The Importance Vertical Alignment

One of the most critical questions a school can ask itself about curriculum is, “Do we know what we do, and why we do it?” In answering this question, Second Baptist School began a two-year vertical alignment initiative in order to define and align student outcomes between grades PK-12. In doing this, we ensure clarity and transparency with content and skills taught at every level, contributing meaningfully to the goals SBS has for its graduates.
In the fall, SBS faculty prepared and updated necessary curriculum documents for their individual courses or grade levels, identifying learning objectives and student outcomes. This spring, teachers spent time collaborating within their division to align these courses and map the progression of skills and content within each subject, documenting how their course or grade level adds value to students as they progress through lower, middle and upper school.
This curriculum work yielded rich conversation and in-depth analysis of learning standards, teaching focal points and curricular needs. At the end of this school year, each division will be ready to enter the next phase of vertical alignment. During the 2018-2019 school year, our faculty will discuss and analyze cross-divisional work, to understand the larger picture of curriculum and how each course, further develops academic skills and knowledge for an academically excellent education. As we align with the desired student outcomes for our graduates, we will examine how each course or grade level fulfills to our mission.
Vertical alignment has a direct impact on our school. When teachers have time to deeply plan with their colleagues, there is increased definition and purpose in their teaching objectives. Teachers are able to identify areas of curricular need with regard to timing and sequencing, curricular overlap, and gaps in teaching and learning. In addition, the collaboration inherent in vertical alignment develops unity within and across school levels.
The impact of vertical alignment on students is felt in the classroom. A classroom guided by carefully-considered learning objectives and standards is a classroom that provides excellent teaching and learning opportunities. When teachers understand more deeply why they teach what they teach, student learning opportunities become more than just a lesson. Each lesson becomes a step along the path of a student’s academic development. With greater alignment, students are more prepared to take the next step in their skills and knowledge each academic year. Students may not understand the vertical alignment process, but they are the recipients of the work, receiving a streamlined, effective and well-aligned education.

The vertical alignment process is an institutional experience that facilitates collaboration, analysis and deep reflection of the school’s curriculum. This alignment process allows our school to reflect on the strengths of our current curriculum, while also identifying areas in which we can grow and align more closely with one another. Throughout this process, we have felt encouraged by our faculty’s professional expertise, our students’ academic experience and the partnership and collaboration we have observed amongst our teachers. While this may be a two-year initiative, our school is committed to continuously aligning our curriculum to provide a meaningful and seamless academic experience for all students.

Click here to view photos of the vertical alignment process.