Lakota’s Community Curriculum Advisory Team (CCAT) met for its first meeting of the new school year in September. As with every meeting, the agenda was divided into two components: proactive and reactive.
The team’s first point of business was to review the results of the community-wide ThoughtExchange. Throughout the month of August, parents, staff, students and community members were encouraged to answer the following question: “With regard to Lakota’s curriculum, what is working well, what opportunities are there for improvement and what questions do you have?” Throughout the month, 519 participants shared 309 thoughts.
Following the June meeting, the members determined that feedback from the Lakota community would be helpful in setting the team’s priorities for the new school year. “What we’re looking for is some direction for the team, some action items,” said Lori Brown, Lakota’s executive director of curriculum and instruction. As a result, they requested a ThoughtExchange be shared to gather feedback.
After time spent reviewing the responses, CCAT member Michale Albrecht said, “I was intrigued by how often consistency in the math curriculum came up.” Brown clarified that many of the comments on this topic were from Lakota staff members.
Regina McCall noted the number of thoughts related to reading and phonics for younger students and Diane Wiater added career readiness. Albrecht also commented that eight of the top 30 thoughts were supportive of social emotional learning (SEL).
Brown clarified for member Vanessa Wells that, although SEL is part of ODE’s standards for public education, districts have not received guidance as to who should specifically teach SEL. For example, the math teacher is responsible for math instruction. However, SEL is blended in the curriculum in different ways at different grade levels.
SEL for primary students is part of the specials rotation. At the secondary level, SEL is embedded in programs like Hope Squad, Sources of Strength and career readiness exploration. For example, students are peer-selected to participate in Hope Squad at the high schools, but there is also an elective class students can take if they have an interest in suicide prevention. Career readiness includes students considering what their interests might be once they graduate from high school. Additionally, there are new state laws like House Bill 123, Safety and Violation Education (SAVE) Students Act, which requires prevention education beginning this school year, and Erin’s Law which requires developmentally appropriate education related to child sexual abuse be added to health curriculum. For both of the new laws, parents and guardians will be notified prior to the unit being taught.
Other topics frequently mentioned in the exchange include electives and specials, class size, the different forms of testing, advanced placement classes, college and career readiness and how history is taught.
Further discussion centered around meeting students’ educational needs and how a teacher might respond. Wiater inquired about the extent of teacher autonomy in selecting resources used for instruction. “If there's a curriculum in place, how much opportunity does a teacher have to select curriculum & resources? How is this decided and monitored?”
Brown shared that, “By and large, the curriculum budget is used to buy the resources (used by teachers). (However), if there is a (timely) news article that supports what is being taught, a teacher might bring that into class.” Brown, along with Director of Curriculum 7-12 Andrew Wheatley and Director of Curriculum K-6 Christina French, further explained that teachers in primary grades typically use class newsletters to share instructional resources with parents while secondary teachers share resources with parents at curriculum nights. Parents also have access to class syllabi on the district’s class management system, Canvas.
Wiater asked, “Does this yield higher test scores? Is this something that we could analyze and evaluate? Is there a correlation between teaching and test scores?”
Albrecht noted that, based on exchange responses, consistency and guardrails in teaching seem to be a concern. He added, “The best teaching happens when they find the sweet spot of using the provided resources and meeting the needs of students.”
French and Wheatley explained that primary-grade teachers have day-by-day guides that come with their resources. The guides explain what should be taught and what the students should learn as a result. A team of teachers are partnering with the curriculum department to build out model courses for secondary teachers that will provide the same support.
French added, “What are we really great at teaching? Where do we need some help? What resources are working? What aren’t?” Brown shared that the district’s focus this year is on improving students’ academic achievement in reading and math.
At the conclusion of the discussion, Brown asked, “Do any of these look like topics that we should dig into (as our priorities)?”
The team agreed that, based on the ThoughtExchange, the focus areas should include: math, reading, college and career readiness, SEL and electives and specials. During the next meeting’s proactive component, the team will review Lakota’s course listings. Brown and her team will also share the district’s curriculum priorities and what the department is already working on.
At each meeting CCAT reserves time to review curriculum submissions through Lakota Listens, or those shared directly with district leaders. While there have been no new submissions to review, Brown shared that the team’s suggestions on how to improve the form were added and the new form has been live on the website since June.
The team’s next meeting will take place in November.
- school board
- thought exchange
- thought exchange results