North Lawrence Builds a Living Curriculum Using BYOC
A year ago, North Lawrence Community School District in Bedford, Indiana made the decision to throw out the curriculum binders and acquire an online platform for curriculum development and communication. That platform was BuildYourOwnCurriculum (BYOC). “We have 14 buildings – ten elementary schools, three middle schools and one high school. We needed a curriculum management tool, which would provide us a means to communicate with each other as well as a common platform to work from. We needed to make sure everyone was on the same page. Faced with these challenges, BYOC fit the bill,” said Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Learning, Mark Vice.
According to Vice, BYOC provided North Lawrence with the opportunity to determine the effectiveness of curriculum and easily allowed for the continued development as dictated by the district’s state scores. “This tool provides our administrators with the ability to monitor expectations and allows our teachers to meet the demands of their students and the Indiana state standards.”
The Power of an Online Platform
“BYOC is a great tool! It’s easy to navigate and provides a means by which educators can collect ideas, disseminate them and continue to develop a working curriculum that is effective. Additionally, the fact that all teachers are on the same page provides a great springboard for developing dialogue that is relevant to all,” said Vice.
Mark Vice, Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Learning
Mark also mentioned BYOC’s public portal as a helpful component to the district’s curriculum goals. “Parents have been very pleased with the program. BYOC’s public site makes it easy to bring parents up to speed as they are able to see and understand the expectations of their child on all levels across North Lawrence’s entire curriculum.”
Overcoming the Obstacles of Communication
When asked what challenges the district faced before BYOC, Mark Vice identified the challenges of communication between teachers and across grade levels. “Scheduling curriculum development meetings is always a challenge for a district of any size. With 14 buildings it’s always been a challenge for us. BYOC has provided us with the ability to continuously communicate within the district regarding our curriculum.”
“BYOC has also given us total transparency when it comes to communicating our expectations as they relate to state and local standards, allowing parents and other stakeholders to be actively involved in our students’ education.”
A Targeted Implementation
North Lawrence began its BYOC implementation by establishing curriculum teams consisting of approximately 70 teachers. These teams represented K-8 Math, English Language Arts, Social Studies and Science. “Once our curriculum teams were created, quarterly meetings were conducted to allow each team to collaborate, input resources, align standards, etc. Now that the base curriculum is completed for these subjects, we have set up quality controls to monitor and improve the curriculum. If any concerns arise, additional input by the entire grade or subject level is sought to determine what action, if any, should be taken to amend the curriculum,” explained Vice.
When asked about administrators’ and teachers’ reactions to BYOC, Vice responded with, “The comments and stories we’ve heard are great! An interesting example had to do with transfer students. When students transfer from one school to the next, BYOC enables our teachers to quickly get these students on task and ready to go. Overall, our teachers can see the value in this program.”
The Common Ground
In its second year with BYOC, North Lawrence is now working toward the completion of its 9-12 curriculum and Fine Arts curriculum. “We have 90 high school teachers working to finish up our K-12 base curriculum and 30 teachers working on our PE, Art and Music curriculum. It is our hope to have BYOC in full throttle, K-12 by fall of 2015,” said Vice.
Though the district is still working toward full implementation, BYOC has already created noticeable benefits for teachers, “Our new hires are no longer left on their own. With BYOC, they have direction – there are real opportunities and resources available to them. Another benefit of BYOC is the fact that our veteran teachers are placing material and valuable information into BYOC that would otherwise be lost upon retirement. We are in essence, storing up hundreds of years of knowledge rather than allowing that information to walk out the door.”
“Overall, BYOC has created a common ground for curriculum dialogue and has given us the resources necessary to achieve our main goal – continuous curriculum development. We look forward to seeing gains in our test scores as a result of this program.”