Data & AssessmentAssessment Design Assessment DesignCreate/Select a Quality Pacing Guide

Create/Select a Quality Pacing Guide

A pacing guide is sometimes referred to as a curriculum map, scope and sequence, standards schedule, instructional calendar, or road map. It is specific to a particular content area and level (e.g., 9th grade Algebra 1) and details when particular content standards should be taught and/or assessed. While still offering teachers flexibility on how to teach, its integration with common assessments is crucial to judging student progress (e.g., to turn "Students didn't know that answer because I haven't taught that yet" into "I covered that and expected students to do better; now I know some students require intervention, and I might change the way I'm teaching that").

Whether you are crafting a pacing guide from scratch or selecting one that has already been written (e.g., from a publisher or other district), there are many considerations you must keep in mind in order to best help students, teachers, and other stakeholders. This lesson walks you through important pacing guide design considerations.

Also, there are many theories on what a "Pacing Guide" does and does not include, and many theories on the form it will take. Your staff will likely require pacing guide information in different formats based on what they are doing. This lesson will highlight 4 popular formats.

Where to Start

Where to Start

A team effort is your best bet at a quality pacing guide. While too large a group size can limit progress, having a minimum of 3 participants is strongly recommended.

Have related resources handy. For example:

Terminology

Terminology

You are likely (and it is recommended) to be working on a pacing guide with a team of colleagues who have experience and expertise in the area (e.g., grade/level and subject) for which you are crafting or selecting the guide. To be sure you are all speaking the same language, it is helpful to address these frequently-misunderstood terms:

Assessment

As assessment is anything by which we can measure student learning. Thus is might be a multiple-choice test (often selected for its efficiency and objective scoring), but it might also be a portfolio, composition, speech, set of open response questions, task, lab activity... numerous options are available. An ideal assessment measures student learning in a way that fits the standards being measured. While common assessments might measure learning for a standard in one way, it's important that teachers use multiple measures (i.e., measure it in a variety of ways).

Benchmark

A benchmark assessment is 1 in a series that measures student progress on crucial goals throughout the school year. Terms may cross over; for example, benchmark assessments are typically common assessments, etc.

Common

A common assessment is one that teachers in similar classrooms all administer in a similar way. In other words, all 7th Grade English teachers administer 7th Grade ELA Assessment 1 at the end of September, then they all administer 7th Grade ELA Assessment 2 at the end of November, etc. This allows teachers to check students' progress as a whole (e.g., entire site), compare results to share what is working in their classrooms, etc. Remember that terms may cross over: e.g., a common assessment may also be an interim assessment, etc.

Formative

A common misunderstanding is that a test is either summative or formative; in actuality, these terms describe what you do with the results, and a test may be used for both summative and formative purposes. Formative "tests" give teachers and students feedback at regular intervals throughout the course of instruction so they can then act upon this feedback to improve learning. This feedback may come from a formal assessment, or it may simply be on-the-spot feedback from a response board, clickers, etc.

Interim

Interim assessments are those administered at regular intervals. Remember that terms may cross over: e.g., an interim assessment may also be a common assessment, it can be used for formative or summative purposes, etc.

Pacing Guide

A pacing guide is sometimes referred to as a curriculum map, scope and sequence, standards schedule, instructional calendar, or road map. It is specific to a particular content area and level (e.g., 9th grade Algebra 1) and details when particular content standards should be taught and/or assessed. While still offering teachers flexibility on how to teach, its integration with common assessments is crucial to judging student progress (e.g., to turn "Students didn't know that answer because I haven't taught that yet" into "I covered that and expected students to do better; now I know some students require intervention, and I might change the way I'm teaching that").

Summative

Remember that a test can be both summative and formative. Summative testing involves using test results to evaluate the degree to which students have mastered contents/standards at a particular point in time. This can also involve evaluation of instructional programs, curriculum, practices, progress toward district goals, etc.

Reasons

Reasons

Why do you want a pacing guide?

  • Improve student performance and reduce gaps in student achievement.
  • Avoid gaps in learning when students transfer from school to school or move from grade/level to grade/level.
  • Avoid unintended repetition in learning when students transfer from school to school or move from grade/level to grade/level.
  • Render results that inform decisions made concerning (e.g., changes needed in) instructional strategies, programs, curriculum, etc.
  • Inform collaboration between educators.
  • Facilitate alignment of State Content Standards and National Common Core Standards.
  • Highlight cross-curricular opportunities.
  • Help teachers be more effective while making lesson planning easier and saving them time.
  • Help teachers and students make the most of their time.

