With seven schools each working on their own and an outdated curriculum management system that couldn’t keep pace with their needs, digital curriculum management in the Campbell County (KY) School District used to be disjointed, cumbersome and confusing.
“Every building had similar pacing guides, but each group built a curriculum that was based on multiple educational philosophies,” said Ben Lusk, Director of Curriculum for CCSD. “The district’s curriculum became too big, too quick, there were too many different ways to save the same files and there were multiple files of the same name in different versions – it was very confusing for teachers to try to find the files they needed in a timely manner.”
Ben Lusk, Director of Curriculum
In February 2011, the district teamed up with BuildYourOwnCurriculum (BYOC) to bring its schools together using one unified educational philosophy. In the first six months, they made remarkable progress not just in organizing the data and information, but in changing the tone of conversations faculty and staff were having about education.
“This has allowed us to really focus on one philosophy that’s very reflective in nature,” Lusk said. “Teachers are having conversations they have never had before.”
BYOC is a Web-based curriculum management solution that works wherever you have computers with an Internet connection – you don’t need to change or expand your current network infrastructure. BYOC provides the framework in which educators build their district’s curriculum and it provides a simple step-by-step process to building standards-based curriculum. Each school or district curriculum portal can be customized with their logo (or other appropriate graphics) and can include links to and from their current Web site. Additionally, BYOC is extremely customizable.
Campbell County has adopted the Understanding By Design model district wide, and this focus, combined with the unifying power of BYOC, is giving educators new direction in their curriculum planning.
“Our assessments are where we start, and from that, we build our content to enter into BYOC,” Lusk said. “It has really helped to define what it is we’re doing and made us think in a different way.”
The district had already established Professional Learning Communities at all their schools, and that existing structure has been helpful as leaders guide the discussion and development of a living, breathing curriculum for their students.
“I think students are going to be more aware of what they’re doing, and probably more importantly, why they’re doing it,” he said.
For Campbell County, moving to BYOC was the right move for incorporating state and local standards to make the educational process more effective for students as well as teachers.
“Here in Kentucky, we’ve implemented the Common Core Standards, the national standards for language arts and mathematics, K-12. And it’s helped us to refocus on academic conversations, because those standards really changed the game, and the way that we teach math and English,” Lusk said. “Really the Common Core forced every teacher, regardless of subject matter, to think about curriculum differently, because with such a systematic change, we needed some sort of a structure to do it properly.”
The web-based access and easy-to-use software were instrumental in getting BYOC up and running throughout the district’s seven schools.
“We’re in the 21st century, we’ve got to teach students 21st century skills and our teachers need to have it too.,” he said. “BYOC offered a 21st century solution that is easy to use and at an affordable price.”
With the groundwork laid for a program that will manage students’ progress and learning over multiple years from elementary through high school, Campbell County is now poised to connect teachers and classrooms across the community and have an ongoing, meaningful conversation about learning.
“Trying to get five buildings of elementary teachers together to talk about a social studies unit, for instance, it’s difficult. And email is OK, but still not a great solution,” Lusk said. “BYOC provides us just a one-stop clearinghouse where we can all have a conversation. We can put in our base curriculum and then as the year goes on, extend out our professional learning communities to an online professional learning community, where we can share ideas.”
As the schools get more comfortable with BYOC, Lusk sees a variety of opportunities to extend the reach of the district’s curriculum to students, parents, and the community at large.
“With BYOC we have the opportunity to give the entire learning community access to the curriculum, to actually make the curriculum something that isn’t just in the teacher’s hands. It’s in the students’ hands, it’s in the parents’ hands, it’s in the community’s hands, even the Board of Education,” Lusk said. “Anybody that wants and/or has an interest in the curriculum would actually have access to it and really know what’s going on – even potentially make some comments of their own.”
Lusk thinks BYOC is a great program, and he’d recommend it to other schools. But he suggests beginning the process with an implementation plan in mind.
“We’ve picked select teachers, like our professional learning community leads, some of our staff developers, to really wrap their minds around what this curriculum’s going to look like and how to deliver it before it actually goes live to the teachers, so that can answer the questions that teachers are going to have,” Lusk said. “I would say that a district that’s going to adopt this really needs to make sure they have in place a plan that all teachers can get their hands into it, but not necessarily every teacher is the one that’s making the major changes.”
The final piece of the puzzle is a crucial one.
“I’d say additionally they should have administrative buy-in and support from it. Because without the administration at the district level, there’s just no way to make it work,” Lusk said.
“Rather than trying to do 100 things moderately or passably well, we’re now able to focus on, say, 10 things that we do very, very well,” Lusk said, “And focus on them so that students can actually master concepts.”