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Pacing Guides: Friend or Foe?

written by: Lady Lit•edited by: Trent Lorcher•updated: 10/23/2008

This article examines the effectiveness of utilizing a pacing guide for instruction..

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    Problems with Pacing Guides

    Some districts have gone as far as to coordinate testing and to gauge student performance based on the dates set forth in the pacing guide. Such testing certainly increases accountability and ensures that teachers are covering the material in a timely fashion.

    Pacing guides typically provide the concepts that teachers must cover by a certain date. Some school districts have implemented the use of pacing guides and mandated that teachers teach particular concepts by a certain date.

    The problem with periodical assessments based upon pre-established dates is that the pace a teacher covers the content in a class depends, or should depend, upon the skills of one’s students. In other words, if a teacher is instructing students who are slower than the average regular education class, such assessments are not fair to that teacher and his or her students because the teacher is unable to cover as much more as a teacher with accelerated regular education students.

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    Education Suffers

    If a teacher is required to cover so many concepts by a particular date, he or she becomes a steam roller, moving on and covering material regardless of the performance, or lack thereof, of his or her students. When teachers are forced to continue covering new material, they have no time for remediation.

    A good, effective teacher is going to pace his or her class and tailor his or her instruction to the level of his or her students. A good teacher is going to evaluate his or her success upon the success of his or her own students.

    When a pacing guide dictates what concepts are taught when and how much time to spend on a particular concept, students miss out on the opportunity to comprehend the material and are cheated of their education.

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    The Solution: Frameworks

    The primary difference between a pacing guide and the frameworks for a course is that frameworks do not include a completion date, apart from the course’s end date. In other words, all the frameworks must be taught prior to the end of the class. This promotes teacher flexibility and student learning.