Single-Track Curriculum: A Rich Education for All

Single-Track Curriculum: A Rich Education for All
Posted on 03/19/2024
MacLaren’s K-12 curriculum is sequenced and single-track. This means that all students in the school take the same classes and are not tracked by ability.* This also means that elective classes are limited to modern language courses in tenth through twelfth grade.

There are many reasons for this approach. One is that it ensures basic ordered knowledge; a sequenced curriculum allows students to grow in sequenced skills in all classes, from math to orchestra, allowing them to grow in mastery of a few things instead of dabbling in many.

Another is to cultivate a community of learners: having a single track means that all students have a shared experience of the curriculum across all areas. They are able to talk to students in other sections and in other grades in meaningful ways about their shared knowledge of books, experiments, math skills, art projects, and more. Students also support each other through many shared milestones: when Public Performance students recite poems at morning assembly in the sixth grade, one often sees older students in the audience mouthing the words that they too memorized and recited.

Having students with a range of abilities and interests in every classroom is very intentional here at MacLaren. We believe that all students have the potential to learn from each other and with each other. We also believe that all students have the potential for great growth and learning in all subject areas. Mortimer Adler, an inspiration for this approach, says that tracking and electives can allow certain students to “voluntarily downgrade their education.” Having a single-track curriculum with no electives allows all students to be “math people,” “creative people,” “theater people,” and so on. All students at MacLaren have a rich encounter with art, math, science, drama, literature, history, and music. When we see fifth graders singing at assembly or Upper School students playing at Fine Arts Night, we remind ourselves that these are not students with a special interest in music or with families who have provided private lessons; every student takes music class throughout their time here, and therefore all students are able to create music together.

These moments provide a beautiful example of what all students can achieve when provided the opportunity. Though we do not often see such visible evidence of student performance in, for example, calculus class or history class, we can trust that all of our students are experiencing similar exposure to beauty and truth in those classes. Our single-track curriculum ensures this shared, rich education for all.

*We maintain consistency with the sequenced curriculum as much as possible for every student.  That said, we do offer occasional pull-out courses for students with specific needs, such as additional literacy or math support, and we offer push-in supports, academic hours, and other interventions for students as needed.
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