On January 26, 2023 Eduplanet21 hosted a panel discussion with five current customers and our Product Manager about how and why they created a transparent curriculum, powered by Eduplanet21's Curriculum Blueprint. It was a lively and honest discussion. The panelists were:
The recording and full transcript are below, as well as a variety of resources, including a link to each district's curriculum blueprint.
To learn more, visit our website to view a video about the Curriculum Blueprint, and request a meeting with our sales team - or your assigned Customer Success Manager.
Here are links to the Customer Blueprints that were mentioned in the webinar:
Greencastle-Antrim: To view Greencastle-Antrim’s Blueprint, visit their website, and scroll down. A link to the Blueprint is the bottom right tile under Core Competencies & Curriculum.
Ramsey: To view Ramsey’s Blueprint, you’ll visit the Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment page of their website, and click on “Curriculum” on the left.
RSU40: To view RSU40’s Blueprint, you’ll visit the Curriculum and Instruction page of their website, and click on Curriculum Blueprint.
Pequannock: To view Pequannock’s Blueprint, you’ll visit the Curriculum page of their website, and click on the link to take you to the Curriculum Blueprint.
Avon: To view Avon’s Blueprint, you’ll visit the District Curriculum page of their website, and click on the link to take you to the Curriculum Blueprint.
Understanding by Design® Institute: Several of the panelists mentioned the value of utilizing the Understanding by Design Professional Learning Institute in conjunction with their curriculum design work. Learn more here.
I’d like to welcome everybody to our customer panel: Creating a Transparent Curriculum. My name is Clare Coupe Scott Scott, and I'm with Eduplanet21. I'm going to go over a little housekeeping. We are in a webinar situation, so currently our participants are muted and your video is off, so you can focus on our panel. If you have questions, feel free to use the chat or the Q&A feature. We will have time for some questions at the end, so if you want to not forget what you wanted to ask, feel free to go ahead and type that in. As the question comes to you, I've put our social media. [LinkedIn; Twitter] I am now going to turn it over to Kelsey Jaskot, who is going to be our moderator for today's panel. She is our Manager of Customer Success.
Thanks so much, Clare. And a big thank you to everybody who's joined so far, and a big thank you to our panelists. These folks are not only amazing educators, amazing leaders, but they're also some of my favorite people on the line. I'm super excited to have everybody together and ready to get started here.
If you are joining this webinar, you are likely very interested in our newest product, the Curriculum Blueprint, which is really helping schools and districts to achieve curriculum transparency. Or you're on the other side of that. You've already purchased the curriculum blueprint, and you're really looking for some lessons learned, what went really well for these folks as they started to launch the blueprint themselves. I'm hoping that you can learn all of that today. We welcome your questions. Please feel free to use the chat window throughout the presentation. Clare will be keeping an eye on that, and we'll have some time for questions at the end as well. All right, so before we kick things off, I do want to do some very quick introductions. I'm going to have these folks introduce themselves a little bit more in a couple of minutes here, but I'll just do this very briefly.
First of all, we have Dr. Lura Hanks, who is the Superintendent at Greencastle-Antrim School District in Greencastle, PA. Dr. Andrew Matteo, who's the newly appointed Superintendent at Ramsey School District in Ramsey, New Jersey. Dr. Beth Sheridan, who is the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Pequannock Township Public Schools in New Jersey. Soon to be Dr. Christina Wotton (this summer), Assistant Superintendent at Regional School Unit 40 in Union, Maine. And Ms. Jodi Kryzanski, who is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment at Avon Public Schools in Avon, Connecticut. Special shout out to Avon who was our very first customer on board - they've been with us for a very long time. I also want to introduce you all to Mr. Jared Hoddinett, who I affectionately called the wizard behind the curtain (the Wizard of Oz). He is our director of Product Management here at Eduplanet21. He wears a lot of hats and he leads us well in regards to our product.
So, welcome everybody. Excited to have you guys on board. And Jared, I actually want to kick things off with you as we go to get started here. I'm hoping you can tell me a little bit more about the development of the blueprint and background and why this became such a priority for us here at Eduplanet and for our customers.
Thanks Kelsey. We saw some demand out there in the market for a public view of the curriculum that stood in Eduplanet. Transparency had become increasingly important in the community. A lot of demand what's being taught with: “what's my kid learning?” So, it was important that we deliver the Curriculum Blueprint to make this happen. It allows parents, students and educators to have a clear understanding of the goals and objectives of the school district’s curriculum. And then by them having this understanding and transparency, we see that as a way to help promote accountability and then facilitate the communication between all of those stakeholders, which we hope at the end of the day can improve the overall quality of education, which is what it's all about. We did see some districts try different ways of doing this themselves and doing it somewhat successfully, but it was always a tedious and time consuming task. We thought being the source of truth for that information, we have all that available, so why not build something? And now we have the Curriculum Blueprint tool.
That important point is what we hope is talked about today and we'll definitely hear more examples of that, which is awesome. I'm going to ask you all to take about maybe two minutes or so, introduce yourselves, introduce the district that you work out a little bit more and talk a little bit about the general approach that you took to getting your blueprint off the ground over the past couple of months. Lura, I'm going to kick it off with you. I affectionately call her Maverick. She has big ideas, big expectations, but if you're a Top Gun fan, she makes them all come to life.
