OCASD Curriculum Development


A. Assessment Terms
B. Understanding by Design (UbD)
C. Components of the UbD Template with Instructions
D. Which Standards to Use and Finding the Eligible Content
E. Useful


Assessment–Techniques used to analyze student accomplishment against specific goals and criteria
Authentic Assessment–Performance tasks and activities designed to simulate or replicate important real-world challenge
Benchmark Assessment–A scheduled assessment used to measure mastery of a grade level concept
Criterion-Referenced–Describes a student’s performance according to established criteria (i.e., typing 55 words per minute)
Diagnostic Assessment–Assessment before instruction to determine students’ specific strengths and weaknesses
Formative Assessment–Assessment used during instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning
Norm-Referenced–Describes a student’s performance by comparison to other, similar students (i.e., typed better than 80% of classmates)
Reliability–The degree to which the results of an assessment are dependable and yield consistent results across raters, over time, or across different versions of the same test
Summative Assessment–Assessment that shows overall progress at the end of a period of instruction (i.e., PSSAs, KEs, unit tests, mid-term tests)
Standardized–A set of consistent procedures for constructing, administering and scoring an assessment
Validity–How well an assessment measures what it was intended to measure; the degree of accuracy of predictions

B. Understanding by Design (UbD)

UbD—In the words of its co-creator, Jay McTighe:

“UbD is a way of thinking purposefully about curricular planning and school reform. It offers a 3-stage design process, a set of helpful design tools, and design standards–not a rigid program or prescriptive recipe. The primary goal of UbD is student understanding: the ability to make meaning of “big ideas” and transfer their learning. UbD “unpacks” and transforms Content Standards into the relevant Stage 1 elements (Goals: Standards and Eligible Content) and appropriate assessments in Stage 2 (Performance Tasks and Assessment Evidence). Stage 3 is the Learning Plan/Agenda which lists the sequence of learning activities and assessments.”

Backward Design–An approach whereby teachers focus on what constitutes sound evidence of student achievement. What must you see in order to know that students achieved understanding? Teachers next determine acceptable evidence of achievement in understanding (quizzes, homework, performance tasks, homework, etc.). Teachers then “go back” to design the standards-based learning necessary to achieve true understanding.

Stephen Covey in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People writes:

“To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you are going so you can better understand where you are now so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”

C. Components of the UbD Template in Order with Instructions

Established Goals—Include Standards (PA Academic and PA Core); PA Eligible Content (EC) and PA Core Eligible Content. Typically copied and pasted from SAS into the Established Goals box in UbD; always copied and pasted as the coding plus the corresponding written statement. Should not be just a list of codings.

Standards—Are public statements regarding what all students should know and be able to do in academic subjects. All PA Standards documents can be found on www.pdesas.org under the Standards tab.

Performance Standards—Are established levels of achievement, quality of performance or degree of proficiency.  All PA Standards, including the PA Core, are written for the Proficient performance level, not the Advanced.

Eligible Content (EC)—Is the most specific description of the skills and concepts assessed on the PSSAs and KEs; is considered as the “assessment limit” (what test designers use to create PSSAs and KEs); helps educators identify the range of the content covered on the PSSAs and KEs. In other words, if it’s on a state assessment, then it’s in the EC. Found in PA’s Assessment Anchors documents on SAS under the Standards tab; the EC section frequently lists released PSSA and KE items with each EC in the Assessment Anchors.

For those teachers in tested areas, the EC is just as important as the Standards and must appear in the Established Goals box.

PSSA and KE scores, PVAAS growth (Teacher–Specific Data), and much of the School Performance Profile (Building Data Score) are based on Eligible Content. Tested teachers’ Domain 1 (Planning and Preparation), Domain 3 (Instruction) and Domain 4 (Professional Responsibilities) in Teacher Effectiveness connect to Eligible Content.

Big Ideas or Enduring Understandings—Are important ideas with lasting value beyond the classroom; directly connected to the Unit Big Ideas; often EUs are called “Big Ideas” in resources such as textbooks and PDE’s SAS. Can be broad or over-arching as in subject area Big Ideas (such as those on SAS); can be more topical as in unit Big Ideas. Written as a sentence in the UbD model. Big Ideas/EUs are box 2 in the template.

