Reflection - Curriculum Problem


Working on curriculum this semester I learned more about the process and politics of really creating something new. The change process is heavily dependent on many factors, including funding, and politics, and leadership of the district. The previous superintendent was clearly charged by the board of education with increasing the academic rigor and preparing every student for college. This became evident even more when I looked at the whole mathematics curriculum map, and how much has changed in the past few years. I think the direction is a good one, and we are making great strides with student learning, as evidenced by CAPT scores. It was evident the previous superintendent had an overarching goal. Through this process I have also learned that leadership is very important if new ideas and change is desired. With an interim-superintendent, I see major things on a large pause; everyone is in a wait-and-see mode. Ideas that were not possible under the old superintendent have been quietly put back on the table. I definitely learned that change in a large district is very difficult. In contrast, I have enjoyed looking and learning the differences between a large district and a two schools (middle and high school) district, where change is very quick in comparison.

The process of identifying a potential curriculum problem, looking at data, and creating curriculum was a learning process I shall not forget. The first major lesson I learned was as a school leader, I will surround myself with others and not create curriculum in isolation. Working alone as a teacher this semester was difficult as I constantly wanted to talk and work through issues.
My DDDM training, coupled with my math background helped me look at data differently. This curriculum project and the achievement gap assignment helped refine these data analysis skills. Comparisons of dissimilar groups to create change cause me to think and question some assumptions. For example, for years I looked at my entering freshmen CMT scores and tried to use them to predict future CAPT success in math. I wonder now, after looking at data in so many ways in different districts, if this is a reliable use of the data. CAPT and CMT are so different and the methods of reporting scores are so different. Yet, I see others making curriculum decisions on just such data comparisons. Another example is comparisons between cohorts from year to year. I wonder how much variability is statistical noise. Is a two percentage drop in scores from one year to another really a cause for alarm? I also struggle with how to express my concerns over data use when in discussions with policy makers and stake-holders.
This semester I have found the readings and materials very relevant to my job as a classroom teacher. I am constantly evaluating my teaching with respect to the “successful strategies” identified in the handbook of effective teaching strategies. My teaching has been positively impacted by the curriculum problem as I teach the Math Applications course. I plan to use my unit on personal financial literacy at the end of the year. I have started gathering more and more materials. My students will benefit directly from my evolvement in this class. Student achievement in my class is already being positively impacted.
The curriculum map, curriculum, and implementation guide I created will be submitted to the district for modification and inclusion in the published documents of the district. Prior to my work, the curriculum for Math Applications was a one-page document listing the suggested chapters to cover. The curriculum was, and to a large part still is the book. I feel the work I have done to put the curriculum in the same form as all other math curriculum will benefit the district. My whole system has been trained in Reeve’s power standards, and use a variation of the standard curriculum document with all new curriculums. Going through this process on my own, I not only gained a better appreciation for the other curriculums I have, but I learned how to better use the curriculum. I feel the work I have created is a good beginning and the process of refinement can begin. I look forward to working with others to make the Math Applications course a success, by filling in the gaps students need prior to graduation.