[Lura Hanks] We're trying! I'm a Superintendent in Greencastle-Antrim School District in Pennsylvania. We are South Central, smack dab in the middle. On the line just below us is Maryland, and I became superintendent in 2020. Hired spring of 2020 when the shutdown started, but that started the journey. My background is instruction and curriculum, and I worked for a larger county in Maryland where we were doing Understanding by Design®. This is a much different environment, much different structure in a different state, but COVID and the precautions taking gave us a lot of opportunity to do things the way we needed to. It kind of led us down the path of starting from the beginning with UBD and identifying what mattered most for our students during that time. And so, it led us to working again with Jay McTighe, which I had been able to work with previously, and really starting out at the top with the Portrait of a Graduate and what we wanted for our students. So, it kind of led that beautiful path. It sounds like a crazy time to start the journey, but it actually was an opportune time because of the environment.
And the time frame for when Eduplanet was developing these was right in line with as we needed it, so they made the process so much smoother. I'd love to say it's been smooth sailing the whole way. We've learned things along the way, and I'm happy to get into that throughout this panel, but that's been our process that we've been on and what brought me to Eduplanet.
[Kelsey Jaskot] Thanks, Lura. All right, Andrew, I'm going to hand it over to you.
[Andrew Matteo] Thank you, Kelsey. Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Andrew Matteo. As Kelsey said, I am the newly appointed Superintendent of the Ramsey Schools in very north Jersey in Bergen County. I've been with Ramsey for a while. I worked mostly with Kelsey in my role as director of curriculum, which I was until January 1 of this year. We're very proud of the work that we've done with Eduplanet. It's been like a labor of love over the last year and a half or so. Kind of the reason we wanted to make it transparent was what Jared referred to before, what was going on in the world. Everyone wanted to know what was going on. COVID opened up classrooms, opened up schools, and then there was new standards in New Jersey that people had a lot of questions about. And so, this was just a way for us to, one, make it transparent for those reasons, but also it allowed us to organize it better on the back end. It provided us a real new structure we could almost start, not from scratch, because we had a lot of work done beforehand, but kind of like what Dr. Hanks was referring to. It allowed us to step back, do it right. We had now this new tool at our disposal, which would have taken us years and years of organizing google drive and folders. Now this beautiful tool allowed us to do in a couple of clicks. That's probably simplifying it a little bit, but that's a little bit of the journey of Ramsey, and I look forward to sharing a little bit more over this hour.
[Kelsey Jaskot] Thanks so much, Andrew. I'm going to keep the New Jersey folks rolling. Beth, I'm going to turn it to you.
[Beth Sheridan] Great, thanks. I'm Beth Sheridan. I'm the Director of Curriculum and Instruction here at Pequannock. We are located just a little bit further south from Andrew. We're in kind of northern central New Jersey, and we're a small Prek-12 school district. For a lot of reasons we were looking for not only to improve the curriculum writing process, and I think that's what really brought us to Eduplanet in the first place. To really simplify and organize and create a more consistent approach to our curriculum writing. And that's really what attracted us to Eduplanet. The benefit from that has been talked about was the Blueprint and really the ability to put something public facing on our website, where people have access to it, where they're not digging through Google Docs and through folders and things like that. We started in 2021, so also in the midst of the pandemic, and we probably have taken kind of a little slower approach, which I can get into in a little while. But overall, it's really been a godsend from a curriculum writing standpoint, and most people out there would probably empathize with that and understand what I'm talking about. We can get into more of that later. But thank you.
[Kelsey Jaskot] Thank you so much, Beth. Christina?
Good evening, everyone. I'm Christina Wotton. I'm the Assistant Superintendent in RSU 40, which is right on the middle of Maine on the coast, and I'm pleased to be here tonight. Our district has around 1800 students PreK through twelve. I also have the role of director of instruction under my category of what I supervise. We started in our journey back in 2016, learning about Understanding by Design®. And I think five years ago, we started with Eduplanet, and that's when I took on the role of Assistant Superintendent. I was a principal here. The last few years, we have had a goal of making our curriculum transparent, not only for families, but also for our teachers, our principals, and myself.
It's really hard to know what's going on in districts pre k through twelve in every classroom. We had a goal of making our curriculum aligned vertical and horizontally, and this has allowed us access to everyone's curriculum in just an easier way, and it looks really nice on your website and promoting your district. So before we launched the Curriculum Blueprint, everything was in Google Docs, just as others have said, and trying to keep track of that and people making copies was just an absolute nightmare.
And so this past year, we had a goal of releasing our Blueprint to the public. By the end of the summer, we didn't quite reach it, but we had our first curriculum day, the first week of September, where all of our teachers came together, finalized what they had in their units, and we were able to publish at the end of that day. So, it was an exciting event, and now we've been able to share this with our school board, our students, and our families and just I'm excited to see where this journey takes us.
[Kelsy Jaskot] Thanks so much. Christina and I can attest to the transparency piece was always very important to them. I met Christina about five, six years ago almost now. And from that day that I first set foot in the district, it had stage one on our website, on her big bulletin board, in her office. So now it's finally come to fruition. And I also love how you've all kind of embraced the Blueprint and had different launch parties and celebrations associated to it. So it's been really cool.
Jodi, I'm going to turn it over to you.
[Jodi Kryzanski] Thank you, Kelsey. Good afternoon. My name is Jodi Kryzanski. I'm the Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment at Avon Public Schools in Avon, Connecticut. We're located centrally just west of Hartford. We’re a PreK through twelve district that has about just over 3200 students. And our journey, as Kelsey mentioned earlier, started just about ten years ago with Eduplanet, and that was two years into our district adopting the Understanding by Design® framework to develop our curriculum. And our goal was really to get out of the binders and having something that was truly a living document.
