Ramsey School District: Rowing in the Same Direction

Ramsey School District: Rowing in the Same Direction

Background:

Reflective, Empathetic, Responsible, are just a few of the words found on the Profile of a Ramsey Graduate from the Ramsey School District in New Jersey, a suburb of New York City. While having a clear destination is critical to the success of this program, equally important is the ability to implement a clear and cohesive strategy with this ambitious end in mind. 

The innovative practice of requiring all graduates to build and defend a profile project of their learning would require the entire district leadership and education teams at all grade levels to be in total alignment. Dr. Andrew Matteo, Ramsey’s Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, and the district leadership understood that student achievement on these key 21st-century skills requires a guaranteed and viable curriculum and knew they had to connect their curriculum pedagogical practices to the profile outcomes through designing backwards with the end in mind.

“We wanted the profile to be more than just a poster hanging on the wall. So we set about breaking down our profile competencies into performance indicators with descriptors of performance to provide students the opportunity to work toward the explicit and ambitious goals outlined by the Profile of a Ramsey Graduate,” Dr. Matteo explained.

Understanding by Design® curriculum methodology was familiar to many of the educators in the Ramsey School District, but after years of creating high-quality units, the district leadership wanted to make sure their curriculum was coherent from PreK through 12 in each discipline and aligned to these modernized student expectations. In a district that has multiple transition years, grouping students in grades PreK-3, 4-5, 6-8, and 9-12, ensuring clear and cohesive learning progressions would be no small undertaking. 

The Eduplanet21 Approach:

This past spring, content disciplinary teams of teachers that included a practitioner from every grade alongside special educators, paraprofessionals, reading specialist/interventionists, and other support specialists, reviewed the entire curriculum structure and learning progressions starting in pre-kindergarten through graduation. Without the aid of technology, using sticky notes and color codes to keep everything organized, the teams went through an ambitious curriculum review exercise. The result was eye-opening and left the teams feeling exhausted, exhilarated, and thinking - there must be a better way. Enter Eduplanet21.

Results:

Eduplanet21’s Unit Planner was developed in partnership with Jay McTighe, world-renowned curriculum expert and co-author of Understanding by Design® (UbD). UbD’s backwards design methodology focuses on the purposeful alignment of learning targets and outcomes. Key to the design is a student learning process that looks purposefully at the progression through knowledge acquisition, meaning-making, and transfer alongside reflective understandings of the evidence and application of that learning. Eduplanet21’s easy-to-use platform would also enable the district to keep all of their curriculum units in one accessible and searchable place, freeing educator teams to embark on the real work of revising their curriculum with intentional outcomes in mind.

Intentionality is core to the work in the Ramsey School District. Dr. Matteo described proudly the careful deliberation and selection of the knowledge, skills, and dispositions of educators that serve on the 20-member content teams, which thoughtfully include content experts, influencers, and new and seasoned practitioners. During the 2021-22 school year, educators across the district will be “renewing their vow” to strong curriculum design through personalized professional learning from Jay McTighe and the Eduplanet21 team. 

“We want everyone to be rowing in the same direction, break down silos, and have rich conversations about evidence of learning while building their own professional capacity.”

Conclusion:

While excited about the progress to date and the new technology support with Eduplanet21's Unit Planner, Dr. Matteo shared, “This work is never over. Once we finish this work, we begin the next phase of regular review and continuous improvement, so we stay flexible and contemporary to the evolving needs of our graduates.”

This New Jersey school district is certainly one to watch - Go, Rams!

To learn more about the Eduplanet21 Curriculum Management Platform and how we can help your school or district, contact us to request a demo.