My children frequently ask me to clarify what exactly my job is as Director of Curriculum Instruction and Assessment. Part of me wants to believe they ask because they are interested in me and my job, and maybe even have a desire to follow in my footsteps. The other more realistic part knows that they actually don’t understand why anyone would choose to be in a role like mine.
I suppose being a Director of Curriculum Instruction and Assessment lacks a certain glamor that other jobs bring in. Still, I contend that the job is central to all things in the district. We affectionately say at South Western that “all roads lead to curriculum.” Agree or not, it does give our team some spirited laughter during times of stress.
From an operational and organizational standpoint, being able to direct a centralized flow of curriculum anchors our instructional program. It provides purpose and vision to what we value for student learning. As a chief function of my job, I initiate and oversee all aspects of our district’s curriculum management plan.
This plan allows us to:
1) Focus on building professional capacity around learning;
2) Guide programmatic progress around instructional targets; and
3) Evaluate the relevance of the K-12 curriculum plan.
Let’s focus a little more on each of these.
Definitions of professional capacity extend far beyond the world of curriculum management, yet with regard to priorities of curriculum management, this reason tops the list.
It goes without saying that a focus on learning is what educators do. Curricula is our pathway to navigate each established learning goal. The pathway establishes a direction that defines what we do when it happens, and why it matters. Curriculum relies on both quality design and proper implementation.
From a capacity standpoint, each user of the curriculum must have a solid understanding of how it was designed, and why that design directs its appropriate use. Having a plan that describes the how and why of the curriculum framework directs which strategies will lead to building that essential professional capacity.
Having a curriculum leadership team focused on building professional capacity strengthens not only the team’s effectiveness but also their ability to design and coach others in the work of curriculum.
The work of the leadership team has helped invigorate a professional culture that is beginning to see the workaround curriculum differently. With that focus, we are starting to support changes in implementation habits that more closely align with the mapping design.
Our system - through scheduled professional development time as well as through coaching sessions - is building a capacity that supports implementing a well-designed curriculum plan with an unhindered focus on student learning.
One of our district’s five curriculum instruction and assessment design values focuses on the depth of understanding (See Figure 1). Gaining a depth of understanding, though, only surfaces over time and with patience.
Because a curriculum plan reflects progress over time, each mapped understanding works together to reflect the quality learning impacts we desire for our students. On the pathway, they are signposts - directional and destination markers that establish progress along the way.
Without a manageable plan showcasing these signposts, we do not have a clear way of measuring the journey from point A to point B. And without the measurement, there are only challenges and complications when looking for depth of understanding of the progress we are making.
It would be surprising to me if I found a school system that didn’t have some type of a cycle that allowed for curriculum review. Seems foundational to the work.
But, not all systems seem to flow easily within each cycle. I find that in our system, relying on our established design cycle supports that constant review of our intended curriculum, thus ensuring a critical look into our curriculum relevancy. This is where the management plan keeps accountability in place so we can constantly evaluate our learning relevance for each and every student.
Our system is built on a three-phase cycle:
1) Phase One is a visioning phase;
2) Phase Two develops and revises curriculum; and
3) Phase Three leads toward implementation and evaluation.
In this third phase, we focus on studying how well-implemented our curriculum is, as noted through teams’ reviews of assessments and student performance, through coaching or peer observation plans, and the degree to which our support systems allow for students to engage in learning outcomes.
The cycle is essential to the management plan - and it systematizes work to keep everyone focused on the value that guides continuous improvement.
One of the many benefits for our district in partnering with Eduplanet21 is being able to support these reasons for having a curriculum management plan.
The tools, resources, and personalized customer support we receive from the team at Eduplanet21 strengthens our capacity, helps us monitor programmatic progress, and supports our ability to evaluate curriculum relevancy.
For instance, with the data analytics tools available in the mapping platform, we frequently rely on checking the alignment of customized learning targets. These reports help us see where units highlight the specific learning targets we are designing across our K-12 program. This gives our leadership team a tool to inform coaching sessions, professional development workshops, or helps the peer-to-peer observation done during relevancy evaluation.
Our capacity wouldn’t be where it is without the committed team partners of Eduplanet21, constantly guiding and designing pieces of the management platform to support things like course overviews or lesson planning. Since our commitment to professional capacity relies on both design and implementation - having the onhand services of Eduplanet21 working to help refine and redesign allows for greater support in seeing the entire vision of the curriculum implemented across the whole system.
At our webinar in March, we promised to provide updates about the Southwestern team and our curriculum journey. We’ve had some great opportunities to sharpen our curriculum leadership and coaching, all of which have helped us focus on the management side of our curriculum planning.
Since our webinar in March, we’ve added a 7th member to the liaison team, we’ve partnered with our colleagues at York Suburban School District to build capacity through our first joint curriculum leadership summit, and our team is ready to infuse Eduplanet21’s course and lesson planner into our management plan.
These are very exciting opportunities for the culture of our district, and I’m grateful that we have built this partnership to allow these things to happen.
Dr. Robert S Freil is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment for South Western School District, Hanover PA. He has spent his career working as an educator, with nine years in the classroom and sixteen in administration. He is active in multiple professional organizations and serves as the Advocacy Committee Chair on the PASCD executive board. He also serves on the Southern Region Executive Board of PASCD, as well as an active member of the York County Curriculum Director’s Network. Beyond working in the public schools of PA, Dr. Freil works in the school leadership program for California University of PA in their K-12 Secondary Education and Administration department, and as adjunct temporary professor in the Innovations in Teaching and Learning program for McDaniel College. He loves focusing his time and energy into building leadership capacity among the people he supervises and coaches, focusing on how process and systems strengthen the quality and efficacy of learning for students. As so much changes in education, building capacity among leaders in designing and implementing curriculum and assessments across both digital and face-to-face learning environments is his passion.
Robert S. Freil, Ed.D | Director of Curriculum Instruction and Assessment
South Western School District, Hanover PA 17331