At the time, before we were introduced to Eduplanet, we were working in - it was even predated Google Drive -for our district, and we were working in Word documents and that was just in tables. And I was really the keeper myself, and I was working closely with our Assistant Superintendent at the time and it was a challenge, as you can imagine. When we started to partner with Eduplanet, it was just a wonderful change in how we did work and it really helped us to grow over the last ten years. The curriculum work in our district, where we are now, is just really the end product of many, many people working hard and really being able to share what it is that we do in our classrooms and our coursework.
So more recently, when Jared and Kelsey shared with us their vision of the Blueprint, we were so excited and couldn't wait for it to be for us to be able to share with our district and our stakeholders. We can talk a little bit more about our journey a little bit later. But I will say that at this time, we have about 80% of our curriculum and our coursework up online for everyone to see. And I think it's a fabulous tool and it's been helpful not only to our stakeholders outside of our schools, but even I'll talk a little bit later about how it even helps within our schools. Thank you again for having me.
[Kelsey Jaskot] Thank you so much, Jodi. I like to think the products we've grown up together, the product and the district great that many years, so it's awesome. Any of our current customers on the line? I'm sure you've seen me mention Avon in the past. It's usually one of the ones I pull up on an initial training just to show you what the end result can look like when you've been sticking with UBD for a long time.
[Kelsey Jaskot] All right, so let's dig in. Let's get started. Who's on the hot seat first? I'm going to pick on Lura. Like I said earlier, this woman's crazy. She's got big ideas and she manages to execute them all with grace. So not only did you decide to take on the Understanding by Design framework, which is a huge mindset shift for your district, coming from learning focused, originally just very basic, but you also paired that with a new platform and moving it to transparency all at once. And you've been taking on kind of department by department, getting that curriculum board approved. Can you talk to me a little bit about that?
What was the response from your staff, the response from your board? Because really, this was a huge mindset shift for your district.
[Lura Hanks] It honestly was one of those moments in time where it's like, we can sit here and panic about COVID or we can take a look at the opportunities that are on the table. We knew that with testing kind of not happening right then, teachers panicking about what school would look at the precautions we were taking in the classrooms for learning where kids had to be separated. There was so much panic that it really was the time to say, okay. We also did Wednesdays off that first year where in the hybrid model. Kids were in person for the school year, but they were online on Wednesdays, and one of the reasons was to make sure that if we had to shut down and we didn't know how long we could stay open, that our kids were learning the devices and becoming fluent on Wednesdays. That was another opportunity for teachers on Wednesdays. So, we jumped right into learning about Understanding by Design. We had a Destination Design team that was made up of people from all aspects of the community: teachers, business, stakeholders, families, board members. I asked board members to be on that group as well.
And we really did just follow the Portrait of a Graduate guidance. What are the aspirations? We sent this survey out to our community and asked them to divide them, which created our core competencies. At the same time, the district had a comprehensive plan due at the end of that first year to the state with your goals. So, you can see how it's like, we would have gone insane if we didn't somehow marry all of this to get this done. So that Portrait of a Graduate led to our goals. We looked at our data to say, where do we want to be in three years and how will we get there?
We also had several major textbook adoptions that were on the line. And I'm going to caution this by saying upfront, I've never met a textbook that made me fall in love with the content area. And in fact, when not done correctly, it does more harm to a district instructional practice than it does benefit. Because my experience in multiple districts was that when given a textbook, oftentimes we would buy the pretty package that had the best sales pitch and the thing that looked the nicest. We would follow it, and then we would write our curriculum based on the scope and sequence of the textbook happens over and over again. And so we've kind of got into a slump.
I should add, when I accepted the job, I knew we were in a financial crisis in the district. They had had 14 teachers on the docket to be removed. They were talking about cutting sports and music and everything. And I begged them, whatever you do to pass this budget before I get there, don't cut anything. Don't do anything we can't fix once we get there. So, looking at a huge half a million dollar textbook adoption, I saw it as opportunity, whatever, we're not buying them. And it was the time to come in with UbD. So, we spent a lot of even that early ESSER money on the training and Understanding by Design, having all the teachers on those Wednesdays go through. Jay did some of the training in person. I was just delighted he was willing to do that. Actually, I think my first connection with Edu planet was actually through your professional development software.
To be able to do the Virtual UbD training on that platform made a lot of assumptions early on, and I can share that as we thought we went through that the first year. We're ready to go. Let's start writing the curriculum. And we invested a lot of money in summer work to have teachers coming together to do that. Curriculum. We set our goals up based on our data, knowing that math was a serious area that needed attention in our district. So, we were prioritizing math instruction, but basically that's how our journey kind of took us as we were starting to align everything to our core competencies. But the need for the transparency came because all of this was happening in a very volatile political environment, which I'm sure only happened in Greencastle over the last couple of years with: What are you talking about? What kind of training are you doing? Well, we were investing a lot of money in this training on UbD, so, of course it starts getting attacked by certain political groups. This is how they're hiding CRT. This is how they're hiding these other things that are going to come in.
