Thursday, June 24, 2010

Signing Off


Over the past 8 years I've served in the capacity of Curriculum Director for the Earlham Community School District. It has been a busy, constantly changing, sometimes frustrating task, but I have to say I am happy with what we've accomplished during my tenure. An organized cycle of curriculum review and evaluation has been established and implemented. Communication with teachers about their standards and benchmarks and how they are developed is a part of this process, so teachers have had to become more connected to the written curriculum of the district. The Iowa Core was developed and studied by the staff, and in many cases embraced. However, many challenges lie ahead.

Our district is a very anecdotal district, we like to pass ideas, plans, units on by word of mouth rather than by documentation. While this is a human friendly process, it doesn't always accomplish what we need it to. If a teacher leaves the district, many times they take their materials, plans, and sometimes even units with them. How can the new teacher take over and try to provide any type of consistency? They can't! We need a written history, so that is where the curriculum mapping process and the use of the Curriculum Manager comes in. This program, provided to the district at a very low cost provides a means to track curriculum work, review units, compare benchmark coverage, and show how units link to the Iowa Core. But to do all this teachers need to use it! Hopefully going forward we will be able to continue this process.


Final assessment results for the year are in, and our students overall did well on our standardized assessments. The Annual Yearly Progress report will reflect that we met 1 of our 3 community reported goals, but an overall look shows a more complete picture. For the MAP assessment the elementary set grade level goals, and for Reading, 2 of the 4 grade (3rd - 6th) levels met their goal of having 85% of the class at or above the target RIT. All 4 grade levels had more than 80% of their class that were at or above the target RIT. For math, 3 of the 4 grade levels met their goal of having 85% of the class at or above the target RIT. All 4 grades had more than 80% of their class that were at or above the target RIT.

As we look to the future we will continue to refine and evaluate our goals and targets for student achievement.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

End of the Year


As we close out the 2009-2010 school year here is a quick look back at the curricular accomplishments.

The curriculum review cycle has continued with 2 different groups. English/Language Arts/Reading, Instrumental Music, Vocal Music, Guidance and Gifted and Talented are all in the second year of the review cycle. Throughout the year this group has worked to update their curriculum maps using software purchased through our membership in MISIC. As teachers enter their curriculum information, they identify units taught, connect these units to the district standards and benchmarks, then to the content, and the skills that will show students have mastered the concepts. We started the year with an introduction to the Curriculum Manager program, how to develop unit plans, and had some good discussions about what a good unit plan looks like. Throughout the year we have met the second Monday of the month to provide time for the teachers to ask questions about the process and practice with assistance present. Once this process is complete - required by the end of the year - we will have a written record K - 12 about the units being taught in our building. These records will allow us to evaluate Iowa Core implementation and any missing components.

As we worked through the year with this group we were also doing a variety of activities related to text adoption. We reviewed standards and benchmarks, establishing the philosophy that the standards and benchmarks are the curriculum, not the textbook. We discussed what a good Essential Question looks like and how to go about writing them. The group also practiced using the text evaluation rubric in preparation for selection as we head in to the 2010-11 school year.

Social Studies, Art, and Library Sciences started their review process last fall. This group met the first Monday of each month to work on setting their purpose statement for their subject area, determining a description of what each grade level expects of its students. We also worked to identify the essential Earlham Benchmarks at each grade level, which allows us to show a connection to the Iowa Core for accountability purposes. In the fall this group will begin the Curriculum Manager process.

It has been a busy year, but one I feel was very productive!


ITBS/ITED information have returned and our initial report looks that this year was a good year for the district. School wide Earlham scored at 80% reading proficient (grades 3 - 11). This means 80% of the 3-11 grade students scored at or above the 41st percentile, the highest percentage we have had since we started tracking this in the 01-02 school year. The percentage for math was 77% and for science 86%, another high since 01-02. Good news in all these areas!

