Lancer Letter


#419 Curriculum Development

This week’s Lancer Letter comes to us from GM’s curriculum director and middle school principal, Jason Buto.

What do “the cloud”, “branding”, “the establishment” and “curriculum” all have in common? They are all buzzwords used in different sectors of our society. Everyone would say they know what those words mean. However, if asked to define them, most would struggle to give a solid answer. An IT professional could tell you exactly what “the cloud” is, how to access it and use it. A marketing professional could give you the ins and outs of product “branding”.

A seasoned politician knows the members of “the establishment” and seeks to use them to his or her advantage. As Curriculum Director for the General McLane School District, I’d like to take a few moments to uncover the mystery behind the word “curriculum”. Although most people could give you a general idea of what curriculum is, most would struggle to define and describe it.

Curriculum is defined as “a course to be run”. When our Cross-Country athletes compete, they are required to run through a specific course to reach the finish line. The same is true for the students of the General McLane School District. When our kindergarteners start school, there is a 13-year course set out before them. To reach the finish line and graduate as seniors, they must successfully navigate through a plan that has been carefully laid out for them.

That plan is the curriculum.

Curriculum can also be defined as “a plan to achieve designated goals”. Many of you have probably made it your goal to lose weight in the new year. To have any chance of meeting your goal, you have to have an eating and exercise plan. Perhaps a personal trainer has helped you develop this plan? Maybe you have a book or website guiding you through the process?

Curriculum works in the same way. Curriculum is a list of specific goals with a plan to reach those goals.

The General McLane School District strives to “meet students where they are to empower them to become all they are capable of being”. This is our mission. Curriculum plays a key role in achieving our mission. As students graduate from General McLane High School, they enter a highly competitive post-high school environment. It is our desire to give students educational experiences that will launch them into their future with The McLane Advantage.

From Kindergarten through Grade 12, each curriculum area seeks to build a plan for learning that incrementally gives students what they need to be successful locally and globally. Teachers from all grade levels work together within each discipline and across disciplines to outline educational goals that empower students for future success.

Every seven years, each teacher at General McLane rewrites their curriculum with colleagues in their content area. We spend a lot of time and energy revising and updating curriculum. It takes three years to revise and update curriculum in each content area. Year 1 of the process is spent researching current trends and best practices. During this year, teachers will often attend a conference hosted by their state or national professional organization. Teachers will also do a thorough analysis of their current classroom practice in preparation for future changes. Teachers spend a lot of time looking at the state and national standards for their content area. Year 2 is when teachers actually write their new curriculum based on what they learned through the research they did in Year 1. Starting with standards, teachers outline specific observable and measurable goals for student learning. They describe Big Ideas and Essential Questions related to goals that are set. They develop a schedule for assessment of student learning.

Teachers also identify resources that will aid in meeting curriculum goals. After Year 2, the new curriculum is presented to the school board for approval. Year 3 of the curriculum process is the first year the new curriculum is delivered to students. Teachers spend this year making final changes and adjustments to the curriculum.

I hope you now have a better understanding of curriculum. More importantly, I hope you understand how hard we work to set a course for our students to run. Robert Marzano, a leading educational researcher, found that curriculum is the #1 school-level factor that impacts student achievement. Through the hard work of our teachers and administrators, we have curriculum that fosters a high level of student achievement.