I didn't have a choice but transparency that really need to go out and say, no, this is not what we did. We have a team that said this is where we wanted our students to be and we're going to create a path to get there. The path to get there is through Understanding by Design. Actually I had to even put the school board through their own little mini session of what it meant to be Understanding by Design. So, it took a lot of education, but because of the money we were spending and using a lot of the extra money to do that, it forced that transparency. So when that Blueprint became available, it was just what we needed. And so that's why when we look at our Blueprint for Greencastle, you see only math right now, because we're doing it content by content. We had to take a bunch of steps back in this and really be able to focus and get through a process that would get us to actually being able to publish publicly for all to see. Hopefully I answered all those questions, Kelsey, that you had.
[Kelsey Jaskot] Yes, absolutely. I think there's just so many people that are in the exact same scenario as you on the board are on the line, though, that are really taking that step back so that they can move forward. Even some of the panelists here have done the same thing over the past couple of years. So there's been times throughout our journey, you may have been with UbD for ten years, five years, it doesn't really matter. You have to kind of take a couple of steps back. And as teachers leave, move to other districts, leadership changes, it's always a time to kind of go back and take a look at that.
So, I'm just going to take a quick minute and show kind of Greencastle, Blueprint. And like Lura said, they're just kind of working on math right now, but you can kind of see how it's been set up and branded for them. It's embedded right on their website. One of the things I love that Greencastle has done is they have these beautiful philosophies all in color right here. So you can see that from Math and Social studies. Well, that's going through board adoption now is also up here.
To view Greencastle-Antrim’s Blueprint, visit their website, and scroll down.
A link to the Blueprint is the bottom right tile under: Core Competencies & Curriculum.
And then as you start to dig in, you don't necessarily even have to go down to the unit level. You can just get a quick little summary of what each grade level is really getting after. So that quick little summary of learning there I think is helpful as well. I won't spend too much time, but I did want to give you a quick little visual, quick little flash. They are continually adding to that. I know their social studies team was working furiously last week, so I'm excited to see another content area go up.
[Lura Hanks] Soon in the hands of the board right now for board approval next week, and then that will be able to be published.
[Kelsey Jaskot] Awesome. And I can attest I was at Lura's first board meeting where they unleashed the blueprint and just the response from the board was awesome. The response from teachers was awesome. A couple of teachers stood up and really talked about how UbD has changed their teaching style, and I think that really makes a big difference.
Thank you, Lura
[Kelsey Jaskot] So, Andrew, you are very fortunate to have an incredible team of supervisors on your side as well. That really helped to get everything ready very organized along the way. You also did an incredible job of communicating with parents as this launch was happening as well. So I know it was a big thing for you guys and you spent a lot of hours in the summer. Can you talk to me a little bit just how you prepared, how you communicated this to your families within the district and what the response was?
[Andrew Matteo] Sure. So in New Jersey, the 2020 standards were adopted by the state, like right in the middle or before the Pandemic, earlier than the Pandemic, but they were supposed to be rolled out over two years, 2020 and 2021, I believe, like three disciplines one year, four the next. Because of the disruption of the Pandemic, they pushed it back to just one year. So it actually came that last September. (I might be one year off.) In 2022 all the standards had to be implemented. And one of those standards was the comprehensive Health and Physical education. And in there, there were some hot-button, controversial standards regarding sex ed. Because of that, there was kind of a spotlight shown on curriculum, and so we almost used that to our advantage that we had this deadline. We had to have everything ready by September and we were going to make it all transparent by September. So along the way, we had this it was helpful to have a deadline that we knew that by August 15, we wanted to have this all done and inputted, and so we kept parents involved, let them know that this was coming.
So when they would have questions during the summer, spring, and summer, good questions, we'd be like, you know, just wait till the Blueprint comes out on August 15. It's going to answer a lot of these questions. And our board adopts the curriculum annually. So this was like the big adoption come August 15. I keep saying August 15. That's when it was due for us to be reviewed. There was like an August 28 board meeting where I had to stand up and sit on the stage for like an hour and go through point-by-point every discipline. By the end, nobody was listening to me, but I did it and it was almost cathartic. I think it was definitely cathartic for me, but for the community to have it all out there and the response was just like, oh, this is absolutely fantastic. I want to know what my fourth grader is learning in English Language Arts. Unit one. There it is. What 7th-grade math is. Boom, there it is. And then to circle back, a lot of people were very interested in what we were teaching in health, like, because there were a lot of rumors, there was a lot of misinformation out there.
So now I could say, okay, here's a link, go look for yourself right here. It's not radical. It's in line with community standards and it just quieted a lot of the noise. So that was kind of the process. And I know the board really appreciated having that to refer to. It wasn't this an unknown curriculum document that nobody could find.
[Kelsey Jaskot] As I mentioned, Andrew has a fantastic team of supervisors that also really help to kind of gear this work up. So, they worked individually with teachers over the summer in small group settings and kind of really pushed this along to make it one cohesive blueprint. And I'm actually going to go ahead and share that too, just so you can kind of get an eye. And a lot of you current customers on the line have probably seen Ramsey's as well, but really you can see they've chosen to do theirs a little bit differently. They have images of all their kids here, which I love, but I can click into English. They have the overview similar to Greencastle, where they've got their philosophy here as well. Another thing that Ramsey has done is they have all of their what we would call macro goals. So their long-term transfer goals, their understandings, and essential questions are all visible. So anybody can kind of see those overarching themes K-12.
To view Ramsey’s Blueprint, you’ll visit the Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment page of their website, and click on “Curriculum” on the left.
