Accelerating Student and Staff Learning: Purposeful Curriculum Collaboration
Publication Year: 2009
“This book brings new focus to the rich history of ideas and strategies shown to improve student learning, helping educators at all levels see not only the value of using proven strategies, but the importance of integrating those strategies into purposeful improvement efforts.”
—Thomas R. Guskey, Distinguished Service Professor
“This is a book of action. The author calls for leaders in school communities to be bold, courageous, committed, and aggressive in the actions required to achieve desired increases in student learning.”
—Charles Patterson, Educational Consultant
Former President, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Dramatically raise student achievement by engaging educators in collaborative curriculum design and professional development!
Teachers, teacher leaders, principals, and staff developers can build a collaborative culture and improve staff and student performance with this content-focused, step-by-step model ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: An Overview: Collaborative Curriculum Design as Professional Learning
- Chapter 2: Establishing Assumptions About Student and Staff Learning
- Chapter 3: Determining Complex Curriculum Standards and Concepts
- Chapter 4: Mapping the Curriculum
- Chapter 5: Assessment of Student Learning
- Chapter 6: Designing Instruction
- Chapter 7: Analyzing Student Work and Monitoring Student Learning to Inform Instruction
- Chapter 8: Using Effective Grading and Parent Reporting Practices
- Chapter 9: Leading Schools to Sustain the Effort and Fulfill the Promise
Copyright © 2009 by Corwin
All rights reserved. When forms and sample documents are included, their use is authorized only by educators, local school sites, and/or noncommercial or nonprofit entities that have purchased the book. Except for that usage, no part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Accelerating student and staff learning: Purposeful curriculum collaboration/Kay Psencik.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-4129-7145-4 (cloth)
ISBN 978-1-4129-7146-1 (pbk.)
1. Learning. 2. Curriculum planning. 3. Group work in education. I. Title.
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
09 10 11 12 13 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Acquisitions Editor: Dan Alpert
Associate Editor: Megan Bedell
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In my career I was honored on several occasions to participate on district-level curriculum writing teams. Each experience was professionally rewarding. And while I believed my individual students benefitted from my experience, there were many students whose teachers were not given similar opportunities. The district tried to compensate for this situation by offering curriculum orientation sessions. However, there were limits as to the impact these one-shot sessions could have on my colleagues' teaching.
Research consistently reinforces that the most important factor in a student's learning is the quality of teaching experienced each day. That quality is influenced not only by the qualifications of the teacher, but the content of the lesson, and the strategies applied by the teacher to facilitate student learning. My experience demonstrated for me that when teachers are given the opportunity to study and design powerful lessons based on standards, more students experience success.
Years later what I learned “in practice” was explained to me “in theory.” In 1998 Susan Loucks Horsley and several colleagues wrote a comprehensive professional learning strategies guide for math and science teachers. It was my first exposure to the concepts of curriculum implementation, replacement units, and curriculum development and adaptation as professional development. Considering curriculum development as a powerful form of professional learning was based on several shared assumptions as follow:
Those closest to the level of implementation are best suited to develop curriculum. Through the process teachers increase their content and pedagogical knowledge and reflect on their teaching.
The development of curriculum provides teachers with numerous opportunities to learn from others who have expertise outside of the classroom.
Teachers can increase their understanding of both content and pedagogy by thinking carefully about the broad goals of the curriculum and the specific content, skills, and attitudes that students need to acquire. (p. 80–81)
For too long the potential impact and relationship of school and team-based curriculum development has been ignored. Too many school systems still hold curriculum development as a district-level responsibility and fail to recognize the potential benefits to sharing the responsibility between the school and central office. Our current system of education is organized around standards and assessments at each grade level. And while ensuring all students are held to similarly high standards, schools and teachers need the flexibility to design the curriculum and lessons that [Page viii]will ensure their students successfully meet the standards. Districts that hold the curriculum reins too tight may unwittingly fail to realize many powerful benefits that may accompany sharing the responsibility with leadership teams at the school, grade level and department levels. These benefits may include the following:
- Curriculum that addresses the immediate needs of the learners. Data driven decision making provides teachers with insights as to the standards that are challenging students and the curriculum that will be most helpful in addressing those challenges. Data indicates what students know and where they are struggling. While curriculum may be sequenced for one particular approach, much of it is better revised when the data indicates students are either not ready for what is scheduled next or can move faster than the curriculum recommends.
- Curriculum that addresses the interests and strengths of students. No independent group of curriculum writers knows teachers' students interests and assets better than the assigned classroom teachers. Teachers provided the context and support for ongoing curriculum refinement are better situated to meet student needs. In addition, research demonstrates connections between student engagement and student learning.
