Contributed by Paula F.
Our story . . . .
Our school had written curriculum for the major content areas (Bible, English, math, science & social studies) in preparation for initial accreditation a number of years ago. A template was used that included course content (by the quarter and the week), essential question(s), core objectives, biblical worldview integration, projects, key resources, assessment, and extended learning experiences. Each teacher had worked on their own and although there was a set template there were still some inconsistencies from content area to content area and grade level to grade level.
As we examined best practices for curriculum mapping that would support our curriculum efforts over time we felt Curriculum Trak (CT) would provide the means to do this. Being web-based, teachers/administrators could access from off-site, teachers in the same grade level would be able to individualize, and we could connect the PA Common Core standards/benchmarks to our maps.
We determined that our Curriculum Trak maps would identify the unit, state benchmarks, skills/objectives, essential questions, biblical worldview integration, instructional strategies, assessment, and resources. Since we already had written maps, information from those was put into CT except for the state benchmarks. Minor adjustments were made in an attempt toward consistency. All the initial development of our CT maps and revisions to those maps in the areas of unit, state benchmarks, skills/objectives, and essential questions have been done by the curriculum specialist. Teachers were then tasked with adding biblical worldview integration, instructional strategies, assessment, and resources. Initially, (3 years ago) our teachers were shown the platform and had about 1 ½ days of instructional work time in CT. Continued work was to be done with timelines and deadlines established. We have appreciated the Curriculum Mapping Progress Report feature that allows us to see how the teachers are progressing.
However, it was soon evident that the maps were in need of revision, although they were just a few years old. Teachers were teaching different things and using different resources. As we have reviewed specific content areas and purchased new textbooks we have revised the maps. In all honesty, our revised maps are somewhat reflective of the new textbooks, but our textbooks were selected based on the support they provided for us to meet state benchmarks.
Our specials (computer, PE, music, art) will have had about 30 hours of actual work time to develop their maps in CT. These areas are scheduled to have maps completed by the end of this school year.
The overall goal is to have all content areas at each grade level completed prior to our next accreditation visit in 12 months. And at that point we will follow a formal review process that will cycle the content areas every five years.
This current school year we have begun to utilize the Lesson Planner feature. A few hiccups at the beginning of the year but overall that is going well. Having lesson plans connect directly to the maps is allowing teachers and administrators to track pacing of instruction.
To support some of the areas in the Map we provided specific professional development in the areas of essential questions, differentiated learning, formative assessment, and biblical worldview integration.
Integrating Curriculum Trak into our school culture has had its ups and downs. Teachers could see the benefits of using the platform but were not really given the time to work in the platform. And thus, did not really even access the maps that were developed. As we continue to revise content areas and continue using the Lesson Planner feature, teachers are able to double check their own pacing and keep track of various resources (web links, handouts, etc). Administrators will now be able to track where our state benchmarks are being addressed.
So that is our story.
I share about Curriculum Trak A LOT and have appreciated the incentive to do so as it keeps our costs a little lower.
This is what is shared . . . .
A lot will depend on if there is any current written curriculum (or maps) or if you are basically just following a textbook.
Schools without any written curriculum (or maps) will want to schedule some professional development on how to develop curriculum maps. The most current trend is to utilize a “backward design” model identifying the final student outcomes for each content area and grade level and then the “how do we get there.” (Understanding by Design, Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe).
Whether you have or don’t have written curriculum you will want to clarify what you want to include in your maps: unit, objectives/standards/benchmarks, essential questions, instructional strategies, resources, assessments, etc.
Then decide if you will be rolling all content areas into Curriculum Trak at one time and who will be entering the data into Curriculum Trak: each teacher, department head/lead teacher, or curriculum coordinator. Each will present different issues.
Time to develop, revise, and enter curriculum into Curriculum Trak is critical to the process. Take time on the front end to plan carefully and develop a timeline for the work that you need to complete. I encourage a slow and steady commitment especially if you have elementary grades where classroom teachers teach multiple content areas. If there are multiple teachers in a grade level, they can take on different content areas.
My personal preference is to have the whole school working at the same time whether you are starting a Backward Design process or rolling over current curriculum. Having vertical and horizontal content area discussions will be a must. I feel strongly about all grade level teachers discussing a specific content area to ensure that each grade level is preparing students for the next and understanding what is required to do so. And of course grade level conversations help ensure that all sections are meeting the expected benchmarks even if individual teacher instruction looks a little different.
As your school progresses through this process, identify some teacher leaders who show interest and/or ability in using Curriculum Trak. Encourage them to work with a small group, maybe in a specific area of the Map. Also, provide professional development opportunities in curriculum mapping and the various mapping components (essential questions, assessments, biblical worldview integration, etc.).