Superintendent News

This column will address the process utilized to adopt a new curriculum and will update readers on the most recent changes to our curriculum.

The district operates under an eight-year curriculum review cycle.  That means that once a curriculum is purchased in a particular subject area, it will be utilized for instruction for eight years before being replaced.  Selecting a new curriculum is a fairly lengthy process.  It involves departments examining student performance data to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum currently being used.  It also involves comparing the various curricula available for purpose to the local, state and national standards that we are required to teach.  Departments and/or grade levels will make a recommendation that goes before the District Curriculum Review Advisory Committee (DCRAC) which is composed of school board members, administration, faculty and community members.  If DCRAC gives the request a favorable recommendation, it goes before the entire school board for adoption.

The Minnesota Department of Education reviews the standards we are required to teach in each subject area on a cycle as well.  Their process is fairly detailed.  There are typically many opportunities for the public to be involved in the process before MDE officially approves new standards.  Ideally, our district closely follows MDE’s cycle so that we are in alignment.

Before diving into recent changes, a short recap from last week’s article will set the stage:

CORE KNOWLEDGE

To maintain a competitive advantage in the employment world and to be well-equipped to meet the challenges of daily living and derive personal satisfaction and well-being, it is essential that our graduates embrace the concept of lifelong learning and develop mastery of key foundational knowledge.  Among the foundational knowledge areas:  language arts literacy, numeracy, scientific literacy, personal financial literacy, arts literacy and vocational literacy.  Students should be able to organize and prioritize their time.  They should have knowledge of career paths and how to plan their path to a desired career.  Students will also need to be knowledgeable in the use of various technologies including how to best utilize technology for effective communication.  Students will have core knowledge in obtaining and maintaining their physical, emotional and cognitive well-being.  

The district has been extremely busy adopting new curricula, new instructional practices and new technology over the past three years.  All of this takes a lot of time and effort.  As a community, you can be very proud of the efforts being made to ensure that all students are receiving an exemplary education.  

In the educational world of curriculum adoption, we have tackled three heavy-weights in succession.  

Science

We adopted a new K-12 science curriculum to support some significant changes in standards made by MDE that also included a philosophical change in instruction.  It utilizes an inquiry-based model meaning that it revolves around asking (and answering) questions about the world around us.  It emphasizes a more hand-on instructional approach. Following is an excerpt from MDE: “Science is the process of exploring and explaining the processes, structures, designs, and systems that make up our natural and human-made world. In Science, all students engage in practices including making observations, developing and revising models, and recording and analyzing data to answer scientific questions and design solutions to problems. Scientifically literate classroom communities make observations of the world around them, design investigations to answer questions, make connections between ideas across the science disciplines, and solve problems using technologies for an ever-changing world.”

Language Arts (K-6)

The adoption at the elementary level naturally places great emphasis in supporting the students’ learning needs as developing readers.  From MDE: “English Language Arts (ELA) are all of the communication and language skills and processes people use every day to receive and send information. Students in ELA classrooms and across the content areas take in information through reading, listening, and viewing from both literary and informational sources. Students also write, speak, and exchange ideas to express themselves and communicate with others. The ability to use and understand language is critical to every aspect of students’ lives and their future career and college readiness.”  The district will be reviewing our 7-12 language arts curriculum this year with a recommendation for a new curriculum coming to the school board sometime in the spring of 2023.  

Math

The district will be implementing new math curricula this year and the district is very excited about the new ways that it will support student learning needs.  From MDE:  “Mathematics is a discipline whose basic ingredients are numbers, shapes, and algebraic relationships. Logical reasoning is used to study the properties of these objects and develop connections between them. The results can be used to understand and analyze a vast array of phenomena arising in all of the sciences, engineering and everyday life. For this reason, mathematics is often called the ‘language of science.’ We support mathematics achievement for all learners by providing guidance and technical assistance on implementation of academic standards, current best practices, and multi-tiered systems of intervention.”  We have purchased supportive math technology that truly meets students at their skill level.  As students solve problems, the software analyzes whether it is necessary for additional background knowledge, support and practice needs to take place or whether the student has mastered the skill and is ready to proceed to the next level.  This software will greatly increase our ability to provide individualized learning and instruction for all students.

Future columns will address project based learning, our goals for technology instruction and how the use of technology augments student learning.  

My appreciation to our staff for the extra efforts they are putting forth.  We have a lot going on, but the results of this work are going to provide our students with an amazing education!