- Curriculum adjustable to the identified needs of students. In addition to strengths and interests, students have unique needs. Once again teachers are best positioned to understand their students' needs and need to feel empowered to make the decisions regarding how the curriculum can be adjusted to meet their students' needs.
- Curriculum that is understood and appreciated by the classroom teachers at a deep level. In fact, teacher who divide up lesson assignment responsibilities as opposed to collaborating in the development of lessons have very different experiences in classrooms. There is no substitute for the depth of knowledge that results from the joint development and assessment of classroom curricula. Scripted lessons can have limited impact on teachers and their students.
- Curriculum that considers the context in which it is delivered. Schools, communities, families, can bring different strengths to a learning community. When teachers are encouraged to develop curriculum that takes advantage not only of their students' strengths but their families' backgrounds and strengths, then they can find ways to engage families in the learning process and leverage the benefits that accompany family involvement.
Kay Psencik understands all these benefits. In fact she has understood them for almost 30 years. Having spent most of her career at the central office level she recognized the importance of balancing the roles and responsibilities for curriculum development in the ways that best served the educators and their students. This book represents a compilation of her best strategies.
Educators who choose to embrace the professional learning approach advocated by Psencik will unleash a powerful, proven, and practical process. Psencik writes like the skillful facilitator she is. She begins each phase with a discussion of her core beliefs, outlines steps to reach an identified goal, and shares strategies for assessing progress. She is detail oriented out of respect for the many challenges and expectations that confront educators and her hope to help others surmount the problems many educators face.
[Page ix]Psencik creates a powerful and compelling vision—all students performing at standard—for school leaders committed to school-based professional learning. Curriculum development as professional learning for teacher leaders is an effective strategy to achieving the vision. As teachers work collaboratively to review standards, evaluate curriculum, design lessons, and create assessments, they engage in embedded curriculum development and adaptation. Over the course of a school year, they create a useful student-focused and standards-based curriculum that ensures all students meet objectives. Psencik's approach to curriculum development offers a powerful job-embedded professional learning model.
Psencik's approach is practical as well. Through each phase, Psencik reviews the assumptions upon which she bases her recommendations, then moves to a review of the relevant research base, and finally offers questions to focus the learning team on the critical issues. During each phase, educators are encouraged to reflect, write, and adapt. Psencik includes case studies that demonstrate the results she experienced with the process in many different school settings. The results are indisputable, demonstrating the process can work. At the same time, she recognizes that each site has its unique challenges and she closes with reflective questions to further support the team learning process.
Kay Psencik's approach to curriculum development and school-based professional learning has proven results to support it. Her approach has demonstrated impact with many constituencies in diverse settings. Her ideas were shaped by her experience working in both a rural school system and a large, urban school system. Psencik advocated for curriculum alignment and development during the school year as opposed to after the school year, and for professional learning that enabled teachers to understand deeply the standards their students were expected to master long before others were thinking about the issues. The book she has written exemplifies her countless success stories from the west coast in Oregon to the east coast in New York.
Kay Psencik has been a valued colleague for almost 30 years. I marvel at how much she has learned and how much she has accomplished since our first meeting. Enjoy the passion and expertise that Kay Psencik brings to life in this book. Use this text to transform your learning communities—you will gain the knowledge and skills to begin the important journey to ensuring every educator experiences effective professional learning every day so every student achieves.
Loucks-Horsley, S., Hewson, P., Love, N., and Stiles, K. (1998). Designing professional development for teachers of science and mathematics. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.[Page x]
I especially want to thank Jack Reeves and Charles Patterson, two dear friends, who served as superintendents in Temple and Killeen, Texas. Both mentored me. They modeled leadership strategies essential to ensuring the success of all students. Through observing their passions for and commitment to student outcomes, to high expectations for all, and to collaboration and learning of staff, I grew as an administrator. They led professional learning communities long before those were common terms, and during their service as superintendents, the achievement of students in these districts reflected their commitment to teaching and learning.
So many people shaped who I am as an educator: Shirley Hord and her deep thoughtful research, writings, and leadership in building professional learning communities. Dennis Sparks, executive director emeritus, Stephanie Hirsh, executive director, Joellen Killion, assistant executive director, and Linda Munger, senior consultant, National Staff Development Council coached and guided me to deep understanding of the principles and standards of professional learning. I thank them so much for their commitment to student and staff learning and their vision that when educators engage in effective professional learning every day, every student achieves.
I also want to thank those school district leaders and school principals that I have been privilege to serve over the past several years. These leaders have a clear vision of their schools as high performing, communities of learners. I am so grateful to them for all the many stories that we have shared. I especially want to thank Kathy Larson, principal of Heritage Elementary and Victor Vegara, principal of Valor Middle School, both from Woodburn, Oregon, who made fundamental leadership decisions to engage teaching teams in collaboration and learning around curriculum, assessment, and instruction. I am also grateful I have had the opportunity to work with Judy Tyson, principal of Iduma Elementary in Killeen, Texas, who led a new school family to a shared vision around a fundamental commitment to high expectations in curriculum, assessment, and instruction.