Essential Questions–Enduring Understandings/Big Ideas stated in question form; designed to engage student interest and to be used as catalysts for discussion and writing before, and after a unit. Written as questions in the UbD model and occurring after the Big Ideas box in the UbD template.

Content—Is teaching that is specific to the discipline; finishes the sentence starter, Students should know . . . Occurs in the UbD template in the double-column box on the left side.

Skills—The performances necessary for the student to achieve understanding and proficiency; expressed with verbs. Finishes the sentence starter, Students should do able to . . . Occurs in the UbD template in the double-column box on the right side. Skills should align predominantly to Levels 2 and 3 in DOK (Depth of Knowledge).

DOK (Depth of Knowledge)– Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) provides vocabulary and a frame of reference when thinking about students and how they engage with the content. DOK offers a common language to understand “rigor,” or cognitive demand, in assessments, as well as in curricular units, lessons, and tasks. Webb developed 4 DOK levels that grow in cognitive complexity and assist educators in creating more cognitively engaging and challenging tasks. The PA Core Standards, the PA Core PSSAs and KEs, PA Eligible Content, and CC-aligned instructional materials are all DOK-based, which contributes to the rigor.

Assessment–Techniques used to analyze student accomplishment against specific goals and criteria.

Performance Task— A task that uses student’s knowledge and understanding to effectively act or bring to fruition a complex product in which the student’s knowledge and expertise are revealed; typically is culminating, pulling together the content and skills of the unit; often requires a standards-based rubric (scoring guide) with 4 performance levels. Is always assessed and entered as a score in the grade book.

Occurs in the UbD template as the first box under Assessments. (i.e. labs with lab reports; projects, especially with a writing and/or speaking component; written products; performances; open-ended items requiring written explanations and/or calculations; constructed responses; Socratic seminars, debates, and oral presentations; fitness plans, and wellness plans; in-class essays, etc.)

Other Evidence—Includes all other assessments apart from the Performance Task(s); includes graded and nongraded assessments, formal and informal assessments, and formative and summative assessments. (i.e. homework, group work, logs or journals, class discussions, pre-tests, diagnostic assessments, quizzes, tests, exit slips, checks for understanding, writing drafts, rehearsals, drills, etc.)

Learning Plan/Learning Agenda—The last section in the UbD template where teachers list all the “learning events” of the unit. Has the look of a compressed unit plan; can be written as Day 1, Day 2, etc. or week by week; includes the unit’s assessments where they fall in the chronology of the learning events.


Locating and selecting which Standards documents to use can be confusing. Some helpful information includes:


  • The SAS Portal (www.pdesas.org) houses all the Standards you will need as well as the Assessment Anchor Documents (with Eligible Content) for tested teachers.
  • PA Core Standards (PA Common Core) are housed under the SAS Standards Tab and then under the PA Core Standards tab. All PA Core Standards have CC in their coding.
  • If you currently have what many call national Common Core Standards in your UbD units, you most likely used those standards because at the time you did your UbD units, the PA Core Standards were not available.
  • Since the students’ achievement and growth data, the data in the School Performance Profile for the building score and all teacher-specific data are reported as PA Core Eligible Content, teachers should either replace the national CC standards with PA Core Standards or add the PA Core Standards to them. Teachers should also add the PA Core Eligible Content to the first box in the UbD template, since the PA Core Eligible Content is the common denominator for student, teacher and district accountability.
  • The PA Core Standards currently are ELA Pre-K-5 and 6-12; Mathematics Pre-K-12; Reading for Science and Technical Subjects 6-12; Writing for Science and Technical Subjects 6-12; Reading for History and Social Studies 6-12; Writing for History and Social Studies 6-12.
  • For tested teachers the PA Core Standards tab features a section on the left side of the screen where the ELA Assessment Anchors and Eligible Content and the Mathematics Assessment Anchors and Eligible Content appear.
  • For Keystone Exam (KE) courses, the KE Standards and Eligible Content are found on SAS under the Assessment tab.
  • Next, click on Keystone Exams. The left side lists the content areas of the Keystone Exams.
  • Clicking on English Language Arts offers the Eligible Content for the KE Literature and the KE Composition and many other resources such as the KE Scoring Guidelines and a practice KE Literature.
  • Clicking on Mathematics offers everything related to the KE Algebra I and the future Keystone Exams in Algebra II and Geometry.
  • Clicking on Science opens up the information and resources for the Keystone Exam Biology Course and also for the Keystone Exam Chemistry.
  • Clicking on Social Studies shows at this time only the Assessment Anchors and Eligible Content for the KE Civics.