Before You Create/Select a Pacing Guide

Before You Create/Select a Pacing Guide

Review any district or school directives (e.g., if the Action Plan Form available at https://www.illuminateed.com/media/AssessmentDesign-ActionPlanForm.pdf. has been completed, via the "Implement a System of Common Assessments" chapter in this manual, and recorded answers from the "Determine Some Specifics for Assessment Structure" step of the "Step 6. Determine Specifics" lesson).

Be sure you know the answers to these questions if there has already been a decision/directive (otherwise, make this decision as you work with the standards and complete this lesson):

  • How many assessments/units are involved?
  • Approximately how long will each assessment be?
  • Will there be a standards focus - e.g., only power/essential standards - or should all standards be accounted for evenly? Is this guide driven by State Content Standards, National Common Core Standards, or a combination of the two?
  • WIll all units/standards be assessed immediately after they are taught, and/or will there be any comprehensive testing (e.g., standards taught since the start of school, like a mock state test)?
  • Are there any special notes, such as district or school directives regarding dates (e.g., all teachers of all subjects and grades will assess Benchmark 1 on a particular date)?
  • What assessment naming conventions should be used (e.g., Grade 1 Math Benchmark 1, Grade 1 Math Benchmark 2, etc.)
  • Etc.

Sort Standards

Sort Standards

Now you're ready to determine which standards fit in which units (e.g., which standards will all be taught in the time leading up to Grade 7 English Benchmark 1, which will assess all of those standards, etc.).

1. Spread out your copies of the Creating Pacing Guide Unit Form available at https://www.illuminateed.com/media/AssessmentDesign-CreatingPacingUnitForm.pdf . You should have 1 copy for each common assessment your pacing guide will relate to (e.g., 10 form copies if your common assessment system will involve 10 assessments and thus 10 units).

2. Complete the "Test Name" portion of the forms if you know them already, as well as any other spaces at the top of the forms you're sure about (revise as necessary as you progress). You may add these details later (e.g., "Unit Short Name") as your standards are placed and finalized.

3. Cut up the standards that will be accounted for by your pacing guide so that you have a separate, sortable piece for each standard.

If you have access to sample pacing guides (e.g., from another school or district, one that came with your textbooks, one you used in the past, etc.), you may use it to help you determine which standard goes where. You might even place standards on the Creating Pacing Guide Unit Form according to one of those guides as a starting point. Either way (starting with an existing guide or starting from scratch), consider each of the following as you decide which standard should go in each unit:

  • Keep in mind the answers you determined in the "Where to Start" section of this lesson.

Also, read complete verbiage of the selected State Content Standard and/or National Common Core Standard being assessed and ask yourself:

  • "When is the best time to teach this standard?"
  • "What is the necessary rigor level? If it's tough, would the standard work better later in the school year and/or after other/preliminary standards are taught?" Review Bloom's Taxonomy as necessary.
  • "Which other standards will it work best with it terms of time (e.g., mastery of 1 standard may better prepare students for this standard, some standards can be taught within the same lessons, etc.)?"
  • "Which other standards will work best with it in terms of test format (e.g., is the assessment a speech with rubric, or a multiple choice test, etc.)?"

When you are finished sorting, review the standards in each unit/assessment. Checking for these aspects is especially important:

  • The testing dates/order works well for the standards (i.e., students should have mastered the standard by then).
  • The standards work well together (e.g., opportunities for lessons to combine multiple standards, standards are related, etc.).
  • Is the number of standards per unit/assessment/unit as ideal as possible (e.g., balanced, "doable," etc.)?
  • Consider the assessment series as a whole. Does it seem logical? Will it make sense to all stakeholders?

Make revisions as necessary, and complete all spaces at the top of the forms (discuss as necessary). Next, paste the standards into place.

Electronic Formats

Electronic Formats

There are many theories on what a "Pacing Guide" does and does not include, and many theories on the form it will take. Your staff will likely require pacing guide information in different formats based on what they are doing. This lesson will highlight 4 popular formats. You may add more or change the format of any of these to suit your needs, but note the unique benefit of each.

Open the "AssessmentDesign-PacingGuideSpreadsheets" Microsoft Excel file available at https://www.illuminateed.com/media/AssessmentDesign-PacingGuideSpreadsheets.xlsx for examples and templates for each of these (explained more below).

