procuring new instructional materials in a way that will ensure publishers deliver the texts we need and teachers realize the full promise of the Common Core State Standards,” said Mike Casserly, Executive Director of the Council For Great City Schools.

“Student Achievement Partners applauds the fact that New York City has put the Common Core State Standards Publishers’ Criteria at the center of their instructional materials selection process, and commends their ongoing work to provide students and teachers with materials that are aligned with the shifts required by the Common Core,” said Susan Pimental, Founding Principal of Student Achievement Partners and one of the authors of the Common Core standards.

For math, the Department is recommending Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Go Math for grades K-5, and Pearson’s Connected Math Program 3 for grades 6-8.  Both sets of materials are strongly aligned to the instructional shifts required by the Common Core standards: they focus deeply on a narrower set of key topics for each grade, clearly connect students’ learning across grade levels, and ensure students have the opportunity to both practice skills and apply their thinking to real-world problems.

For English Language Arts, the Department is recommending that schools select either NYSED’s Core Knowledge or Pearson’s ReadyGen for grades K-2, either of which could be used by a school as a stand-alone curriculum or paired with the Fundations phonics program. For grades 3-5, the DOE is recommending that schools either continue with ReadyGen or select NYSED’s Expeditionary Learning curriculum. Expeditionary Learning is also recommended for grades 6-8, along with Scholastic’s Codex.  While varying in style and structure, these programs—like those the DOE is recommending in math—hew tightly to the Common Core’s instructional shifts: they include a balance of rigorous fiction and non-fiction texts, build students’ academic vocabulary and knowledge across content areas, and engage students in using evidence from texts to make oral and written arguments.

The Department of Education believes that the selected programs represent the highest-quality Common Core-aligned curriculum materials currently available. They include brand new curriculum materials and materials that are being updated to fully reflect the shifts required by the Common Core standards.

Common Core-aligned State tests for high school students will be phased in on a rolling basis starting next school year. The Department of Education is partnering with NYSED to develop curricular options for high schools; these resources will begin to be available this summer. In addition, the State is in the process of releasing strong curricular materials in mathematics. Materials are still under development and will become available online this summer and will be complete by December.

New York City began its work on the Common Core standards in 2010, when the State first adopted the new standards. Beginning with a Common Core pilot program in 100 schools in the 2010-11 school year, the DOE went on to develop extensive resources to support schools with the complex transition. In the spring of 2011, the DOE launched the Common Core Library, an online resource for principals, teachers, and parents that now includes dozens of training modules in addition to units of curriculum and assessment tasks aligned to the Common Core at every grade level in English and math—more than 60 in total. Since its launch, the Common Core Library has received nearly 200,000 unique users from NYC and across the country, with some individual resources being downloaded many thousands of times. Over the past two school years teachers have been using these units in their classrooms and learning from them to adapt their existing lesson plans to align with the Common Core. Last school year, every student in NYC had the opportunity to engage in a Common Core-aligned unit of curriculum in both literacy and math. This year, every student is taking part in at least two Common Core-aligned units of curriculum across all core subject areas.

The Department plans to support interested schools in purchasing and training teachers to use these materials. In addition to sharing these recommended options the DOE plans to share its learnings about alternative curriculum programs to inform principals’ decisions when selecting the best options for their schools. Schools will have the opportunity to learn more about available options at the Curriculum Showcase this spring.