And as I want to dig into, let's say grade one, I've got grade one reading and grade one writing, I can really start to drill in and get a really good idea of what this curriculum is looking like. So we've got our board-approved date here at the top course overview. And then as you scroll down, you can see all of the units that really make up this particular course. Quick little descriptions over to the right, and if I click view, you can see the learning goals for each particular unit as well. So, a little bit deeper. But again, there's a lot of different flexibility that you can do with the Blueprint. You can start small, think big with it. You can go to this level, you can just kind of have overviews for the time being, or you can build on that over time, which is awesome as well.
[Kelsey Jaskot] Beth, I'm actually going to switch things up. I'm going to turn it to you because I think it's a good little segue there. So you were brand new to Eduplanet when you decided to move forward with the Blueprint. And you say it was a slow ride, but man, I just think you took the bull by the horns and really made so much progress so quickly. Can you talk to me a little bit about what some of your priorities were when you first came on board as far as started?
[Beth Sheridan] So one of the things that really was our big priority, and I kind of mentioned it in my introduction, is we needed a way to create curriculum that was much more consistent and that was easy to do. We were using google docs and just trying to implement all these new jersey student learning standards and copy and paste and put them in. So we were really looking at it from a kind of a logistical standpoint of how do you get these documents written? And then so as that began our conversation among our supervisor team, it really evolved into, what do we really want to get from our curriculum and where do we want to go? And it really did align with the Understanding by Design methodology and that philosophy. So from there, we were introduced to Eduplanet. And then on top of that, I assumed this new role that I'm currently in. So there was a lot of change, and we were still dealing with the things from the pandemic. In new jersey, we also have an audit procedure that really has pressed my foot down on the gas pedal with trying to get as many of our curriculum guides into Edu planet as an easy way to view everything, because it was really just kind of a mess.
So at least our curriculum, now it’s in a better format, it's in an easier format that we can see, and that our teachers can see. So, sort of like what Dr. Matteo was saying, we were also spurred along by the interest in the Health and PE standards. So, one of the first things that we published on our blueprint was our Physical Education and Health and PE standards and by having that available and that transparency was definitely helpful and again did address some of the concerns that the public had about what was happening with those standards. But where we are now, and I think something I would really caution is we've really had to step back and recalibrate as we've gone along. I think just emerging from the pandemic and kind of getting back to this new normal. Teachers have started the school year, I started the school year with all sorts of optimism and a new supervisor team and all sorts of goals and points, goals that I wanted to hit along the way. And we've had to just kind of step back and recalibrate in order to really meet our teachers where they are to kind of simplify some of the understanding by design strategies.
We haven't been fortunate enough to bring Jay McTighe in, but the UBD professional learning provided by Eduplanet is excellent.
It seems overwhelming. What I've spent some time doing is to try to make that not seem as overwhelming into: let's start with small measurable steps. Let's start with attainable goals and attainable things. I've really had to be flexible with my curriculum and instruction team and they with their departments in order to move at a pace that's good for the staff. In addition to that, I think also stepping back and just as Dr. Hanks referred to earlier, is to move away from the idea that curriculum writing reflects a textbook or a program that's a big paradigm shift. So this UbD methodology and using and creating a curriculum that folds in the resources but isn't reflective of the resource has definitely been a very significant paradigm shift.
So that's kind of where we are now is to step back and say, okay, well, how can we not make this program about X? But this is stuff that we want to be teaching and we want our students to be learning without that resource. So if we were to get rid of it and get something else, we can still carry on. We don't have to have a major curriculum overhaul.
I think patience is definitely something that you have to have a realistic vision time and time is very hard to come by as the school year is occurring. We really pulled back a lot of our professional development opportunities this past year to focus on this process and even then it gets interrupted with other things and we'll continue with that next year is we will pull that back and we will just kind of go at this with a slow roll. But I kind of went all over the place, but I'm hoping that what we did is we chose this platform because of the philosophy that we wanted to go with regards to curriculum development. And that UbD philosophy is a good one. It's sound and solid, and the blueprint is a huge bonus.
[Kelsey Jaskot] Thanks so much, Beth. I can show your blueprint as well. I know you're in the midst of a lot of this, and when Beth said the slow roll, I kind of chuckled to myself. I'm sure it feels that way, but when she ended last school year, there were probably 100 units in their platform. Now there are 971, and we're only halfway through the school year. So there's been an incredible amount of work done there.
To view Pequannock’s Blueprint, you’ll visit the Curriculum page of their website, and click on the link to take you to the Curriculum Blueprint.
And you can see they have their health and phys ed posted right now. And you can start to drill in. And same as a couple of others here on the line, you can drill into those units as well. So just kind of a quick view. They did theirs a little bit differently, have some more kind of generic images. I think you've all done a beautiful job of designing your Blueprints.
All right, so I'm going to keep things rolling just for the sake of time here. So, Christina, one of my favorite parts about the Curriculum Blueprint is not only does it allow community members to be able to see the curriculum documents, but teachers as well, internal staff, students even. We were talking about that a little bit before we got on the line today, especially your curriculum representative group, I know, has been really using the Blueprint to make some connections across subjects across grade levels. Can you talk to me about that a little bit?
[Christina Wotton] Absolutely. Before I do, I will just say, hearing the other panelists speak, there are so many connections that we've gone through and just the feeling. This is our fifth year in using the platform and a few years before that and Understanding by Design. And I don't know, as a curriculum leader, it feels really good knowing you're doing something solid, and you don't really know until you see it in action with the students in the classroom. And so for us, that has happened this year with the Blueprint. I feel like the Blueprint has just taken us to a deeper level at being able to see our curriculum.
