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How to Track Student Development with Responsive Curriculum Management — Part 2 of 3

How to Track Student Development with Responsive Curriculum Management — Part 2 of 3

Nicole Plante

Nicole Plante

Support Specialist, Kiddom

Nicole Plante is a former middle and high school ELA teacher who received her B.A. in English (U.C. Berkeley), M.A. in English Education (CUNY-Brooklyn) and B.A. in Web Design & New Media (Art Academy, SF). At Kiddom, she is a Support Specialist who uses her experience and skills to support a diverse range of educators and students.

Take a moment to remember how middle school felt. Really dig into those golden awkward moments, mounting responsibilities, and feelings of uncertainty. What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about others?

Often, academic progress rests on social-emotional skills that students may or may not have developed. This has many educators asking themselves: “Are we addressing all the needs of the child if we do not include social-emotional learning?” As a result, many schools have begun to integrate social-emotional competencies as essential traits to prepare students for college, careers, and citizenship.

How can we expect a student to learn if they’re emotionally in turmoil? How can we do more to ensure our students are becoming responsible and empathetic members of society?

I’ve had the chance to see this initiative in action, from teaching at a suspension site in Brooklyn, New York to a K-8 Catholic school in California. In my experience, I learned that the social-emotional well-being of a student is often the basis of their achievement (or lack thereof). How can we expect a student to learn if they’re emotionally in turmoil? How can we do more to ensure our students are becoming responsible and empathetic members of society?

You can view the other articles in this series as posted here:

Also related: Introducing Responsive Curriculum Management

Looking Back

Teaching the whole child was a part of my Catholic school’s mission. In order to convey the desired outcomes of our graduates, we created Student Learning Expectations (SLEs) that encapsulated the academic, social, emotional, and spiritual objectives of our graduates. This lent insight on the essential question: What do we want a graduate of our school to embody? However, how to gather and assess student progress for those learning objectives was often an afterthought.

In order to understand what administrators and teachers might find useful with our new tool, Responsive Curriculum Management, we organized sessions with a motley crew of Kiddom employees to experience something that may be unfamiliar to non-teachers: the process of planning and collaborating on curricula.

I highly recommend for you to check out Melissa’s blog article, the first of our series, if you’re interested in learning about the purpose, set up and learnings from our first planning cycle.

For my session, I wanted to represent a challenge we had at my former school: How might we authentically gather evidence to track student progress for SEL objectives?

So I put my administrator hat on and thought about the challenges to initiate SEL curriculum.

Our Objective

I first set the context for empathy: We are a group of middle school teachers interested in creating a Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum for our students.

Our objective as a curriculum team was to find a management system that would help us align to CASEL competencies and gather evidence to assess students.

When developing curriculum as a team, there can often be too much structure, which limits teacher creativity — or too little, which affects school alignment.

Setting a Vision and Purpose

Like many teachers, I was taught to begin with the end in mind. What did I want our school to achieve? How could we use the data to inform intervention or opportunities for social-emotional development?

When implementing an initiative, I realized how essential it was to do some deep thinking about our school mission beforehand. This helped set our purpose so I could energize my team and align a new tool with our objective.

Solutions for Measurement

As an administrator, I created a basic SEL curriculum aligned to CASEL standards. While I would normally like to have a team of teachers come up with common measurement and language, I provided a method to have consistent rubrics for evaluation by creating a structured rubric and self-assessment document that could be adapted for different standards.

I wanted to provide a common language but have teachers rephrase it for their students — which would ultimately enable greater student ownership. As a result, the standards were rephrased by the teachers to be appropriate for student self-reflection and linked to a 3 point rubric.

Here you see a view of the units in Academy, our product for administrators.

 

Learnings

Click the image to visit our new On-Demand PD Portal

At the end of our session, I knew this was just the beginning. Really the greatest work would be making the venture authentic and useful: How might the curriculum be integrated into students’ daily lives? How might we use evidence for intervention or support?

Taking my administrator hat off, my key learnings as a Kiddom employee was less daunting, yet humbling:

1. In order to give purpose to our process and tool, I needed to have a sense of where my teachers were, in terms of attitude and readiness. I took the time to think like a teacher to set them up for success.

2. When developing curriculum as a team, there can often be too much structure, which limits teacher creativity — or too little, which affects school alignment.Frameworks for organizing, planning, and measuring curricula may limit or liberate innovation — so it’s important to focus on the areas that are important to your objectives.

3. I modeled to the teachers how to use the curriculum management tool: How can we provide the supports to make it easy for educators to understand how Academy and Classroom work together?

4. Empathy is not reserved for middle school students. Incorporating empathetic design processes at Kiddom is essential for making products and resources that can solve the same problems I faced as an educator.

I took my own advice and got creative. Check out the resources below to see the fruit of my learnings in order to (hopefully) make your life easier with curriculum planning.

 

Questions to Guide Curriculum Planning: Use our guiding questions to facilitate discussion, establish norms, and include the community when developing objectives.

Curriculum Planning Templates: If you’re like me, you may need to get your unit planned out first before inputting it into our curriculum management tool.

Lesson Plan Template for Diverse Needs: Plan in advance for the resources and supports needed for personalized learning.

