Focus on individualized learning

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DeKalb County School District unveils new curriculum plan

DeKalb County School District (DCSD) expects to commit to a teacher-developed curriculum focusing on rigor and individual learning following several months of “intense” collaboration.

According to DCSD superintendent Stephen Green, whose team unveiled the curriculum on March 20, the curriculum has been vetted by teachers, administrators as well as textbook provider Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

“This is an intense but exciting process,” Green said. “This is for us, by us; for our teachers, for our students, for everyone in the district. It’s created by our own colleagues and educators in the district.”

Since September 2016, 88 teams composed of 228 teachers, academic coaches, coordinators and consultants have been working on 564 curricular units. AdvancED, which awards accreditation to school systems throughout the country, approved and commended the efforts in early March.

DCSD Chief Academic Officer Lisa Martin, who headed the teams, said the curriculum focuses on being a detailed road map and high quality delivery system for all district students. Martin said training for DCSD’s more than 6,000 teachers will begin as early as May 2017.

Changes to DCSD’s existing curriculum will include explicit pacing rather than suggested pacing for students; priority standards and guiding practices in addition to Georgia Performance Standards; engaging performance scenarios; weekly lesson planners; pre and post assessments; intervention for special education and English learners; and extensions of learning for gifted students.

Pacing monitors how students are performing in accordance with state standards. DCSD’s new curriculum plans to explicitly state what is expected in student performance rather than use state standards as a suggestion.

Green and Martin said students will benefit from the new curriculum’s focus on scenarios and activities that replace the traditional lectures of a classroom. In the future, DCSD students will be provided a blend of learning activities, designed to foster personal insights rather than recited facts, and develop a purpose for learning and doing.

The majority of the new curriculum focuses on “increasing rigor” in students and making sure each lesson includes four main tasks, Martin said. Students will be walked through recognizing, listing or describing (1); interpreting, summarizing or comparing (2); applying, modeling or analyzing (3); and evaluating, justifying or creating (4).

Martin said the next phase of the curriculum plan is to develop guides for students. DCSD officials will host several community meetings outlining the new curriculum as the process continues.

Another update will be provided to the public as well as the DCSD board of education on April 17.

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