There are two parts to any school's curriculum - one, the curriculum prescribed by the school, and the other, the curriculum determined by the teacher.

The prescribed curriculum is often laid out in manuals or guides written by committees of teachers and principals, either at the school system level or the state level. These manuals or guides list learnings and suggested means of achieving them by grade level. The prescribed curriculum goes hand in hand with textbooks. As students move upward grade by grade, the textbook plays a greater and greater role, until in secondary school it takes a commanding place.

The part played by teacher-determined curriculum is considerable, particularly in the elementary years, before the advent of courses. This is to say that teachers have much latitude in what to teach. There is no teacher who only covers what is in the textbook or what is in the curriculum guide. One reason for this is that the teacher is responsible for making the learnings relevant to daily living. Our fast-changing world demands that new developments in any field are taken into account. Our times are so complicated that students are always challenged to understand and make sense of their lives, and they challenge the teacher to help them.

Another reason for the large part played by teacher-determined curriculum is the great variation among students, not only in knowledge and ability but also in interests and world-view. Teachers who test often and test widely see needs aplenty and feel a responsibility for accommodating them. It is in this environment that a variety of learning materials becomes so important.

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