The Definition of Curriculum Alignment

Written by jennifer tolbert
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The Definition of Curriculum Alignment
Curriculum alignment is the planning of instruction across different grade levels. (school image by Jerome Dancette from

Curriculum alignment has become an increasingly important part of curriculum and development in public schools. Curriculum alignment or curriculum mapping ensures that the public schools are in-line with requirements set forth by the national and state governments as well as to improve teaching methods by increasing communication among educators.


According to, curriculum alignment is the "alignment between curriculum and one or more of the following elements: state standards, standardised tests and/or state tests, curriculum-embedded tests, student assignments, lesson plans, textbooks and instruction." The process prevents educators from overlapping or skipping content that is essential to meeting state and national standards. Curriculum alignment facilitates communication among educators as they plan for both horizontal and vertical alignment of the curriculum.

Vertical Alignment

Vertical alignment of curriculum is planning curriculum across the grade levels, from Kindergarten through high school, building upon instruction based upon standards. Correct vertical curriculum alignment improves student performance by decreasing the amount of instructional time consumed with re-teaching concepts. Vertical alignment is dependent upon vertically aligned state-based standards and evaluated through state testing.

Horizontal Alignment

Horizontal alignment is the alignment of the curriculum being taught by teachers in a common grade level. This alignment is many times referred to as a "pacing guide." Horizontal alignment provides teachers with a guide, or goal, for their instruction. It also helps students by ensuring that each student is adequately prepared for the next grade and state assessment.

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB)

According to a policy report by Betsy Case, Ph.D. for Pearson, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 required that each state administer standardised achievement assessments and that they must align with standards in English, math, and science. The passage of NCLB has educators creating vertical and horizontal curriculum alignments in order to meet the standards of NCLB and improve their students assessment scores.

Curriculum Team

Most school districts begin the curriculum alignment process by forming a curriculum team. This team is composed of teachers, department leaders, content specialists, and administrators who work together to create a curriculum map. A curriculum map is fluid document that should constantly be reviewed and improved. A curriculum map should address the educational needs of the entire student population being served and should capture the content and skills every teacher in the school is teaching. They should also strive to deliver the vision of the content map in an easy to read, visual format for the teachers to use in lesson planning.

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