Dusting off the Curriculum Binder:
IL District Transitions to a “Living” Curriculum
The development of curriculum has always been a strength and focus of Central Community Unit School District #301. “Our teachers work hard through a subject area committee process to write curriculum,” said Esther Mongan, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning. “Unfortunately, for some teachers, the curriculum was written and then placed on a shelf to collect dust.”
To keep D301’s curriculum off the shelf, Esther felt she needed to make the district’s curriculum available through the use of a technology-based program. “We wanted to make our curriculum into a living, breathing document that was available to all staff members. We also wanted to provide a resource that could be updated, allowing us to keep our curriculum current across the district,” Mongan said. In response to this need, the district purchased BuildYourOwnCurriculum (BYOC).
“BYOC allows teachers to access information for our district and to update resources so we can make sure we have a consistent curriculum across the district regardless of where students are seated. Equality in education and curriculum for our students is essential. Making sure that every teacher has access to the district curriculum was a fundamental purpose in selecting BYOC. The program helps to drive a consistent curriculum,” Mongan said.
Finding Consistency in Technology
“Our motivation in finding BYOC stemmed from our need to have a document that we could keep current and that teachers could access easily. We wanted something that teachers could utilize – regardless of their content area. Additionally, we wanted something that provided D301 with the opportunity to make sure we were covering all the standards for each content area. BYOC did this for us. It allows us to audit our curriculum to make sure that we are hitting all the standards necessary within our school year,” Mongan said.
BYOC provides teachers with a simple web-based design to make resources easily accessible. Teachers can update and align learning content to state and national standards within an organized, intuitive structure. In addition to this, BYOC allows cross-district sharing of curriculum. Administrative and teaching staff can access and download curriculum from other districts anywhere in the country. “BYOC’s ability to see other member district’s curriculum is a valuable resource to teachers while writing their curriculum. There are a multitude of reports that can be run that assist as you move along the process from lesson plans to unit plans and then to the auditing of standards,” Mongan said.
Esther Mongan, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning
According to Mongan, BYOC has provided D301 with a program that has allowed teachers to play a more active role in the curriculum writing process. “With BYOC, every teacher has the availability of being involved in the curriculum development process. This has provided great professional growth for our teaching staff. The major benefit from using BYOC is that our teachers are talking about curriculum. They are thinking about instruction of standards and learning progressions more deeply as they develop their unit and lesson designs.”
“BYOC is a product that helps you to define clear objectives for teachers to instruct. It helps to level the playing field for districts with multiple sites by providing a repository for curriculum that is easily accessible to everyone,” Mongan said.
Building on Success
D301 is still in the process of building content areas in BYOC, but Mongan says the program has consistently helped teachers to understand what needs to be taught at each grade level. “Prior to BYOC, the “what” we should be teaching was somewhat of a challenge. BYOC has definitely put the focus on what needs to be taught and when. This, in turn, has provided more clearly designed instruction.”
In order to build on the district’s success, D301 purchased BuildYourOwnAssessment (BYOA) a year after its initial purchase of BYOC. BYOA directly references district learning targets established in BYOC to create more accurate and effective student assessments. “We wanted to begin to have a way to collect data for common assessments and to match it to the curriculum. The marriage between BYOC and BYOA allows us to do this. The teachers that have begun to work with BYOA are very excited about the prospect of what the program can do for them,” Mongan said.
“We are at the beginning stages of implementing BYOA. Our goal is to have BYOA for common assessments for all content areas. Additionally, it can be a repository for formative assessments. We have a lot of district goals regarding assessment and I am hopeful that BYOA will get us there,” Mongan said.
According to Mongan, the continued support from Education Technology Partners and School Software Group has provided exceptional assistance in helping to reach district goals and objectives. “Education Technology Partners and School Software Group truly live up to the “partner” experience. They provide excellent support and customer service. Whenever a question arises, they are quick to respond and assist in any way they can. They listen to their school partners and make adjustments to their software if necessary. Truthfully, they are both excellent organizations with which to work.”
When asked what future goals the district plans to achieve with BYOC and BYOA, Mongan replied, “It is our hope that having two systems working in tandem will provide us with a clear way to monitor the standards and our students’ success with these standards. We look forward to the prospect of utilizing this data to help us discern more information for student growth.”