Many school systems are involved in "curriculum mapping:. Quoting Heidi Hayes Jacobs, the guru of curriculum mapping and president of Curriculum Designers, Inc:
Curriculum mapping is a procedure for collecting and documenting the operational curriculum anchored in the actual school calendar. Each teacher in the building enters critical information about the basic elements of the operational curriculum—that is: what has actually been addressed via content, skills, and assessment.
I've seen schools and talked to teachers who found the curriculum mapping exercise, when they review what the students are learning in the previous years and what they are expected to know before going to the next year, to be a very fun and productive exercise. BTW - any time that you get teachers EXCITED about doing something that is related to administration and curriculum, it's really special! I think it's partially that they get to think holistically about their students' education, it's partially that they have a very focused way to discuss curriculum with their colleagues.
BUT, in all my experiences working curriculum, the problem of the underlying "language" remains. Are we talking about performance standards, learning outcomes, or benchmarks? Are we using our state standards as "primitive"? I for one, have found the state standards to often be confusing to work with.
I saw an interesting different approach this week. A company started looking at the high stake tests (FCAT and AP exams). They studied how children did on the practice tests. The results were then mapped back to mathematical concepts. A single question on a test could map back to several math concepts.
They build a database for each student of the right/wrong answers and which math concepts they map to. Then, for intervention, they build a list of the concepts which would be most useful in improving performance and teach. They start teaching on the concepts that would have the most impact on test results.
I'm now looking at the third grade math curriculum trying to figure out how I would map some little part of it, just getting my feet wet.