Schools Begin Comprehensive Curricular Review, Focusing First on Math

 

Bedford educators will launch a comprehensive multi-year curriculum and instructional review beginning in the fall.

The seven-year cycle focuses on a single academic discipline the first year and adds another each subsequent year. And each content area is addressed over a four-year template.

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Dr. Tricia Clifford presented the details to the School Committee Tuesday.

Beginning in four years, there will be four distinct curricula in differing phases of review. “By 2025 you’re going to be pretty busy,” said committee Chair Sarah Scoville.

Clifford said the intent is “to really make sure any new curricula or instructional process we want to change, we make sure to do in a step-by-step fashion over a few years.” The two areas are linked, Clifford explained: “Curriculum is really the ‘what;’ instruction is really the ‘how.’”

The process helps ensure equitable distribution of funding for materials, staffing, curriculum work, and professional development, she explained, so that “support is spread out over the content areas.”

Changes must be aligned with and support not only the district and school improvement plans but also more global standards like state educational frameworks and college entrance examinations.

Clifford cited School Committee policy calling for “constant adaptation and development of curriculum.” She stressed that it will be a collaborative project “using professional expertise” with input from parents and the community.

“As part of the creation of the cycle, I shared this with all of the program administrators and program directors and curriculum leaders and principals and the leadership team,” she said. This collaboration began a year ago, she added; “This has been a work in progress for quite some time.”

She pointed out that the extended process will need to be manageable for elementary school teachers, who are responsible for instructing a range of subject areas.

Mathematics will be the first subject addressed, beginning in the fall, followed in ensuing years by science, technology, and engineering; visual and performing arts; social studies; English language arts and reading; physical education, health and family, and consumer sciences; and world language. Then the cycle renews in the eighth year.

There will be a curriculum steering committee for each content area, Clifford said, comprising program directors and administrators, and teachers. She stressed the importance of collecting information from teachers, parents, and former students, using tools such as surveys.

Each content area will be addressed in four phases, in successive years. The first phase is the development of a plan of action, prioritizing focus areas, and assessing strengths and areas of growth, said Clifford.

The second phase will be a pilot year for recommended curricular changes and instructional improvements, as well as collection of data to measure effectiveness, she continued. That will be followed by a year of implementation across the content area, with phase four dedicated to evaluation, including a team from outside the district.

In response to a question from member Sheila Mehta-Green, Clifford acknowledged that “there may be times when different things happen, specific implementations or mandates,” that will mean adjustments in the review cycle. “We won’t always wait in a span of four years to address something.”

Asked by member Ann Guay to provide an example of a “positive outcome,” Clifford said the review identifies priorities for budget preparation.

Committee member Brad Morrison asked whether outside evaluators could become involved earlier in the four-year template. Clifford replied. “We might be able to reach out as soon as the first year.”

“We are not curricular setters,” reminded committee member Dan Brosgol. “We are not going to micromanage. But when it feels like its policy and not practice, we will have something to say.”

He referenced a “surprise” at the last committee meeting — a proposal to delete the current grade 6 advanced mathematics section. That instead was folded into the curriculum review after pushback by committee members.

Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad agreed that “nobody wants surprises. I see this as a cooperative process throughout” with the School Committee. Morrison pointed out that involving the School Committee “is a form of communicating with the public.”

Brosgol added, “I’m going to cede no ground ever on academic rigor and excellence – wherever we are in the cycle.”

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763


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