Of course, all of our teachers had access over the last five years in Eduplanet, but they didn't have time to really look at other people's units as they were in it. We've been fortunate. We have a professional learning day, early release once a month, and then another day that our teachers get together. So this school year over the past summer, Kelsey was able to come to Maine and join us. We formed a group of teacher leaders around the district for every content area, one for PreK to six and one for seven through twelve and formed our curriculum representative group.
And we have met together one full day each month working on kind of the planning and getting the framework for teachers, trying to take some of the load off of our teachers and bringing them ideas. So far we've been able to bring them transdisciplinary goals, which we were formally calling social-emotional learning goals. But then just like New Jersey, we're having some heat on that.
So transdisciplinary goals, everybody wants their kids to be an effective, communicator, responsible citizen. Nobody is balking at that. So, this team brought together a framework for those goals and then our teachers were able to infuse those into their units to give us feedback. Of course, first, another milestone we were able to achieve this year was starting to work on our performance tasks, which definitely looked at our units across disciplinary areas. And their goal by the end of this year is to have one performance task for each unit. And it sounds like a lot of pressure having clear set goals, but teachers actually like that, or I found most of them like that. And having high expectations for your district in the areas of curriculum, it's just going to bring everything to the next level and we've definitely seen that here.
And now this team of amazing teachers has developed disciplinary transfer goals, so we sent that out for feedback. When we get together the first week of February, we're going to go over all of the teacher feedback, make some adjustments as we need to.
Something that was really exciting, that happened a couple of weeks ago in one of our 6th-grade math classes. Our elementary schools are PreK to six and then middle schools starts in 7th grade. So the kids were getting really anxious already about thinking about the transition to middle school and “what are we going to be learning in math?” And their teacher happens to be one of our curriculum representatives. And she was like, “well, I don't really know…”and then she was like, “yeah, I do know.” So she pulled up the Blueprint on her projector and the kids were all able to log into the Blueprint on their Chromebooks and go through and look at what 7th grade math looked like. They asked her questions, they were like, oh, we already know how to do this, and just really we're able to talk because she uses her units, she has her essential questions posted.
And we had our curriculum meeting for the school board in her classroom this past month because we've been taking one subject area each month and talking about it with that team. And you could just see it all over her classroom. Evidence of these units, it looks different than what you see in the Blueprint, but you could see evidence of that and it was so exciting. And so the kids were able to look at what was coming when they transitioned to middle school, and that was just something we had never thought about this being useful for, and it is. Then she sent a link to the parents so they could start looking ahead at what's coming in middle school. And then, of course, they wanted to jump across into ELA and Social Studies and see what was coming. So, I think that's a really unique use of this tool that I wouldn't have thought of, and it just naturally evolved and hearing,
I think it was Beth talk about the UBD training, I just wanted to take a second to say I highly recommend that we didn't do that until we were maybe three or four years in. And all of the staff that has taken that training has said, “oh, I wish we had started with this.” This was so useful. I really understand the framework now. And we used ESSER funds to pay each teacher $500 for completing that outside of school time. So that was a big PD use of our ESSER funds.
It's just exciting work and I'm happy to be here with people who are doing the same thing and really appreciate not just having a canned textbook. And I loved what you said, Lura, about it actually can do harm, and I think it also does harm for teachers without them being able to have part of the ownership of the units. So, thank you.
[Kelsey Jaskot] A couple of years into my position here, I was at a district somewhere in this area and had a teacher walk up to me with the textbook and hand it to me and said: “How do I put this in the platform?” And I took it away from him and put it behind my back and said, “What are you teaching?” And just kind of asked him to reiterate that a bit. And it is funny how that reliance happens. Christina has done a beautiful job here with their blueprint as well. The ability again to jump into an area I'm just going to pick on 10th grade here, can see how there's a couple of different course offerings in 10th grade.
Using that student point of view, we've had quite a few districts mention, too, that this is actually going to replace their program of studies altogether by putting all of this information and making that visible, and you can jump right into those units and everything looks beautiful as well. Thanks so much, Christina.
To view RSU40’s Blueprint, you’ll visit the Curriculum and Instruction page of their website, and click on Curriculum Blueprint.
[Kelsey Jaskot] Jodi, you're in a unique situation here because you're one of the few districts that actually had their curriculum public before the Blueprint. You previously had been using PDFs and had those posted on your website. What's been the difference so far? How has this simplified your process or changed your process and how's that going?
[Jodi Kryzanski] So certainly us being able to have our curriculum on our website prior to the blueprint was really also a product of using Eduplanet. It made it very easy. We were doing a lot of work. The format and the structures of our units were very predictable and consistent because of the work that we're doing and how the platform was being implemented to write our curriculum. And so at the time, we thought it was easy or easier. We were able to download those PDFs, and then, of course, we had lots of files initially. Our admin assistant has all of the folders. Every time we made a change, though, we would have to then, go take it down, redownload a PDF, put it up again. It was able to be put up in a very nice format for our public to see. But the difference with having the blueprint is just amazing because the idea of the seamlessness of the changes that we make from going from a published copy to a working copy and then back to a published copy, as it was mentioned earlier, in a few clicks of a mouse to do that is fabulous.
