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District 518 teachers strive to bring needed curriculum to students

The goal of curriculum writing is not to cover content, but instead allow students to engage with the materials to develop skills.

District 518 brownhouse

WORTHINGTON — Research shows that teacher quality is THE most important factor influencing student achievement. Every year, teachers build positive relationships with students and plan lessons to not only teach content knowledge, but also the 21st Century Skills of critical thinking, written and verbal communication, creativity, problem solving, perseverance, collaboration and digital literacy.

These skills are important for our students to be college and career ready when they graduate from our district. In order to aid teachers in planning lessons, the district purchases curriculum resources on a rotating cycle for each content area.

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Sarah Nystrom

These resources are used to design a curriculum or a blueprint for the year that allows all students to demonstrate mastery (show proficiency) on the MN state standards. The curriculum is so much more than a single textbook. It includes all the learning goals, assessments to ensure students are learning, and lessons to guide instruction. No curriculum is perfect, so teachers use different strategies to ensure all students reach mastery. These strategies are designed to support the wide range of diverse learners in every classroom while still maintaining rigor and high expectations for all students.

Each summer, teams of staff write new curriculum plans for their grade level content areas to prepare for new Minnesota state standards. Starting in June, twenty-seven teams of staff will design and develop new curriculums for this fall. These will be in numerous grade levels K-12 and content areas including social studies, reading, science, and math.

Think of yourself planning a trip. First you select the location and determine your end goals — what do you want to see or do? Then you plan your route, buy tickets, and complete the necessary steps to achieve those goals. The same is true with writing curriculum.

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During this process, teachers examine the Minnesota state standards and determine and prioritize key learning outcomes for students. Next, they develop a curriculum map (blueprint) that outlines each unit of learning for the year. Teachers determine assessments (projects, essays, tests, etc.) that allow students to demonstrate mastery of the standards (content knowledge and skills). Finally, teachers determine learning experiences using the curriculum resources purchased by the district to support students in reaching the learning goals.

The ultimate goal of curriculum writing is not to cover content but instead allow students to discover and actively engage with the materials to develop transferable skills that will be useful long after they leave the class.

Curriculum resources and programs are helpful, but they are only tools. The teachers of our district use the curriculum to ensure ALL students have access to grade level content standards and achieve their potential.

Sarah Nystrom is the curriculum and school improvement coordinator for ISD 518.

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