Embrace the Journey

An AISD Teaching and Learning Update - May 2016

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Why redesign the curriculum? Why now?

In alignment with the new 2016-2021 strategic plan, the Curriculum and Instruction department, in collaboration with World Languages and Instructional Technology, is working to launch newly revised curriculum for the 2016-2017 school year. Across the world, PK-12 education is being reshaped for students and teachers alike through new, innovative teaching methods, advancements in technology, and programs designed to define and illustrate the skills and knowledge students need to succeed in work, life and citizenship. In the past five years, increased student learning expectations have raised standards for teaching.

In 2013 Texas established Texas Teacher Standards for the first time. The standards are intended to be aspirational, and designed to provide professional and instructional practice goals toward which all teachers, regardless of their proficiency, can strive. The standards are also designed to align educator preparation, evaluation, and professional development to a single, foundational base. Similarly, Arlington ISD is taking strategic actions to ensure its students regularly engage in relevant, innovative and rigorous learning experiences. A District curriculum is where this assurance unfolds.

What is on the horizon?

By design, the newly revised curriculum will ensure all students have access to a guaranteed and viable curriculum in Arlington ISD. “Guaranteed” means that all students, regardless of their teacher or school, will have access to the same content, knowledge, and skills across the District. By "viable” we mean that the curriculum is realistic in scope and careful decisions were made to narrow the universe of knowledge into developmentally appropriate, and challenging learning targets for the students in the District.

Among the benefits, the revised curriculum is intended to increase the overall functionality and alignment of key curriculum components to improve ease in instructional planning. Revisions to the curricula will impact grades 3-8 and high school courses assessed with EOC exams. As a part of the development, curriculum components are now streamlined across the four core content areas, and include a year-at-glance (YAG), vertical alignment document (VAD), and fully redesigned instructional focus document (IFD), formerly referred to as "the curriculum document", and curriculum-based assessments. Curriculum for kindergarten through grade 2, and all high school courses that are not assessed with EOC exams will remain the same for the 2016-2017 school year. During the 2018-2019 school year revisions are scheduled for implementation in all remaining core content grade levels and HS courses.

Where did the journey begin?

During the 2012-2013 school year, AISD elected to undergo a comprehensive Curriculum Audit™ as a critical component of the then 3-year strategic plan. The audit was conducted by the Texas Curriculum Management Audit Center. A Curriculum Audit™ is designed to reveal the extent to which officials and professional staff of a school district have developed and implemented a sound, valid, and operational system of curriculum management. See previous communication on the AISD Curriculum Audit™ – link.

At that time, auditors assessed curriculum documents based on their overall ability to guide and direct instruction. The primary focus, therefore, was on design. A set of five criteria with subsets for four levels of adequacy provided the basis for ratings. Data findings and recommendations of the audit team served as a road map for the journey to create a curriculum that is adequate to provide sufficient direction for teachers in planning classroom instruction. See the Curriculum Audit™ final report – link.

What were the first big steps?

In the Spring of 2013, a committee of stakeholders convened to begin addressing audit recommendations. An essential outcome of the 41-member Instructional Model committee included the identification of a framework that gives educators necessary tools to craft and deliver effective instruction, and ultimately to create consistency in the delivery of curriculum; outline the role assessment plays in enhancing student achievement; develop a shared understanding about teaching and learning; and
help teachers design and deliver lessons that address the diverse needs of all learners. After much study, research, and discussion, the committee proposed, and the Board adopted, the Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning based on the work of Rick Stiggins and Jan Chappuis, as the District instructional model. See previous communication on the District Instructional Model – link.

Assessment for learning, also known as formative assessment, is a powerful process that provides students and teachers with information they can use to improve student performance. The goal of assessment for learning is to engage students in thinking about themselves as learners. Assessment for learning aims to equip students with the tools they need to answer three questions: “Where am I going?”; “Where am I now?”; and “How can I close the gap?”. Each of these questions is addressed by one or more of the “Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning”, as detailed in the chart on the side.

Throughout the 2014-2015 school year, curriculum and instruction spent a considerable amount of time working with various stakeholders to gain a deep understanding of the assessment for learning process, as well as identifying next steps to incorporate the learning acquired into the planning for the revised curriculum. It was determined that the first of the seven strategies, "Provide clear and understandable vision of the learning target," would be the most critical phase of the curriculum redesign process. Thus, teachers from across the district, along with curriculum and instruction staff, joined together in the summer of 2015 to begin clarifying complex standards (TEKS) by creating and classifing the learning targets.

How did we gain momentum?

With the learning targets in hand, further insights and connections by stakeholders followed. One observation in particular was a need to more comprehensively address the elements that influence decision-making when teachers collaboratively design both units of study as well as daily lesson plans within those units. This dialogue led to the introduction of the Teaching for Understanding Planning Cycle (TFU) adapted from the American Alliance for Innovative Systems. The TFU planning cycle serves as a framework for schools, teams, and individual teachers to actualize the AISD Instructional Model.

The (TFU) planning cycle reflects the current research from educational experts such as Larry Ainsworth, Grant Wiggins, Jay McTighe, James Popham, Carol Ann Tomlinson, Robert Marzano, et al. which, when considered in the planning process, increases the chances of student mastery of learning targets within standards at a much higher rate. The cycle serves as a means to increase the quality of instructional planning and analysis of the demonstration of student mastery of learning targets within standards. Understanding the complex process to achieve the means is often vague, and teachers and administrators alike benefit from collaboratively planning in professional learning communities to think about and discuss implications when designing instruction – both unit and daily lessons.
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Where do we go from here?

Engaging in the cycle of continuous improvement is our next charge. This includes supporting and monitoring the delivery of the written curriculum. Throughout the year, the curriculum and instruction staff will turn their attention from curriculum design and development to support instructional planning and delivery. While staff will continue to support collaborative team planning, and individual lesson planning; the classroom delivery will become a more prominent focus.

Additionally, another area of continuous improvement includes consistently garnering and responding to feedback on curriculum components. Throughout the year, teachers and administrators are invited to provide feedback and input. Should campus staff have any questions or concerns, a Curriculum Feedback Form (to be housed on Curriculum Central) will be available, and a curriculum designer will address your concern and respond in a timely fashion.

Division of Teaching and Learning

Dr. Jacqueline Kennedy, Executive Director
Connie Wallace, Director of Curriculum and Instruction
  • Kathy McFarlen, Language Arts Coordinator
  • Kandi Hunter, Math Coordinator
  • Danielle Reynolds, Science Coordinator
  • Kathy Riggle, Social Studies Coordinator