Everyone agreed. Goshen (IN) Community Schools needed a solution to its existing curriculum development process – one that would serve the district as a true curriculum-management solution. The primary goal was to find a way to provide teachers with up-to-date curriculum information across the district’s seven elementary schools, one middle school and one high school.
The solution became obvious during a statewide curriculum-planning program as Instructional Collaborator Donna Wiktorowski joined other curriculum specialists from across the state in looking at the transition to the national Common Core State Standards. Led by the Indiana Department of Education, the forward-thinking effort partnered with the curriculum management solution BuildYourOwnCurriculum (BYOC) to create a statewide curriculum map for implementing state and Common Core standards.
Donna Wiktorowski, Instructional Collaborator
“Last summer I had the opportunity to use BYOC when I was working on curriculum mapping for the state of Indiana,” Wiktorowski recalls. “I was so excited about the program that I called our superintendent after the second day, telling him that we must consider bringing this program to Goshen.”
BYOC Gives Educators Easy Access to Resources
BuildYourOwnCurriulum provides Goshen Community Schools a centralized curriculum development and management tool that educators find intuitive to use while encouraging collaboration and uniformity. It’s also far more efficient and manageable than Goshen’s previous system of providing hard copies of curriculum or sharing files over the district server.
“We wanted a way to be sure that teachers had access to the most up-to-date resources the district had,” Wiktorowski explained. “For example, we have a current initiative in our district for each grade level to focus on 30 academic vocabulary words in each subject. The list is revised from year to year. Sometimes we don’t remember to date the revisions, and teachers end up with two versions.”
Wiktorowski sums up the benefit: “One problem that is addressed by BYOC is having a place where teachers know they can find the most current revision of any work we are doing at the district level.”
Goshen Plans to Emulate Another District’s Success
Before making the decision to implement BYOC, Goshen looked for examples of successful school districts and proven research. “It was very helpful for us to see how other districts were using BuildYourOwnCurriculum in line with Dr. Robert Marzano’s research,” said Tamra Ummel, Executive Director of Elementary Education. “We were particularly impressed with how Park Hill (MO) School District was using the product one to two years ahead of us in implementation.”
After seeing how well it worked for a similarly sized school district, the decision to purchase BYOC came swiftly. Goshen had also had the opportunity to preview the program as part of the Indiana Department of Education’s Strategic Initiative to Address Common Core State Standards. This firsthand knowledge of the program showed how it could help Goshen reach its goal to streamline curriculum planning by vastly improving educator usability.
The digital tool is expected to have a positive ripple effect. “As we use BYOC we can make revisions and updates to curriculum, and they are instantly available to all, which will encourage teachers to collaborate across the district,” Ummel points out. “The utility is perfect for us.”
More Time With Students Is the Goal
For Ummel there’s one main purpose for implementing BYOC: “The whole reason we’re doing this is to maximize instructional time available to students.” Goshen already plans to use BYOC’s customizable interface and ergonomic design to make curriculum planning more efficient, giving educators more time to focus on the classroom.
Before implementing its new curriculum mapping tool, Goshen worked with Education Technology Partners and the district’s technology department to customize BYOC to meet its unique needs. “We spent time figuring out how to make an effective crosswalk between BYOC and our school’s terminology to more easily integrate it into our educational community,“ Ummel noted.
The highly customizable interface will also allow teachers to build math and language curriculum for the school’s diverse student population. For ESL learners, for example, the multi-dimensional solution will be used to strengthen their overall academic vocabulary.
Furthermore, as educators in Indiana work to implement National Common Core Standards, subscribers to BYOC will immediately have access to the new curriculum maps provided by the Indiana Department of Education. While smoothing the transition from one set of standards to the other, BYOC also ensures any existing content gaps between the standards are addressed. “A huge decision maker for us was how easy BYOC made this transition for us,” said Ummel.
Looking to the Future
One of Goshen’s founding educational philosophies is to foster open and effective communication throughout the school community. The district is putting this belief into action as it looks forward to using BYOC to provide a new, more efficient avenue for administrators and educators to communicate with one another about curriculum alignment and standards.
After training users in spring 2011 and initiating long-term planning in the summer, Goshen Community Schools was scheduled to start fully utilizing BYOC at the start of the 2011-12 school year. As Wiktorowski notes, “We are generating enthusiasm for the program by unveiling it to teachers bits at a time.”