MAP testing wrapped up last week, so the main portion of our standardized testing is complete. Individual and classroom results were available during testing, we are currently waiting on district level reports. This year we decided to establish test out points for the Reading and Language portions of the test. Why test out? The First thing that comes to mind is motivation. Students like to see a goal and achieve it and this test out score provides that opportunity. Secondly, at the level the test out scores are set we find that students have mastered the concepts of Language Usage and Reading. The students know the basic uses of language and how it works, and understand how to read. They no longer need direct instruction, however, they do need application of these skills. This type of assessment requires a different type of question from the multiple choice and the MAP cannot do this, so if we are not gathering instructional information about our students, what is the purpose of assessing them? The ITBS/ITED tests are compliance tests, we are required by the state of Iowa and NCLB to administer these assessments. The MAP test is a required test, but it also is an instructional tool. Results tie to skills, which should tie to instruction.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Curriculum Support Selection: Language Arts

As we finish the year, it seems that we gain momentum with each passing day. About Christmas time the kids start talking about the end of the year, then the "Spring Break" hits and they really start thinking about it, and then you have a few days like we have the last 2, where the weather is nice, and the sun is shining, and they (the kids) seem to just be ready for the end. Well, there are many things to accomplish before the kids and teachers leave for the summer, one of those is the selection of materials for Language Arts.

Currently teachers are reviewing sample materials to see how they best fit and align with our curriculum. Each of them has a rubric that they are using to evaluate materials. These rubrics evaluate the organization of the text, the types of student work that is required, how technology fits in with the process, are there allowances for student reflection and analysis, how are the teacher materials organized, and how are things assessed. All of these things are an important part of the selection process and help teachers understand how the texts will support them as they instruct students in the classroom.

The Social Studies teachers are working to identify the standards and benchmarks that are grade level expectations. This procedure has taken a little evaluation and thought on their part, and as we see where "holes" are in our curriculum teachers may even have to pick up a few more benchmarks at the different grade levels. We will be discussing this further in May, and by the time we leave in June we will be able to say, these are our grade level expectations for Social Studies for the X Grade level, or for a specific class in the high school. Knowing this parents and students can plan accordingly and work as a team to meet these expectations during the course of a school year, or the scope of a class.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Entering the last 3rd of the Year


There is much to be done over the next 3+ months. Year 1 teachers will continue their review of Curriculum - Standards and Benchmarks. As we review these items we are trying to make sure that we are teaching all identified items within the Iowa Core Curriculum. The reality is that we probably aren't but, we can't make any improvements until we have an assessment of our current reality. Year 2 folks are now ready to begin evaluating curriculum supports. What are curriculum supports, you ask? Well, they are anything that will help teachers as they prepare lessons. Things like textbooks, primary source documents, software programs, or other items for instruction. You may hear many "old school" teachers stating it's time to purchase some new curriculum. However, we need to develop/review our standards and benchmarks and make sure we all agree on them, before we decide on a text, or other supports.


ITBS and ITED testing finished up in nice timing, and all results have been send back for scoring, and I hope to have results back very soon. The Iowa Testing Systems is charged with getting the results back in a timely manner, so I anticipate our results will be back any time now. Once they return I will do much of the data work myself, sharing information with teachers and principals alike. I'll also share information with the school board about our results in early April. The ITBS/ITED information along with our second MAP administration in April will help us as we plan district, building, classroom, and student goals for the 10-11 school year.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

February Blues

Thanks to Old Man Winter we are a bit behind in our curriculum work for 2009-2010. Due to the weather we have either missed school on Monday completely, or been released early. Not such a big deal? Well, when your curriculum meetings are scheduled on Monday nights it does become a bit of an issue. We will have to do some compacting of the work to complete our tasks -

Luckily ITBS week went off without major weather/school issues. At this point I believe we are nearing completion of makeup testing, with Friday, February 26 as our target date to return materials for scoring. Comments from staff about student participation and focus have been positive, we shall see! I certainly hope that this was the case.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mid Year and Still Much to Do


Welcome to 2010! In an effort to get our feet back on the ground after break, January has been a quiet month for meetings and curriculum work. Year 1 folks continue to work on their purpose statements and Year 2 folks are entering units into the Curriculum Manager. During the January 4 professional development day all High School and Middle School staff members were required to input one unit in the software that reflected the use of Google Apps, so that forced some of our staff members to input units.

What is so important about this process is the fact that when teachers put the units in the system, we can evaluate if a benchmark is being used during the course of instruction, how many times it is taught, and at what levels. As we work toward implementing the Iowa Core Curriculum this tool is very necessary, as we will have to account for all our core benchmarks and report where they are a part of instruction.

The SIAC group has taken the month of January "off", but will reconvene for work this year in February.


Our winter window of MAP testing started, January 12, and should finish up this week, weather permitting. I've heard good things from some of the teachers - seeing significant gains from their students from the fall to the present. Look for more details about this in months to come. The thing I am seeing is that teachers more and more are looking at this data and using it to guide their instruction, which means our students are getting the skills instruction that they need! ITBS/ITED testing is scheduled to begin February 8.