But I will say that there are some very unexpected uses that, of course, as I mentioned earlier, the end product of a ten-year journey of really adopting the UbD framework and kind of working through all of that PD and all of that work with the teachers really is a celebration of all of that work. And to see it in this platform in this way is just amazing. And similar to what was just shared.
The idea that we used it at our new teacher orientation in order to kind of get them started to see from where our curriculum like a conversation around curriculum, how what curriculum looks like. How do we develop curriculum? In Avon and then go into of course, as mentioned by others, while all of our certified staff have access to our PreK-12 curriculum. They could have always dug deeper. It is a lot easier to if what they're looking for is kind of looking for something and how it's represented in other grade levels amongst the same Maybe domain and map, using the blueprint as the access point for that and being able to read through everyone's stage once it's a faster, easier lift for them to be able to do that. It's more organized, it's more user-friendly.
As you mentioned, Kelsey, the idea of our last conversation with our board of education was around our course of studies. And every year the board of education kind of revisits our program studies in December prior to going out to our students and our families in January. And we're talking about transparency and feeling that we are at 80% of our course of studies is up on our district, on our website, in that blueprint. And we have a goal between now and the end of our school year, hopefully by the end of June 2023. But if not by the start, I guess our soft goal was more like the next time the Board of Education is looking at the program of studies. We can say 100% of it is online in our Blueprint and we really do think that we will be able to attain that.
It’s just an amazing tool, as you said, to use with students, use with parents to be able to have those conversations. When we were teaching our staff and our teachers about understanding by design, we talked about stage one and how the transparency of it. We always mentioned it as being our promise and our agreement with our community that this is what all students who take a particular course or go to a particular grade level will be exposed to and the learning that the expectations will be aligned to this. And so that holds true and I think the Blueprint makes that very easy for our district and our stakeholders too.
[Kelsey Jaskot] You guys have done a beautiful job with your design of it as well. So as you kind of dig in, one of the things I can say about Avon is they are sticklers when it comes to coherency, which I absolutely love. It's one of my favorite things, but they have similar formats for all of their unit focus, so as they start to get into their descriptions, their naming conventions are consistent everywhere. And it really makes a big difference when you think about a parent who's kind of taking a look at each of these areas that all of the curriculum documents really do read very consistently. And it gives you just kind of a familiar piece as you start to dig into the different subject areas.
To view Avon’s Blueprint, you’ll visit the District Curriculum page of their website, and click on the link to take you to the Curriculum Blueprint.
So those of you that are on the line that have been with us for a very long time, you probably remember me taking you to Avon's page back in the day when it was just PDF documents and now be able to see the Blueprint come to life. It's a really cool transition, I just wanted to share that as well. Thank you so much, Jodi.
[Kelsey Jaskot] I absolutely love this conversation, I don't want it to end. I want to open that up and see if we can kind of get some interaction going. What I would love to hear from all of you and then we're going to take a couple of minutes to see if there's any questions from the audience. If you had some words of wisdom for anybody taking on the Blueprint or taking on Eduplanet21, what would they be? As you start to think from those lenses. So it could be either getting brand new to the platform, or it could be, hey, you know what? We've been with us for a couple of years or we're relatively new, but we're ready to launch this thing.
[Lura Hanks] One thing that Andrew mentioned about the yearly renewal of the curriculum was really exciting. Just two weeks ago at our board retreat, I requested that we approve our curriculum annually because I think it sends out a message that curriculum is never done and it's constantly revising. And then I asked them to commit money to a curriculum institute every summer. So, it went hand in hand, but knowing that if we commit that money to work on our curriculum every summer, it will come to the board at the beginning of the year for renewal. So, when you said that it was annual, I was like, “oh, so I'm not that far off.” But that was the request to say we're going to constantly revise it and put it out there.
[Lura Hanks] If I had to give one piece of advice that's held us through all the barriers and obstacles and there's been a lot of them, starting with that philosophy when we hit each content area is really and we did it in the we believe this, therefore we will do this. And it's one of those things people want to rush through every time because it's easy to do. But we develop a draft with a core group of people and experts in that area. We send it out to the entire district whether they teach that content or not, because there's a lot of repetitive in those philosophies. But then we ask for agreeing to agree on that. That has solved so many problems.
When middle school social studies was having trouble with the textbook versus the lesson, we just bring back the philosophy. What did we say we were going to do? When somebody is questioning a resource that we want to purchase, we go back to the philosophy. Or when someone's asking for something to be purchased and we're looking at our budget moving forward. We've got ourselves into a nice place and sustainable where we can start to expand programs and we look at what are the priorities and to hear the board repeat what did we say we were going to do? It's starting to become a language because we've done it so much. So if I give any advice at all, it start with the philosophy because it puts people on the same page and then it comes back to revisit when there's a conflict.
If we don't know what we'd want to do, let's just go back and read what did we say we were going to do and are we doing it. And so that's been a life saver. It also is the gateway to making everything visible. So that was the teachers saw that they were part of a bigger story. So, everything we're going to do is going to lead to this. Our social studies philosophy, this is what we believe about social studies instruction, it put everybody on the same page telling the same story. So that then when we start to do the Blueprint pieces and we may have done it a little slower or not as complete before board approval because we didn't approve all the units. We just approved the Blueprint with the unit overviews, which we say then kickstarts our ability to write units because we didn't want to. The mistake we made writing a lot of units earlier was we didn't want to approve units and spend all this time writing units that didn't already have the board approval as a unit to be written. And so the Blueprint has helped us do that, Kelsey, because we could put all we have now got, we have our philosophy, we know what standards we've done.
