How to Create Curricular Units of Study That Align Standards, Instruction, and Assessment

Rigorous Curriculum Design (“RCD”) presents a carefully sequenced, hands-on model for educators and curriculum designers. The RCD model has proven to be effective in school districts across the US, and it serves as a road map so that educators may design a progression of units of study that keep standards, instruction, and assessment tightly focused and connected.

Applicable to every grade, course, and content area—and fitting in to all sets of standards, you will learn:
• What a rigorous curriculum is and how to create, sequence, and pace such a curriculum.
• Why seeing the 'big picture' connections first is essential to beginning curriculum design.
• How to lay the foundational steps for designing a rigorous pre-K–12 curriculum.
• How to design a grade- or course-specific curricular unit of study, from start to finish.
• How to use formative assessments and data analysis to guide instruction before, during, and after each unit.
• How leaders can organize, implement, and sustain this model throughout the school and/or school system.

This new edition of RCD shares updates and enhancements to the process, gained through nearly a decade of learnings from myriad schools. Updates and new additions include:


• Greater applicability to every state’s unique set of learning standards, through Standards examples that illustrate each step.
• An important new focus on relevance in the design of rigorous curricular units of study, meaning the inclusion of real-world problems that are both predictable and unpredictable, situations that afford students the opportunity to apply their learning in realistic contexts
• Expansion of content to include “lessons learned” by school and district leaders who are in years 1, 2, and 3 of RCD implementation
• Success stories from school systems that have implemented the RCD model and experienced improved student learning on state exams

Larry Ainsworth

is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including Common Formative Assessments 2.0 (2015), “Unwrapping” the Common Core (2014), Prioritizing the Common Core (2013), Rigorous Curriculum Design (2010), Common Formative Assessments (2006), “Unwrapping” the Standards (2003), Power Standards (2003), Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program (2000 and 2006), Student Generated Rubrics (1998), and Getting Started with Rigorous Curriculum Design: How School Districts Are Successfully Redesigning Their Curricula for the Common Core (2013).

Larry served as the executive director of professional development at the Leadership and Learning Center in Englewood, Colorado, from 1999 to 2013. Currently an independent education author and consultant, he travels nationally to assist school systems in implementing best practices related to standards, assessment, curriculum, and instruction across all grades and content areas.

Kyra Donovan

is currently director of professional learning for the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE), a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. With thirty years of experience in public education as teacher, principal, and central office administrator, Kyra brings a practitioner’s point of view to teaching and learning, with an unshakeable belief that ALL students will achieve success.

Kyra supports schools and districts across the country to develop and sustain a standards-based curriculum, assessment, and instruction framework. She was awarded the Oregon Central Office Administrators’ “Achievement of Excellence” award in June 2016 for her commitment to excellence in education and her leadership in McMinnville School District.