Years ago, at the height of the No Child Left Behind era, I visited a school that was working on mapping their curricula. Teams of teachers were huddled around chart papers in the library creating colorful timelines of units, standards, and assessments. The curious thing about the timelines was that they ended in the first week of March for several of the teams. They told me this was because that by the time the state testing window rolled around, they normally have covered all the standards. When I asked what comes after testing, they had a variety of ideas ranging from “fun” to “review” to “preparing the kids for next year when things really get hard.” A school year is more than 180 days, and your curriculum should leverage every one of them.
That same year working with a different school that was also striving to meet an AYP benchmark that had eluded them, I was shown a different version of a curriculum map from a team of eighth grade language arts teachers. This one was different in that it extended the whole school year. However, this one had a stop to the units and standards in early February with just a single box extending to March that said “test prep.” The team shared with me a comprehensive packet they had worked on for a few years to perfect. It included lessons on pre-reading questions before reading the passage, daily short answer prompts with checklists to remind students to use complete sentences and precise punctuation, and a comprehensive treatment of how to craft a superior five-paragraph essay.