I can vividly remember my first few days as a new school administrator. I remember getting in a routine of greeting students as they exited buses and cars and entered the building. I remember the strange feeling when that first bell rang to start school, and I didn’t have a classroom full of students to teach. I remember peeking in classrooms and feeling the satisfaction of seeing students listening to their teachers and working diligently on the tasks assigned to them. What I don’t remember is ever considering that the work students were doing might be misaligned with their grade level.
Over the past few years, I have visited many schools in both my previous role as the director of instructional support at a professional development and curricular support organization and my current position as the chief academic officer of Jackson-Madison County public schools in Tennessee. When approaching these school visits with alignment to grade-level standards as the primary consideration, I have observed that the most common assumption school leaders make is one that doesn’t even occur to many as a topic that merits consideration. It’s an assumption so deeply ingrained in the day-to-day functions of school life that it can be hard to step back far enough to get a clear picture: that teachers have received enough training and resources to craft a full school year’s worth of aligned curriculum for their students.