Many of the stories in this book reflect a districtwide commitment to professional learning. Linda Reeves, Superintendent of North Marion, Aurora, Oregon; Gloria Shamanoff, Northwest Allen School District, Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Ione Bonds, Petal Schools, Petal, Mississippi; have been models for others of how to build districtwide focus on professional learning communities and sustain the effort through the challenges.
Most important, the stories of significance in this book are stories of teachers and their work. The examples shared in the book are actual works and products of teachers from all across the country who honestly engage in learning with other teachers and who share the impact of that work on their own learning and the learning of their students.
[Page xii]Another gift I have been given is my editor, Dan Alpert. I was always more eager to work harder, more inspired, and more encouraged after talking with Dan. I feel truly blessed that he was my editor. What was most inspirational is his commitment to professional development and his passion for inspiring this author to do her best. I have had a wonderful team of editors and I am grateful for the assistance of Megan Bedell, Amy Schroller, and Adam Dunham for all they have done to make sure my words told the story I wanted to tell.
Finally, I have always been most fortunate to have a family that encouraged me. I want to thank Don, my husband of forty years and my two wonderful daughters, Annette Jones and Erin Psencik, and my son-in-law Ron Jones who have known me as a passionate educator for a long time and who accept me as I am. And I live in joy and gratitude for my beautiful granddaughter, Kate, who rejuvenates me to work even harder so that the world in which she lives is hopeful, peaceful, healthy, creative, and compassionate.Publisher's Acknowledgments
Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following individuals:
Yolanda Abel, Instructor of Teacher Preparation
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
Judy Brunner, Instructor
Missouri State University, Springfield, MO
Teresa Cunningham, Principal/Literacy Leader
Laurel Elementary School, Laurel Bloomery, TN
Boyd Dressler, Associate Professor of Education in Leadership
Montana State University, Bozeman, MT
Mike Greenwood, District Teacher Leader
Windsor Public Schools, Springfield, MA
Steve Hutton, Elementary Principal/Educational Consultant
Kentucky Department of Education, Villa Hills, KY
Barb Keating, Principal
F. W. Howay Elementary School, New Westminster, BC, Canada
Kandace Klenz, Middle Childhood Literacy
Moses Lake County Schools, Moses Lake, WA
Dori Novak, Director of Leadership Alignment Initiatives
Maryland State Department of Education[Page xiii]
Linda Diane Patin, Aldine Resource Center
Aldine Independent School District, Houston, TX
Thomas Payzant, Professor of Education in Leadership
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Bess Sullivan Scott, Principal
McPhee Elementary School, Lincoln, NE
Vicki L. Vaughn, Principal and G/T Coordinator
Edgelea Elementary, Lafayette, IN
Paul Young, Executive Director
West After School Center, Lancaster, OH[Page xiv]
Rosemarie Young, Principal
Watson Lane Elementary School, Louisville, KY
About the Author
[Page xvi]This book is dedicated to the thoughtful, skilled, and artistic teachers in America's schools who give selflessly of themselves every day to ensure that all children are learning well, and by doing so, they shape the very fabric of our communities, our nation, and the world. Through their historic, humble commitment to teaching and learning and their passion for children, each of us has the opportunity to discover who we are and to find our place of service.
Resources[Page 135][Page 136]
Resource A: Our Assumptions About Student and Staff Learning[Page 137]
Resource B: The Principles of Professional Learning[Page 138]
Resource C: Our Vision of Our School: Iduma Elementary School, Killeen ISD, Killeen, TX[Page 139]
Resource D: A Learning Walk[Page 140]
Resource E: We Are a School Community That Values Learning[Page 141]
Resource F: Our Learning Community's Norms[Page 142]
Resource G: Quakertown High School Goals[Page 143][Page 144][Page 145]
Resource H: Example Letter to Parents[Page 146]
Resource I: Critical Attributes of a Performance Task or Project[Page 147]
Resource J: Template for Culminating Demonstrations[Page 148]
Resource K: Example of a Second-Grade, First-Term Culminating Demonstration[Page 149]
Resource L: Example of a Second-Grade, Third-Term Culminating Demonstrations[Page 151]
Resource M: Precision in Adverbs[Page 154]
Resource N: Exemplary Rubric: Middle Ages Scoring Guide[Page 155]
Example produced by Valor Middle School Encore Teaching Team
Resource O: Culminating Demonstration Rubric for First-Grade Students at Heritage Elementary[Page 157][Page 158]
Resource P: Kindergarten Literacy Lesson Plans[Page 159][Page 160]
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