Our Stage One, here's our overview and here's everything broken up into the units approve that now we get to do the unit writing. And so there's a level of satisfaction in that for teachers knowing this is the direction of the board, it's approved, let's rate some rock star units and make sure the resources aligned so it was all part of the process.
[Kelsey Jaskot] And get to the fun stuff, right? That's what they want to do. They want to be on the stage three.
[Lura Hanks] It took a while to get to the point where it's fun and I think we're starting to see that, oh, we have freedom to do this.
Like this is where you get to be, you know, why you got into teaching in the first place. And that's what we hope to do, is not bind somebody by a scope and sequence that wasn't developed collaboratively. And so this whole process has allowed us to do that. There's a lot of pains along the way, but you start to see these little moments that tell you to keep going.
[Jodi Kryzanski] I would add to that, Lura, for that consistency piece, we didn't do that philosophy upfront originally and started to do that in the past couple of years. And I would say that it was a game changer in terms of exactly what you said about making decisions about the resources especially and decisions that you make going forward. So we started that with our ELA and we're moving forward with that. But I will say one thing we did do that did lead to consistency or some agreement was that each time we took on a new content area, we started with a K12 vertical team that established the long term transfer goals.
So in essence, while I think that philosophical statement of we believe and therefore we will do was a piece that we missed, and we're putting that in now. That next level of work was agreeing on long term transfer goals for that end product for those graduating students out of our district in each discipline, and then looking at the standards of which we were either adopting or needed to align to we would write understandings and essential questions that were K twelve and sometimes banded and use different language for those different levels.
And that created the base of a consistent predefined drop downs that we could use as we created those units. And what we found is, of course, over time, the very first content areas that went through that process. Right now we're going back and redoing them. And those units now are so well informed and they're so strongly creative in terms of alignment and the consistent use of the kind of language we want to see from unit to unit, from grade to grade. So I would recommend anyone starting. And if you really are new to both not only Eduplanet but to Understand it by Design is that you take some time to have some of those K12 or vertical conversations first to create your district's view on those key elements long-term transfer goals, understandings, the essential questions that then can be used. And as you do the work, you'll find that there will be ones you'll never use and maybe you're going to revise and take them out and the ones that you're like. We really need this one. And what's great about that is the alignment tools built into the product itself help you see how frequently you are using the different predefined standard, whether it be standards or any of the functions or the components of stage one. And our teachers have found those alignment tools very helpful in their work.
[Kelsey Jaskot] Any other words of wisdom from the crew?
[Christina Wotton] I would just say don't get hung up on wordsmithing, just get some stuff out there. You can go back and make it sound better and look better after. But I feel like our teachers got really stuck on having everything perfect and just get it out there.
[Beth Sheridan] Yeah, I think the idea of wanting to make it so perfect, it just gets in the way of progress and it doesn't let go of that perfection. And it is an ongoing process, living.
[Kelsey Jaskot] And breathing just like we are. Right, so we're not perfect and neither is it the first time around.
Jared, anything you want to add to just to the group? I wanted to give you the opportunity as well.
[Jared Hoddinett] No, I think it's great. It's great to hear from you all. I know where each of you started with the journey and to see where you are now. Each of you have gone a long way, so I'm good with that. Kudos to you all.
[Kelsey Jaskot] You are a fantastic group, I'm sure everybody on the line agrees and will be coming to you for advice along the way. You're frequently my references as we start to dig in as spokespeople for Edgewater, so we appreciate that. Awesome.
Well, Clare, I'll turn it back over to you to kind of wrap things up.
[Clare Coupe Scott] Thank you, everybody. It's been great. What a great opportunity for those of us from Eduplanet to hear from you because I know Kelsey gets to hear from you often, but the rest of us don't get to. So, it's been great for us as well as our attendees and then folks who will get to view the recording. We will get the recording out early next week. It will include links to the Blueprints as I shared through the chat.
I think it was several of you mentioned using ESSER funds. For those of you on the line who might still have some ESSER funds available, our platform is certainly eligible and I provided a link and will with the email to the Understanding by Design Institute. So you can also take a look at that.
If you are a current customer and want to learn more about what these customers are doing, certainly talk to your Customer Success Manager. If you're new to Eduplanet, talk with your sales manager. And as always, follow us on social media to get the latest updates.
[Beth Sheridan] I just want to interrupt here one more time. I really want to give kudos to the Eduplanet team. I mean, their customer service is just unbelievable. It's so responsive. I can reach out to Kelsey, I can reach out to Jared and they get back to me and that has been an absolute godsend. So, if anybody is worried that they would not have support, it will be kind of set adrift during this process. Not a chance. And this is great because it also connects us with each other, which is really just amazing. But I really want to give a shout out to Kelsey and Jared in particular.
[Kelsey Jaskot] Thank you so much, Beth.
[Lura Hanks] I would just add that the sharing of collective journeys, I think is what makes the journey bearable when it gets really hard, is like just like, I'm happy to talk with anybody that's starting the journey. I think all of us are, because it really is the motivation you need to keep going. The work is so important, and the frustration is when it's right after that point that the good stuff comes and you hear that from each other and everyone's willingness to share everything and show us what they've done has been a game changer.
[Jodi Kryzanski] I would agree. Thank you for putting this panel together. It was helpful to hear each other's stories as well.
[Clare Coupe Scott] All right, everybody. Have a great night. Thanks for joining us.
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