After you've opened the https://www.illuminateed.com/media/AssessmentDesign-PacingGuideSpreadsheets.xlsx Microsoft Excel file, note there are 8 separate spreadsheets within the same file. Look near the bottom of your screen and you'll see tabs, as seen in the image above. Click on any of these tabs to view the spreadsheet housed there. Here's an account of what the tabs contain:

  • Tab Label "ACalendarEx" = Pacing Guide Assessment Calendar Example
  • Tab Label "ACalendarForm" = Pacing Guide Assessment Calendar Form
  • Tab Label "LCalendarEx" = Pacing Guide Lesson Plan Calendar Example
  • Tab Label "LCalendarForm" = Pacing Guide Lesson Plan Calendar Form
  • Tab Label "StanListEx" = Pacing Guide Standards List Example
  • Tab Label "StanListForm" = Pacing Guide Standards List Form
  • Tab Label "StanMatrixEx" = Pacing Guide Standards Matrix Example
  • Tab Label "StanMatrixForm" = Pacing Guide Standards Matrix Form

Pacing Guide Assessment Calendar

Pacing Guide Assessment Calendar

View the Pacing Guide Assessment Calendar Example (from https://www.illuminateed.com/media/AssessmentDesign-PacingGuideSpreadsheets.xlsx file, tab "ACalendarEx"). While the abundance of information here can be daunting, it becomes very user-friendly once it's in use, as it communicates a lot of necessary information on one sheet. Colors and labels are used to communicate exactly when each assessment is administered, among other things (reteach, results analysis, intervention, etc.).

Note key features:

1. A key explains calendar terms.

2. Dates are provided for each week on the calendar, as well as the week # of the session. The latter makes it easier to “roll over” the calendar for the next year.

3. While other standards and concepts can also be covered, the calendar can summarize main concepts (e.g., sub-strands, power standards) that will be assessed at the end of the week(s).

4. Days of the week correspond with what is scheduled below.

5. Tests are frequent (you want to know right away if/what intervention is needed) and short.

6. Diagnostic only relates to standards students need to “hit the ground running” so teachers can plan according.

7. Assessment names are uniform and make it clear which test to give students.

8. Color coding tells teachers when to teach a concept, when it is first assessed, when a reteach (e.g., splitting students between colleagues or handled within the classroom) takes place as needed, when teachers analyze results together, and when any “next tier” interventions occur.

9. Common benchmark assessments also occur at regular intervals to catch old mastery that is slipping, gage progress, etc.

Now click the "ACalendarForm" tab on the https://www.illuminateed.com/media/AssessmentDesign-PacingGuideSpreadsheets.xlsx file to view a blank/form version you may use to add your own pacing guide information.

Pacing Guide Lesson Plan Calendar

Pacing Guide Lesson Plan Calendar

View the Pacing Guide Lesson Plan Calendar Example (from https://www.illuminateed.com/media/AssessmentDesign-PacingGuideSpreadsheets.xlsx file, tab "LCalendarEx"); note it is multiple pages long. This level of detail typically comes after your pacing guide is implemented and teachers discuss and share lessons that "work" (e.g., assessment data implies these lessons are successful with students).

This level of detail is not meant to be imposed on teachers (e.g., "You must teach this way!"); rather, it is intended as a powerful resource teachers may choose to use on an as-needed basis to help make their lives easier in their quest to provide students with quality lessons and assignments. Also, it should not be stagnant; rather, it should be forever evolving to contain the best lessons teachers using it find/create.

Note key features (many of which are similar to the Pacing Guide Assessment Calendar):

1. Dates are provided for each week on the calendar, as well as the week # of the session. The latter makes it easier to “roll over” the calendar for the next year.

2. Some subjects have simultaneously running units, as one set of standards integrates with that of the other (as demonstrated above).

3. While other standards and concepts can also be covered, the calendar can summarize main concepts (e.g., sub-strands, power standards) that will be assessed at the end of the week(s).

4. Days of the week correspond with what is scheduled below.

5. The calendar shows what is done in class, as well as what work is sent home with students (with the 2 correlating, of course).

6. Brief names are used to describe in-class lessons and homework, but another resource (e.g., binders in the faculty lounge cabinets) should contain these lessons in an easy-to-find order so teachers can easily locate the exact lesson and homework assignment to which the calendar refers.

Now click the "LCalendarForm" tab on the https://www.illuminateed.com/media/AssessmentDesign-PacingGuideSpreadsheets.xlsx file to view a blank/form version you may use to add your own pacing guide information.

Pacing Guide Standards List

Pacing Guide Standards List

View the Pacing Guide Standards List Example (from https://www.illuminateed.com/media/AssessmentDesign-PacingGuideSpreadsheets.xlsx file, tab "StanListEx"); note it is multiple pages long. All standards for a particular content area are listed, as well as when they are assessed and more.

