Monday, July 30, 2012

DESE's Model Curriculum Units Roll On: Year Two

Four Model Curriculum Units – Now Available (1/16/13):

ESE has released four units, located at, as prototypes for district use: Grade 3 ELA/Literacy: Whose Story Is It? The Craft and Structure of Writing about History (Topic – Plymouth); Grade 6 Mathematics: Ratios and Rates; Grade 8-10 History/Social Science: US Constitutional Rights; and Grades 9-12 Science and Technology/Engineering: Energy-Physics. 

Older News:
At Devens July 30, 2012, DESE Associate Commissioner Julia Phelps unveiled plans for a second year creating Model Curriculum Units.

In year two, participating teachers will pilot 35 units in 62 districts; they will also build 50 new units. Many Cohort I teachers have returned, and they're joined by 75 new teachers. Design teams will include a mixture of Cohort I and II teachers. And for the first time, a Voc-Tech team (creating a culinary unit) is on board.

Today Cohort I teams received feedback and revised year one units, while the new teachers work with Jay McTighe and Understanding by Design. On Tuesday teams begin work on new units. Friday brings an Educator Evaluation System presentation, especially as it relates to MCU work.

Science: only one unit from year one is moving forward! In order to catch up with the other content areas, teachers will study existing units that are in the public domain. Teacher teams will apply three different rubrics to these existing units before selecting a unit to revise.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Less is More: Linking Initiatives

At the state conference for superintendents (M.A.S.S.) held last week on Cape Cod, Karla Baehr, lead architect of Massachusetts' Educator Evaluation System, recommended that districts find points of connection among initiatives in order to save time and narrow the scope of their work. In particular, she pointed out the opportunities for connecting the Common Core State Standards with the EES, suggesting that one action may address a goal from the CCSS and another from the EES. This efficient approach to planning is similar to what classroom teachers do when they teach ELA standards through history or science content, or math standards embedded in a science project.

To my mind, linking initiatives will reduce the initiative fatigue that many teachers (and districts) experience. When educators are able to engage in one set of actions that simultaneously fulfills the expectations of two initiatives, it helps them make sense of both initiatives and feel less put-upon.

At our July 26 Curriculum PLC meeting, we'll begin to identify the most fruitful connections between the Educator Evaluation System and the Common Core. Please comment below to learn more about this work-- or to contribute your own ideas.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

System-Wide Collaborative Supports

My two previous posts explored specific collaborative techniques-- strategies designed to make meetings more collaborative.

Because collaboration among educators is essential to effective implementation of the Common Core and the Educator Evaluation System, we need to utilize structures that build collaboration across schools and districts.

The most common collaborative structure is the Professional Learning Community. PLCs, also called learning teams, capitalize on the strengths that every educator brings to the table. At their best, PLCs analyze student work or other data, identify what the students need next, and collaboratively plan instruction that responds to those needs.

Instructional Rounds are a way of placing instructional practice at the core of school improvement and building a shared understanding of effective instruction. Learning Walk-Throughs, a closely related practice, are being implemented across Massachusetts with support from DESE's Implementation Guide.

What structures have you used to build collaboration?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

More Models for Collaboration in Schools

As districts begin to implement broad initiatives like the Common Core and the System of Educator  Evaluation (SEE), collaboration between school leaders and teachers is needed more than ever. I re-read "Creating Collaborative Cultures," from a 2009 issue of Educational Leadership to seek strategies that will build collaboration in districts.

This collaborative strategy can be applied to narrowing the focus of the SEE to a few rows in the rubric. To follow this strategy, the school leader sends out necessary information and guiding questions in advance of the meeting and then uses Garmston and Wellman's focusing four model (brainstorm, clarify, advocate, canvass) to reach consensus on a small number of rubric-defined focus areas. This collaborative process can be expedited and made more democratic through the use of clickers-- I have a set for the Promethean I'd be happy to apply to this work. This same strategy could be used to identify points of connection between the Common Core and the SEE.