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This lesson will define K-12 Curriculum as a general term used by educators to describe courses, goals for learning, and learning activities experienced by students in grades kindergarten through twelve.

What Is K-12 Curriculum?

In the field of education, K-12 refers to grades kindergarten through twelve where attendance is compulsory.Curriculum can have multiple meanings, though the term generally describes, in some form or another, the learning experiences students have in the classroom.

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Curriculum can refer to:

  • the courses or subjects students study in school
  • the general learning goals and activities for a course, set of courses, or grade level
  • the specific learning objectives or standards to be mastered

K-12 Curriculum as a general educational term typically refers to the content being taught and the learning experiences students have in the school setting in grades kindergarten through twelve. Now let’s look at some more specific ways in which curriculum can be defined.

Courses or Subjects Taught

In a broad sense, K-12 Curriculum can refer to the courses or subjects taught in school.

For example, in the early elementary or primary grades, the curriculum usually includes courses in reading, writing, and mathematics. It may also include courses in social studies, science, music, art, and/or physical education. In high school, the subjects taught may be more specialized, like algebra, art history, Latin, orchestra, or biology.

Learning Objectives and Activities

More commonly in the field of education, K-12 Curriculum refers to the learning objectives and activities taught across grade levels.

An example of a general learning objective for grades K-12 is for students to become proficient readers of grade-level appropriate texts. Another general learning objective is for students to apply their knowledge of mathematics to solve real-world problems. An example of a more specific learning objective in elementary school is for students to be able to correctly solve multiplication problems involving two digit factors.

An example of a K-12 learning activity is for students to work in groups to conduct experiments using the scientific method. Or students might create historically accurate costumes from a specified era. Yet another learning activity might be for students to correctly label all fifty United States on a printed map.

When educators talk about the K-12 curriculum, they’re often referring to these types of activities: learning experiences that students have in the classroom.

State or Common Core State Standards

As of 2015, the Common Core State Standards have been adopted in forty-six of the fifty United States. These academic standards for learning outline and articulate exactly what teachers should teach and what students are expected to learn at each grade level in various subjects. The standards have been developed over time by panels of experts in education and provide a foundation for learning and assessment across subjects and grade levels.

K-12 curriculum, therefore, is often made up of a sequence of state and Common Core State Standards.The Common Core State Standards focus on learning objectives in English language arts and literacy and mathematics. State standards often include learning objectives for other subjects, like science, social studies and humanities, and even art, physical education, and music. Often, when educators talk about the K-12 Curriculum, they’re talking about the scope and sequence of these learning standards as they are covered in schools across grade levels.

The standards not only help educators identify which concepts and skills to teach, but they also provide standards for measuring student mastery. A solid K-12 curriculum should align with the standards and follow a logical sequence or path for learning as students move through the grade levels. The K-12 curriculum usually aligns directly with the instruments and assessments adopted for measuring student success, including standardized statewide testing.

Lesson Summary

K-12 curriculum is a broad educational term with multiple meanings.

While there is no single perfect definition for the term, here are a few key things to remember:

  • K-12 curriculum can refer to the courses or subjects taught in school from grades kindergarten through twelve.
  • As it is used in the field of education, K-12 curriculum usually refers to the specific learning objectives and activities experienced by students in grades kindergarten through twelve.
  • The K-12 curriculum is most clearly defined by the state and/or Common Core State Standards of learning adopted in a school community and typically outlines a sequence of instruction and assessments directly aligned to those learning standards.

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