  • Use the PA Core Standards because, although non-tested, you play a crucial role in either laying the PA Core groundwork or reinforcing the PA Core.
  • Grade 2 teachers should also pay attention to the Grade 3 Eligible Content for ELA and Mathematics, since grade 2 butts up against the grade 3 PSSAs.


  • Use the PA Standards which pertain to your content area. Some of you still have draft standards (World Languages) while others have had the same PA Standards for some time (i.e., PE, Health & Safety and Arts & Humanities).
  • Please look over the PA Core ELA Standards for reading information, writing informational pieces, speaking and listening in order to indicate where your course(s) align to the PA Core. Other courses will have alignment to the PA Core Mathematics Standards since they utilize measurement and calculations.


Classroom Diagnostic Tools (CDTs)–The Pennsylvania Classroom Diagnostic Tools is a set of online tools designed to provide diagnostic information in order to guide instruction and provide support to students and teachers. These tools (available at no cost to districts) are fully integrated and aligned with the Standards Aligned System (SAS) for Mathematics, Reading, Science, and Writing. These tools assist educators in identifying students’ academic strengths and areas of need, providing links to classroom resources.

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiativewww.commoncorestandards.org–The original “national” Common Core Standards and Resources; PA Core Standards are based on these CCSS “parent standards.”

Depth of Knowledge (DOK)–By googling this term online, a person can access many DOK resources from the graphic representation of the DOK wheel showing the 4 levels to DOK resources for specific content areas.

Keystone Exam courses have DOK resources on SAS under the Assessment tab. Click on Assessment, then Keystone Exams and finally on Keystone Exams – Understanding Depth of Knowledge and Cognitive Complexity.

The majority of Keystone Exams and the PSSA Spring 2015 questions are DOK Levels 2 and 3. Approximately 10-15% of the exams are Level 1 questions. Level 4 questions call for projects done over a period of several weeks; therefore, Level 4 questions are not on the KEs and will not be on the PA Core PSSAs.
Educator Effectiveness

Classroom observation and practice models that are related to student achievement comprise 50% of the educator’s overall rating in each of the following areas:

Domain 1. Planning and preparation—20%

Domain 2. Classroom environment—30%

Domain 3. Instruction—30%

Domain 4. Professional responsibilities—20%

Student Performance, which comprises 50% of the overall rating of the professional employee is based upon multiple measures of student achievement:

  1.  Building Data (15%)
  2.  Teacher-specific Data (15% for tested teachers)
  3.  Teacher-elective Data (20% for tested teachers; 35% for non-tested teachers)

Legacy Standards–Pennsylvania’s non-PA Core Standards

Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC)–A literacy framework for the secondary and middle school subject areas of ELA, social studies and science. Designed to make literacy instruction the foundation of the core subjects, LDC is built on the Common Core State Standards, which emphasize literacy across the core subjects. Teachers can use an LDC framework as a common chassis to create their own LDC tasks and modules or select ready-made tasks and modules, all of which are CC-aligned. LDC tasks are CC-aligned Performance Tasks. LDC modules are CC-aligned units. (www.literacydesigncollaborative.org)

PA Core Modalities of Writing

As per the PA Core Standards for ELA grades K-12, students are to write:

  •  Narrative, Informative and Opinion/Argumentative pieces
  •  Based on research

As per the PA Core Standards for Writing in Science and Technical Subjects, students in grades 6-12 are to write:

  •  informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes
  •  short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem

As per the PA Core Standards for Writing in History and Social Studies, students in grades 6-12 are to write:

