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Curriculum is a critical factor in student academic success, but currently available curricula vary dramatically in term of quality. Rhode Island is committed to ensuring all students have access to a consistent curricular framework and use of high-quality instructional materials.

Curriculum Definition

Curriculum is a standards -based sequence of planned experiences where students practice and achieve proficiency in  content and applied learning skills. Curriculum is the central guide for all educators as to what is essential for teaching and learning, so that every student has access to rigorous academic experiences. The structure, organization, and considerations in a curriculum are created in order to enhance student learning and facilitate instruction. Curriculum must include the necessary goals, methods, materials and assessments to effectively support instruction and learning.  


Goals within a curriculum are the standards-based benchmarks or expectations for teaching and learning. Most often, goals are made explicit in the form of a scope and sequence of skills to be addressed. Goals must include the breadth and depth to which a student is expected to learn. 


Methods are the instructional decisions, approaches, procedures, and routines that teachers use to engage all students in meaningful learning. These choices support the facilitation of learning experiences in order to promote a student’s ability to understand and apply content and skills. Methods are differentiated to meet student needs and interests, task demands, and learning environment. Methods are adjusted based on ongoing review of student progress towards meeting the goals. 


Materials are the tools selected to implement methods and achieve the goals of the curriculum. Materials are intentionally chosen to support a student's learning. Material choices reflect student interest, cultural diversity, world perspectives, and address all types of diverse learners.  


Assessment in a curriculum is the ongoing process of gathering information about a student’s learning. This includes a variety of ways to document what the student knows, understands, and can do with their knowledge and skills. Information from assessment is used to make decisions about instructional approaches, teaching materials, and academic supports needed to enhance opportunities for the student and to guide future instruction.

Curriculum Definition Resources

As part of an overall strategy to have high-quality curriculum in all Rhode Island schools, the Rhode Island Department of Education felt it was an important first step to develop common language about curriculum. This effort starts with a definition of curriculum of which the whole state is aligned.

Why Curriculum Matters:  The Need for High-Quality Curriculum  

High-quality instructional materials are designed to help build a teacher’s content knowledge, provide guidance to inform lesson planning and offer structures to support collaboration with other teachers.

Research shows that students gain months of learning when teachers use high-quality instructional materials.  The average middle school student using aligned math textbooks gains about 8 months of additional learning compared with a student using unaligned materials (Kane & Owens, 2016). A 2013 quasi-experimental study from Mathematica conducted in five high-poverty Expeditionary Learning schools in Washington, D.C. and New York City found positive academic effects in both reading and math – and the positive impacts increased the longer the school used the materials (Expeditionary Learning is a highly standards-aligned curriculum).

High Quality Curriculum

High-quality curriculum materials have been verified as aligned to rigorous college- and career-ready standards. When defining high-quality curriculum materials Rhode Island is adopting the work of EdReports a nationally recognized organization providing expert reviews of materials.

EdReports is an independent nonprofit designed to improve K-12 education that provides free reviews of K-12 instructional materials based on alignment to college and career-ready standards. EdReports conducted research into the use commonly used rubrics, observed review processes and trainings, gathered input from more than 500 educators on criteria and rubrics, and convened an Anchor Educator Working Group (AEWG) of expert practitioners to inform the creation of their review tools. Content area and grade span specific review criteria are available for download here.

Achieve also has posted examples of high-quality instructional materials that have been evaluated by the EQuIP Peer Review Panel for Science.  Science units that have earned the highest rating on the EQuIP Rubric are designated with the NGSS Design Badge.  

Tools for Evaluating, Selecting, and Improving Curriculum

EdReports is an independent non-profit designed to improve K-12 education that provides free reviews of K-12 instructional materials based on alignment to college and career-ready standards.

  • Making the Most of Your Curriculum Materials - from EdReports – Mathematics and English Language Arts guides to help education communities analyze how well instructional materials are aligned and what adjustments may need to be considered in order to ensure all students have access to high-quality resources.

Textbook Alignment and Adoptions - from Achieve the Core - Review tools for textbook alignment to the shifts and textbook adaptations.  

Achieve has developed a range of tools that can be used to evaluate science instructional materials for their alignment to the Next Generation Science Standards.  

Curriculum Research and Resources

Site Documents

Documents on this site require the use of the following programs:

DOC - Microsoft Word

PDF - Acrobat Reader

PPT - Microsoft PowerPoint

XLS - Microsoft Excel