Photo of Stonehenge In this module we offer an overview of vertical and horizontal alignment initiatives in the state of Texas and discuss the importance of these programs to you and your students.

We will guide you through some of the literature on various state-wide programs, as well as provide you with some practical examples of how some schools are putting these initiatives into action.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this module, participants will be able to:


Dictionary Definition Glossary of Key Terms

Articulation - The process by which one institution matches its courses or requirements to course work completed at another institution.

Horizontal Alignment – Creating cross-disciplinary linkages between standards, assessment and curricula.

Project-based Learning - The use of classroom projects where students use technology and inquiry to engage with issues and questions that are relevant to their lives.

Vertical Alignment – Developing and delivering standards, assessments, and curricula that prepare students for success in the next grade level and beyond.


Big Idea - Vertical Alignment

Photo of a red schoolhouse The days of the one-room school house, where students of all ages sat together and teachers taught a series of lessons targeted to various levels and subject areas are well behind us.

However in a globalized economy, where graduates are required to have an international perspective and face competition for schools and jobs with workers worldwide, there is an increasing demand for flexibility and real world relevance to classroom activity.

Many schools and state initiatives are looking at ways that allow for greater flexibility in student learning.


Big Idea - Vertical Alignment

Graphic of school icons State initiatives are exploring ways to provide connectivity and continuity between secondary and post-secondary curriculum.

One of the goals outlined in the Closing the Gaps: The Texas Higher Education Plan is to promote seamless transition for students leaving high school, entering college and ultimately, joining the workforce.

In this section we will review three vertical alignment programs:

Although the information presented here may not have any direct relevance to your particular online teaching experiences, it may be relevant to your students. Our goal is to familiarize you with some of the key initiatives with which your students may be involved.

Here's How - Vertical Alignment

In the following video, Dr. Donetta Goodall, Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Student Success at the Lone Star College System in The Woodlands, TX shares her thoughts about the mandate of vertical alignment between high school and college courses.


Here's How - Vertical Alignment

Group discussion icon The first of three vertical alignment programs we will review is Statewide Articulation.

This program involves the process of secondary and post-secondary subject matter experts meeting on a periodic basis to create curriculum alignment in specified subjects. The focus is on Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses on the secondary side and technical credit workforce courses on the post-secondary side. 

This alignment provides high school students with the opportunity to earn academic credits toward a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree within a particular career path.

These particular career paths can now be selected by students as early as middle school and are referred to as Career Clusters.


Go to Career Clusters. On the right of the page, find a Career Cluster that might be appropriate for a middle school student in your subject area. (The Clusters are found on the PDF downloads.)

Here's How - Vertical Alignment

Dual credit is another initiative that creates the opportunity for high school students to take courses at the college level. Dual credit courses achieve multiple purposes:Graduates and a boy with a laptop.

discussion icon

Discussion Question: Do you have any suggestions for instructors new to teaching dual credit courses?

Here's How - Vertical Alignment

P-16 is a third initiative that strives to bridge educational systems and levels from pre-kindergarten through four years of higher education for the sole purpose of improvingTwo paned photo with college students at top and two toddlers on bottom. student readiness and success. The initiative focuses on the following:

P-16 efforts are in partnership with

From the Field - Vertical Alignment

In the following video Eileen Booher, Director of Resource Development & Administration at Lone Star College in The Woodlands, TX focuses on the need for statewide articulation and dual credit to help ensure students are not duplicating course content once they get to the college level.

She addresses Career Clusters, as well as one of the stumbling blocks statewide articulation and dual credit programs are experiencing: qualification of instructors.


From the Field - Vertical Alignment

Two street signs which read Career Drive and Opportunity Boulevard Urging students to start thinking about career paths and post-secondary education from a young age, coupled with opportunities to seamlessly enter college and earn academic credit while still in high school, provide for more flexibility and connectivity between K-12, post-secondary and the workforce.

For a review of the vertical alignment initiatives discussed in this section, complete the matching activity below.

 Toggle open/close quiz question

In this next section, our focus shifts away from policy initiatives and targets curricula in schools. We look at ways educators are creating flexibility and connectivity in the context of what and how students are learning. Our focus is on horizontal alignments.

