March 28, 2014
Dear Parents, Staff and Concerned Citizens:
It is once again my privilege to communicate with you and hope this message finds you well.
As you may be aware, the district embarked on a curriculum revision project commencing in the 2012-2013 school year. This project continues today and is implemented through the district’s Office for Teaching and Learning. Periodic updates have been provided to the members of the Board of Education at their regular meetings and more recently at an evening information session hosted by the Parent Teacher Organization at Thompson Brook School.
Most recently, there have been some inquiries regarding the curriculum revision process, its purpose and the intended outcome of the work.
The purpose of this communication is to provide you facts to questions you may have regarding what is being taught (curriculum) and what is being reviewed and revised in response to the Common Core State Standards mandate and the newly developed state-wide standardized assessments (Smarter Balanced).
Q: What is a curriculum?
A: A curriculum is the K-12 “road map” that connects the content (the standards, skills and understandings), instruction (what will specifically be taught) and the assessments (formative and summative to measure student learning and the strength of the curriculum). Curriculum documents are generally prepared in hard copy and maintained using some form of electronic relational database.
Q: Why does the district need revised curricula?
A: Curriculums should be “living” documents that are continuously and systematically reviewed and revised to address any changes to the national or state standards, address any identified area(s) of weakness within the curriculum, and reflect any changes or enhancements to ensure rigorous and relevant learning experiences for all our students.
The curriculum used in the Avon Public Schools was last completed in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Q: What is the curriculum revision schedule and when was it implemented?
A: A 5-year Curriculum/Program Review calendar was development in 2012. Under this cycle, in Year 1, the curriculum area under review does a formal presentation to the Curriculum Professional Development Council who evaluates their work based on a defined rubric. During Years 2 through 4, the department addresses both the long and short term goals that have been established (both self-identified by the department and CPDC) with yearly reviews by the K-12 vertical team, and in Year 5 the department prepares for their upcoming formal presentation to CPDC and the 5-year process starts over. The detailed schedule is available on the district website at www.avon.k12.ct.us under the Teaching and Learning tab.
Q: What is CPDC?
A: CPDC stands for the Curriculum Professional Development Council which has teacher, administrator and Board of Education representation from various grade levels and content areas to guarantee a clear K-12 pathway for our students. Some of the responsibilities of the CPDC are to develop and implement a long range and systemic plan for curriculum review and renewal; formulate, recommend, review and make decisions about curriculum, instruction, new courses, textbooks, and professional development within the guidelines of Board of Education policy; monitor the development and implementation of the PreK-12 subject areas’ standards across grades and provide feedback to the Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning regarding the structures that support curriculum implementation; and serve as a “think tank” for new and emerging ideas from the Office of Teaching and Learning.
All final recommendations from the CPDC are made to the Superintendent of Schools for consideration. The Superintendent then advances a recommendation to the Board of Education for approval pursuant to all applicable policies.
Q: What process is being used to revise each content area K-12?
A: As each curriculum area begins it review process, a K-12 vertical team is assembled. Based on the identified national or state standards for the content area, this team creates the K-12 long-term transfer goals, understandings, essential questions, performance task categories and grade level content maps. Throughout the process, these draft documents go back out to the entire grade level or department for feedback so that everyone teaching within that content area has a “voice” in and an understanding of the document being created. Once this initial work is completed, most, if not all, teachers from each grade level, come together to collaboratively develop the units of study. Throughout the revision process, careful attention is paid to what components of the curriculum (content, instruction and assessment) are working and which are not and thus need revision.
Q: Is a researched based framework specific to curricula being used?
A: The CPDC selected Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s Understanding by Design framework as the model to be used in Avon for curriculum writing in all discipline areas. The framework has three major stages. Stage 1 encompasses the desired results (e.g., standards, understandings), Stage 2 details the evidence of learning (i.e., summative performance tasks) and Stage 3 is the Learning Plan (i.e., lesson plans and formative assessments). A visual of this framework has been provided below.
Q: Is the Common Core State Standards limiting teachers to what they teach and how they teach it?
A: No. Utilizing the Understanding by Design framework detailed above, Stage 1 and Stage 2 are “non-negotiable” for teachers. Stage 3 is for individual or groups of teachers or departments use (their choice) to create their lesson plans. Teaching is an art, and we have excellent teachers so it is completely up to them as to how they teach, but their students must be able to demonstrate mastery of the knowledge and skills specified in Stage 1.
Q: How will parents know what their children are expected to learn?
A: The District is currently in the process of securing a curriculum management tool in order to electronically post Stage 1 of the framework described above for parents to have a clear understanding for each grade level, content area and unit of what standards are the focal point, the understandings (the core concepts, principles, theories and processes), the essential questions (open-ended questions that focus on the big idea), and the knowledge and skills students are expected to acquire and demonstrate. Additionally, parents are informed of this information through open houses, course syllabi, communications from teachers, etc.
Q: How does the curriculum interface with the state-wide standardized assessments?
A: The state-wide standardized assessments measure mastery of the content outlined in the state standards for English Language Arts, mathematics and science. As we use the adopted state standards for English Language Arts, mathematics and science our curriculum is aligned with state-wide standardized assessments.
Q: What other forms of assessment are we using as a part of our curriculum?
A: Throughout the course of the year multiple forms of assessment are utilized. At the district level we administer Universal Screenings for reading and math in addition to the Degrees of Reading Power (gr. 2-6), Advanced Degrees of Reading Power (gr. 7-8), Developmental Reading Assessment (gr. K-4), and Benchmark Assessment System (gr. 5-6). At the grade level, teachers use formative assessments, performance tasks and summative unit assessments to ascertain student achievement.
Q: What are formative assessments?
A: Formative assessments are used to evaluate students’ knowledge and understanding of particular content. The results are used by the teacher to adjust and plan instruction to improve achievement in that particular area.
Q: What are summative assessments?
A: Summative assessments are used to document student achievement at the end of a unit or course, or to evaluate the end product of a unit of study.
Q: How will teachers be trained to implement the revised curriculum as it is completed and approved for use?
A: All teachers at the grade or department level are directly involved with the curriculum revision process and in the creation of the units. Within our current curriculum review process we have embedded training for the teachers through the use of a national consultant, trained district coaches/facilitators and department coordinators. We employ the motto, “Learn through doing the work.”
Q: Will traditional textbooks be necessary to implement each area of revised curriculum?
A: Traditional textbooks may or may not be part of the revised curriculum. “Textbooks” are now defined as any primary instructional materials used to support instruction for all students and to implement the curriculum. Instructional materials include, but are not limited to, books, periodicals, on-line publications, internet sites, educational software, all other audio-visual materials and other such media when they serve as materials used to deliver instruction. Please note that all primary instructional materials require Board of Education approval.
Q: How are materials being identified for use with each curriculum?
A: As teachers create the units of study and develop the learning plans, the materials needed to implement instruction are identified. The process of identifying resources and materials includes the review of current materials and resources recommended and used by colleagues, the CT State Department of Education or renowned educational leaders and publishers of educational materials.
Should you have any questions after reading this summary, please do not hesitate to contact your child’s principal or the Office of the Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, Donna Nestler-Rusack, Ed.D. at (860) 404-4700 or email@example.com.
In closing, I wish to thank you for your continued support.
I remain very truly yours,
Gary S. Mala
Superintendent of Schools
Avon Public Schools
firstname.lastname@example.orgClick here to see past stories.