  •  arguments focused on discipline-specific content
  •  informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/experiments, or technical processes

Planned Course Outline (PCO)–The written UbD units in chronological order for one course, using one template per unit; all units are in one googledoc

SAS–Standards Aligned System–www.pdesas.org

Student Learning Objectives (SLOs)

Twenty percent (20%) of the overall performance rating for tested teacher and 35% for non-tested teachers will include measures of student achievement that are locally developed and selected by the school district from a list approved by PDE and published in the PA Bulletin by June 30th of each year. The list includes but is not limited to the following:

  1. District Designed Measures and Examinations (meaning teacher-made)
  2. Nationally Recognized Standardized Tests
  3. Industry Certification Examinations
  4. Student Projects Pursuant to Local Requirements
  5. Student Portfolios Pursuant to Local Requirements

The SLO Template is available in an electronic version. Go to www.pdesas.org and select the Instruction Element, then select the Student Learning Objectives tab, click on the Homeroom icon, register, and finally select SLO – Build – Guides. The following are SLO development tools available at that site:

  1. Electronic template
  2. Content specific models
  3. Training modules to complete the template
  4. Assessment literacy information as appropriate to the SLO process

Designing and/or choosing SLOs is a way for educators to collaborate and build K-12 assessment systems in each content area.  Performance Tasks, if PA Core Standards- and PA Core Eligible Content-based and assessed with a 4-level rubric, in well-designed UbD units naturally lend themselves to SLOs. SLOS will be implemented in SY 14-15 for Teacher Elective Data and the corresponding Teacher Elective Rating.

Unpacking the Standards–A method to delve inside the standards to reveal is within the standards; the method as described by Jay McTighe involves 4 steps:

Step 1.
Focus on one standard statement.

Step 2.
Examine the nouns and the adjectives in the standard statement for stated or implied Big Ideas. List those stated or implied Big Ideas.

Step 3.
List stated or implied real-world performances in the verb(s) in the standard statement.

Step 4.
Based on the 3 previous steps, list performance tasks ideas.

Example of Unpacking the Standards (Arts)

Step 1.
9.2.12.A. Explain the historical, cultural and social context of an individual work in the arts.

Step 2.
Individual work, the arts, historical, social, cultural, context
Implied Big Idea:  An individual work of art does not exist in a vacuum. It has a context that a student can discover by researching the history, culture and society surrounding the work of art.

Step 3.
Read about research/Research/Inform oneself about the history. Interview, if possible, someone who can give insight through personal experience or their studies. Explain orally and in writing. Synthesize the history, culture and society to develop a context for the work.

Step 4.
The student will present individually or with a partner or group to explain the history, culture, and social context of an individual work in the arts.

WAC–Writing Across the Curriculum–Ideas:

  1. Carefully read PA Standards and Eligible Content for stated writing activities and tasks.
  2. The Literacy Design Collaborative (www.lteracydesigncollaborative.org) for grades 6-12
  3. A collaboration between the Michigan Department of education and professional associations yielded 4 large WAC resources for writing in ELA, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies at http://www.bcps.org/offices/lis/writing/secondary/content.html
  4. If you are a tested teacher, embed the types of writing on your PSSA or Keystone Exam into your course.
  5. Use writing for formative assessments such as admit slips, exit slips, understanding checks, student reflections, and journals.

W.H.E.R.E. (Wiggins and McTighe)–UbD Unit Design Considerations from www.authenticeducation.org

W—How will you help students know where they are headed and why (i.e., major assignments, performance tasks and the criteria by which the work will be judged)

H—How will you hook the students through engaging and thought-provoking experiences (i.e., issues, oddities, problems, challenges) that point toward Big Ideas, Essentials Questions and Performance Tasks)?

E—What learning experiences will engage students in exploring the big ideas and essential questions? What instruction is needed to equip students for the final performance(s)?

R—How will you cause students to reflect and rethink to dig deeper into the core ideas of the unit? How will guide the students in revising and rethinking their work based on feedback and self-assessment?

E—How will students exhibit their understanding through final performances and products? How will you guide them in self-evaluation to identify the strengths/weaknesses in their work and set future goals?