Contributed by Brian F.
How have you integrated Curriculum Trak into your school culture?
- We are still working on this one, but after our last accreditation review, we made it one of our major goals.
- Our first step is to have each subject area do an internal “curriculum audit.” The goals are to have teachers:
- learn what is currently in their maps
- think about what should be in their maps (additions and updates)
- think about how to use their maps to guide instruction
- set subject area goals for our ongoing curriculum review cycle (I can share more details on our six-year cycle if you like)
- Teachers will work in groups by subject area to evaluate the curriculum for their subject.
- The evaluation tool we are using is Standard 5 of ACSI’s Rubrics Manual for Accreditation (REACH 2019 edition). This is a fairly easy to use set of rubrics for self-evaluation. It’s designed to examine the curriculum as a whole, but I’ve done some minor changes to the rubrics to make it easier for the teams to think specifically about their subject. These modifications aren’t brilliant by any means, but I’m happy to share them if you like.
What steps did you take to train, support, and encourage your teachers in their mapping efforts?
- One of the best features of CT is that it’s easy to use. We didn’t have to spend much time doing an initial training. As we get new staff, they can watch the CT videos online, but most often they just need a short tutorial from another staff member.
- We are beginning to follow a six-year curriculum review cycle that focuses on three new subject areas each year. The initial step of the review is to be a thorough updating of curriculum maps.
- We provide staff work days and other release times for teachers when it’s time to update maps.
- I admit that it’s been hard to get teachers to finish the work on their maps. Curriculum work is like doing taxes. It’s not really that awful once you get into it, but the thought of diving in is terrifying. Our school realizes that we need more oversight and respectful nudging from the admin level.
What unexpected insights, findings or benefits have you discovered from your mapping efforts so far?
- Curriculum maps and the linked resources give us something to pass on to new teachers.
- Having a written curriculum helps us with the problem of teachers bringing in a “suitcase curriculum” (i.e., their tried and true favorite things to cover–I admit that we haven’t completely solved this issue, however!).
- A digital, cloud-based resource like CT gives us a safe place to store our curriculum so that it doesn’t get lost. CT also make it easy to access curriculum documents–as opposed to an ignored or forgotten folder in a filing cabinet.
What advice would you offer to schools just starting the process?
- If your school is accredited, learn the specifics of what evidence you will need to show when it comes time for review from the accrediting body. (In our case this was ACSI.) We weren’t clear on the requirements, and we had to do hours of revision work on our maps late in the game in order to make them compliant.
- Give teachers lots of designated time to do their mapping, and provide oversight and follow up. If it’s just a general job expectation teachers won’t make the time to do it.
What tips, strategies, or tools did you find most helpful in advancing your efforts?
- Create as little from scratch as possible. Wherever it’s appropriate, use CT’s Available Standards Listing as well as the Other Curriculum feature.
- For other gaps, see what is available online from professional organizations and published state curricula.
Where are your mapping efforts leading you? What’s next as a result of your efforts?
- We are trying to build essential questions into our units. The goal is to ramp up higher level thinking and also use the questions as our primary tool for biblical integration.
- Each unit must have at least two essential questions.
- There must be one question that is directly based in the content, and at least one that addresses an appropriate biblical truth.
- We use 101 Biblical Worldview Truths as a resource for this.
- Teachers must make each essential question the focus of at least one lesson in the unit. However, our hope is that the questions will provide multiple opportunities for teachable moments during the course of a unit.
I trust this is of some help. Let me know if you need any clarification or have other questions.