Big Idea - Horizontal Alignment

Photo of a naturalist

In 1899 John Dewey wrote, "Relate the school to life, and all studies are of necessity correlated."

Ideally students take what they have learned in school and apply it on the job, at home, in their communities, and in further studies. Research suggests that students are more successful at doing this when instruction explicitly emphasizes the process of transfer by using real world context (Bransford, et al, 2000).

The ability for students to be able to transfer learning from one setting to another is key.

In this section, we explore horizontal alignment - the integration of standards and curriculum across disciplines.


Here's How – Horizontal Alignment

Photo of students filming Interdisciplinary work often draws from a real world context. The ability to solve real problems is rarely restricted to knowledge from one subject area. For example,

On a smaller scale and within a classroom setting, interdisciplinary work might look like this:

Drawing on multiple forms of expertise provides students with a clearer vision of the relationship between subject knowledge and the world around them.

Here's How – Horizontal Alignment

One of the ways K-12 schools are integrating curriculum is by introducing interdisciplinary themes and skill sets that span throughout core subject areas.

Specific to helping Texas K-12 students with the TAKS tests, James Durham, CEO of Big Muscles Education Presentations and Consulting in Ransom Canyon, TX, suggests approaching curriculum by highlighting five common skill sets.

Here's How - Horizontal Alignment

Photo of Leaning Tower of Pisa and Taj Mahal The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P-21) suggests four themes for an interdisciplinary approach to K-12 education.

These themes are focused on modern life and the Route-21 site is filled with resources that cater to each:


P-21 developed the Milestones for Improving Learning and Education (MILE) Guide for 21st Century Skills to assist educators and administrators in measuring the progress of their schools in defining, teaching and assessing 21st century skills.

Take the Online MILE Guide Assessment to see what types of questions they are asking.  

From the Field - Horizontal Alignment

Finally, there are an increasing number of schools adopting a project-based learning (PBL) approach to curriculum. PBL involves students targeting real world problems and developing solutions that are then presented to authentic audiences. Standards are integrated across the board.

The following video from provides an introduction.


From the Field - Horizontal Alignment

High Tech High in San Diego, CA is another well-known example of a charter school that has adopted a PBL approach to education. The school has launched theirBlue graphic of various media equipment floating. own Digital Commons to showcase student work. Take the time to browse through some of the student projects.


If you are interested in exploring more resources regarding project-based learning, check out the following:

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 Discussion Question: What are some examples of online multidisciplinary (horizontal alignment) projects you have seen or been involved with?


Horizontal alignment initiatives provide students and teachers with the opportunity to explore natural relationships and make meaning between multiple subject areas.

Whether you are team teaching with a colleague, creating a collaborative project with another academic department, or incorporating elements of project-based learning, incorporating curricula that includes horizontal alignments can help students make real world connections between school and the workplace.

Similar to the purpose of vertical alignments, the opportunity for flexibility in our schools provides students with a larger range of possibilities in post-secondary institutions and beyond.

The information presented in this module provides a snapshot of initiatives that are taking place in Texas. We invite you to share your thoughts on some of the topics introduced in this module.

Discussion icon

Discussion Question: Do you know of any further resources and/or suggestions to help educators learn more about vertical and horizontal alignments?


 For a review of the concepts, complete the activity below. The Discussion Questions posed in this module are available in the handout section to the right. The final assessment is available following the References.

 Hyperlink to Crossword Activity 



Dewey, J. (1980). The School and Society. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Edutopia, Why Teach with Project Learning?: Providing Students With a Well-Rounded Classroom Experience, Retrieved October 16, 2009 from

Leonard, D.B. (1998). The Wellsprings of Knowledge: Building and Sustaining the Sources of Innovation. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

McCain, T. (2005). Teaching for Tomorrow: Teaching Content and Problem-solving Skills. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Paredes, R. (2008). Texas College Readiness Standards, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Retrieved October 13, 2009 from

Partnership for 21st Century Skills, The Intellectual and Policy Foundations of the 21st Century Skills Framework, Retrieved May 13, 2008 from

Final Assessment

Please complete the following before proceeding to the next module. Click on each question to begin.

Question 1

Question 2

Question 3

Question 4