This format is great for teachers not necessarily familiar with content standard abbreviations being used in pacing guide information. Also, the Microsoft Excel format allows users to easily sort by any column's criteria (e.g., they may sort it chronologically, by standard name, by sub-strand, etc.).

Note key features:

1. While this particular example has separate columns for domain, strand, sub-strand, and standard (so users may sort information by any criteria), your version does not have to do this. However, if you merely list the standard, be sure its easy for users to know what it relates to.

2. Including the common assessment that assesses each standard as its own columns allows users to sort by benchmark and easily see a list of standards they should be focusing on during a particular time period.

3. Quarter (or trimester, semester, etc.) and the week # of the session make it clear when students should be expected to demonstrate mastery of the standard. This feature (as opposed to just dates - though you may certainly include them, as well) makes it easier to “roll over” the list for the next school year.

Now click the "StanListForm" tab on the https://www.illuminateed.com/media/AssessmentDesign-PacingGuideSpreadsheets.xlsx file to view a blank/form version you may use to add your own pacing guide information.

Pacing Guide Standards Matrix

Pacing Guide Standards Matrix

View the Pacing Guide Standards Matrix Example (from https://www.illuminateed.com/media/AssessmentDesign-PacingGuideSpreadsheets.xlsx file, tab "StanListEx"). All standards for a particular content area are featured in an abbreviated format, as are all common assessments, so users can easily see "the big picture" via a single, post-able sheet.

Note key features:

1. The common assessment number makes sequence clear (e.g., "Is this the 2nd common assessment we're giving?").

2. Quarter (or trimester, semester, etc.) and the week # of the session make it clear when students should be expected to demonstrate mastery of the standard. This feature (as opposed to just dates - though you may certainly include them, as well) makes it easier to “roll over” the list for the next school year.

3. Writing out the name of the unit/assessment helps communicate the teaching focus.

4. Since only standard abbreviation appear here, be sure teachers all know how to access their meaning. For example, provide them with copies of the Pacing Guide Standards List (explained earlier), include a key on the front or back of this matrix, or do the same with a web address to an online key.

5. Anytime a standard (as featured in the first column) has its mastery assessed by the assessment, place an X in the box below the appropriate assessment.

6. If you opt to distinguish between particular standards (e.g., those you've deemed as power standards or essential standards), you might want to "fill in" certain boxes or use a color-code system. Just be sure all users know what the differences mean.

7. A row at the bottom totaling standards (on which each assessment focuses) can help you check the balance of your assessment series and manage your time. For example, Common Assessment 8 (above) assesses far more standards than the other tests. Does this require revision, or is there a reason for it and will time allow for it? These are the kinds of questions that might arise as you create your own.

Now click the "StanMatrixForm" tab on the https://www.illuminateed.com/media/AssessmentDesign-PacingGuideSpreadsheets.xlsx file to view a blank/form version you may use to add your own pacing guide information.

Implementation

Implementation

A pacing guide can constitute a big change for teachers, and the way you handle its roll-out is crucial. There are free ways to survey entire grade levels or subject areas (e.g., Survey Monkey, Google Forms, etc.) to obtain feedback on your pacing guide draft(s). Note that free, electronic surveying options will require minimal time compared to hard-copy or email approaches.

You should acquire feedback from teachers before your pacing guide is put into use. While feedback is definitely welcome afterward and revisions are possible, teachers will be reorganizing their school year (lessons, photocopies, computer files, etc.) according to the plan you put into place, and you don't want to keep throwing changes at them. Also, assessments should be crafted to accompany this pacing guide, so any changes down the road would mean changes to assessments, as well. You should therefore try to catch any necessary changes before the school year begins, and afterward you should not make changes lightly. Thus, the more time teachers can spend dissecting the guide ahead of time to provide feedback and have changes considered, the better. Remember to include other stakeholders (e.g., administrators, curriculum heads, instructional coaches, etc.), as well.

When pacing guide materials are finalized, be sure everyone who needs copies has copies. These should be posted somewhere online, and teachers should have electronic copies so they can add their own notes, save time if posting standards onto other documents, etc. The Pacing Guide Lesson Plan Calendar Example and Pacing Guide Lesson Plan Calendar Form (from https://www.illuminateed.com/media/AssessmentDesign-PacingGuideSpreadsheets.xlsx file) can be helpful resources as teachers plan to instruct according to the guide.

Next Steps

Next Steps

Once your pacing guide is in place, you'll want and need assessments to match the determined units. Refer to the "Write/Select Quality Questions" lesson and the "Create/Select a Quality Assessment" lesson for guidance.