Issue 4
February 1999

Editorial Staff: 
David Lloyd
Gail Mann 
Ellen Serfaty 
Ann Shlapobersky
Renee Wahl

Treasure Trove 
What is the New Curriculum?


1. What is it?

It took me two days of intensive workshops, lectures and group interaction, at a hishtalmut this summer in order to begin to understand what the New Curriculum is all about. Just becoming friendly with the jargon (Until now, "standards" in my world have had to do with values, and "benchmarks" were names on the seats in synagogue during High Holiday services.) was a hard job. And I was one of the people that worked on a section of the CALL appendices of the new curriculum, mind you!!

So it's no wonder that most teachers are puzzled (to put it mildly) by this new-fangled New Curriculum. That's one reason we decided to devote a whole issue of the ETNI Newsletter to the subject.

Perhaps if you examine the sources for the New Curriculum--how they came out of new ideas that started abroad--then things will become a bit clearer.

To my mind, and for the sake of convenience, the New Curriculum has two important new points of focus: The idea of standards and benchmarks; and alternative assessment. These two areas are what we will be looking at in the URL's below.

2. Power Point Presentation on the New Curriculum

However, before you begin, it's well worth your time to have a look at Gail Mann's clear and entertaining Powerpoint presentation that gives an overall picture of what the new curriculum is about:
3. Curriculum Standards in the USA "Why should I read through all that gobbeldy-gook", you ask? Well, unless you are doing a paper on the subject of standards based curriculum, the only reason I could think of to justify such an expenditure of time and effort is that you will find lots of examples of the kinds of things we can expect our EFL students to do with English (or as in the case where another foreign language is mentioned, such as Spanish, the "things" are still the same). None of the URL's I looked at tells us how to accomplish the task. It seems to me that we are being given credit for knowing our profession--in other words, all the ways and means that we have learned over time to teach kids language will be called upon to achieve the benchmarks outlined in the curriculum.

So here's a really comprehensive list of Standards adopted by various states in the USA which is a regular subject for the FLTEACH (Foreign Language Teachers) electronic list. 

  • National Standards in Foreign Language Education (ACTFL) focusses on the development of language specific standards, professional standards, and the development of programs and publications to assist in the implementation of standards nationwide.
A subdivision of the above URL at   gives a short and compact list of various standards and benchmarks (without calling them that)

4. Communications Technology

If you are interested in the new communications technologies, and how they fit into the new curriculum, you might want to have a look at this site:

especially towards the end where five areas are discussed: Communications, Culture, Connections (with other disciplines), Comparisons (understanding of the nature of language through comparisons of the language studied and their own), and Communities (Participate in Multilingual Communities at Home & Around the World) which is very similar to our own New Curriculum Standards.   Then you could go to:
and see how to prepare lesson plans with these technological standards in mind.  
And while you're at it, learn what SWABAT* means

* *SWBAT: indicates what "students will be able to" do at the end of the lesson.

5.  How to Apply the Standards

Now look at ESL Standards for Pre-K - 12Students

The standards have three goals, each of which has three attached standards. Clicking on any one takes you to a page that lists the standard; provides descriptors (brief statements that elaborate on the standards); states sample progress indicators for grades pre-K to three, four to eight, and nine to twelve; and offers (or will offer soon) "vignettes" - or sample scenarios for different locales and situations that show how the standards could be used.

There is also the address of an email discussion list that you can join to ask about and receive information and comments on the subject of standards, as well as articles on how to implement and assess the implementation of the standards based curriculum.

6. Important Questions

To see that the standards based curriculum isn't just a figment of someone's overactive creativity, see the important questions that were considered before jumping on to the bandwagon at:

  1. Where Will We Get Our Standards?
  2. Who Will Set the Standards?
  3. What Types of Standards Should We Include?
  4. In What Format Will the Standards Be Written?
  5. At What Levels Will Benchmarks Be Written?
  6. How Should Benchmarks and Standards Be Assessed?
  7. How Will Student Progress Be Reported?
  8. What Will We Hold Students Accountable For?
And also: A very concise article on the Why's and Hows of a standards based curriculum. Relevant to the US, but also to the new Israeli curriculum, including a short bibliography: 7. Connection between Standards, Assessment, Achievement and Accountability The following article discusses the connection between Standards, Assessment,Achievement, and Accountability. It provides a collection of tools, strategies, and informational resources to improve student learning and achievement, specifically in a based reform context: 8. Assessment & Rubrics

A curriculum cannot be discussed without considering how we assess students' achievements under the curriculum. The connection between the new standards based curriculum (not the Israeli one) and assessment is discussed in an article:

The newest ideas in alternative assessment (the euphemism for 'Not a Test') are portfolio assessment and rubrics.To find out all about portfolios and their assessment, see Debby Toperoff and Judy Kemp's wonderful booklet on the subject at: and while I'm at it, a hearty congratulations to them for a fantastic job.

If you're really into the electronic media thing, and you want to see the latest in electronic portfolios and their assessment, your next stop should be:

See an assessment model for analytical writing (very high level, but it shows just how detailed you can get) at:

And for those of you who are doing a thesis on assessment, here is the ASKERIC list of links on the subject:

9.  And what exactly is a RUBRIC?

Well, it's a set of criteria in tabular form. It's something like the guidelines for testing oral proficiency that the Ministry sends to testers for the Oral Bagrut. For those of you who have never seen this or another rubric, just imagine a 4x4 (or any other size ) Bingo board. Across the top, you write the levels of achievement/proficiency you want to define like "high, intermediate, low" or "80-100 points, 60-80 points, 40-60 points..." and down the side, you list the items you want to evaluate, like "fluency, accuracy, creativity, aesthetics". Then you work out the individual items under each square.

One of the nicest things about this kind of evaluation tool is that you can work it out together with your students. That way you both understand what is expected and the students feel empowered (the newest buzzword meaning 'they have a say in the matter') Find out all about student empowered assessment at:

If my explanation hasn't put you off and you want to find out more about rubrics, here are some URL's:

For those of you who have used Germaine Taggart's materials and know what a great job she does, here is a review of her latest book on Rubrics.  It looks wonderful to me and is available through Amazon books (on line). If I had a library budget, I'd certainly invest in this one.

Here's a set of links about assessment and lots more articles about rubrics:

And thanks to Tamar Bracha, here's a wonderful link to the Instructional Technology Teachers HomePage which deals in depth with the question of why use Rubrics, as well as giving examples of very detailed rubrics developed at City of Rochester, for oral presentations