You can look forward to more updates from our Curriculum Development team as part of this blog series:

Also related: Introducing Responsive Curriculum Management

To learn more about our new responsive curriculum feature, visit this page. To see a demo of this exciting new feature, book a call today.

Kiddom Academy picks up where the LMS leaves off, offering an operating system for K-12 schools and districts to measure and act on classroom intelligence. We define a K-12 operating system as a set of interconnected tools to enable schools to operate more productively, increase student outcomes, and improve upon their respective instructional models.

What People Are Saying

“Kiddom is great for assessing data and then assigning appropriate work based on individual student performance. I love that it’s very easy to attach standards and rubric to every assignment.”

Jackie Curts, Middle School Teacher

“Using Kiddom has made me stop and ask ‘Am I just letting this student repeat what they already know or am I really challenging them?’”

Ann Leghorn, High School Literacy Specialist

“I can see where my class and any student is at any moment in their educational journey. This way I can take action to assist them to work towards mastery.”

Mr. Albrecht, High School Teacher

You might also be interested in these articles:

Principal Tammy Taylor: The Teacher Advocate — SSL Spotlight #3

Principal Tammy Taylor: The Teacher Advocate — SSL Spotlight #3

Principal Tammy Taylor

Principal Tammy Taylor

The Teacher Advocate, Star School Leader Recipient

This is the third spotlight in a series of twelve, in which we feature the winning recipients of Kiddom’s annual Star School Leader Award. Look for the others over the coming months by signing up for our newsletter, or check out our School Leadership page, which we will update with each new spotlight.

 

To the compact gait of an elementary school student, the path between a teacher’s classroom and the principal’s office may seem far and long. Such is not the case at the Wellton Elementary School District in Arizona, where Principal Tammy Taylor leads her staff by example. Mrs. Taylor started her journey in education as a classroom teacher for fourteen years, and she continues to teach today, in addition to being principal of a school that serves K-8 students.

The Makings of a Star School Leader

In college, Principal Taylor made an honest effort to become a veterinarian, but her grades in organic chemistry wouldn’t cut it. (Who among us can relate?)

Her friends and family pointed out that she thrived in roles that let her work with kids: one job as a daycare provider, another helping kids find books at the public library. When she found her true calling as a 2nd grade teacher, she put away her chemistry textbooks and never looked back.

“The thing I like most [about being a principal] is being able to interact with all the students. Because we are a small school, everyone knows me. Seeing the kids outside the community and they still recognize you—that close-knit kind of a family atmosphere is what I really like the most.”

— Principal Tammy Taylor, Wellton Elementary School

Principal Taylor stays connected by regularly popping into classrooms to say hello. But these visits are strictly as a community member and not a supervisor. Under her leadership, teachers receive a lot of trust to lead their classrooms without intervention. “Unless they need help or I see a problem, I just let them do their job.”

Wellton Bulldogs and the Wall of Kindness

As a small school for a wide range of students, Wellton Elementary emphasizes a personal responsibility to the community. But the community wasn’t always so harmonious. After observing a need for dissolving conflict between grade levels, Principal Taylor implemented some creative ways to bring students together.

With the help of its students over the past three years, the school has added five murals to the campus, each brandishing quotes about kindness. Throughout the project, students had the chance to adorn the walls with their own handprints and express themselves creatively in honor one of the greats, Vincent Van Gogh.

Another way Wellton imparts a sense of kindness and responsibility is through a house system inspired by Harry Potter: every year, fourth through eighth graders are sorted into four houses. Through themed challenges and activities, they exercise teamwork, kindness, and inclusivity. This gives students a chance to work with people of a different ages and interests.

World Kindness Day brought on another opportunity for the initiative — students wrote anecdotes about giving, receiving, or witnessing kindness on pieces of paper. These speech bubbles were housed in the cafeteria for several weeks. This let students read stories from their peers at lunchtime, and keep the theme of the activity at the top of their minds at least once a day.

How does Mrs. Taylor foster a supportive teacher community?

Wellton is a school of 200 students and 10-12 teachers. In many cases, there is just one teacher per grade level. As such, getting teachers to convene and align can be difficult, but Principal Taylor keeps an open environment for communication and colleague support holding morning meetings for professional development.

These trainings are sometimes divided by grade level, but are often conducted as a unified group where staff invent ways to collaborate across grade level. For example, in one meeting, the intermediate staff shared activities and games they created for the primary staff. 

Before she became principal, Mrs. Taylor worked with Donors Choose to get sewing machines for our school. Now as our Principal, she helps teachers apply for donations through Donors Choose. This is just one of the ways that Mrs. Taylor has inspired teachers and staff members at Wellton Elementary. With her positive attitude and incredible energy, she has been an excellent role model for our teachers and staff. 

— Lisa Jameson, Teacher at Wellton Elementary

The State of Technology at Wellton Elementary

For many school districts, technology used to be an afterthought, or a special treat. But Principal Taylor has witnessed technology tunnel to the forefront of her students’ lives and helped her school in the effort to become a 1:1 (student to device) community. “It’s not like when we were students and, you know, ‘Yes! We got a computer class this semester.’ This is their life.”

The longer we prolonged having (technology as) part of their educational and academic life—which is the majority of their time during the year—I think we felt like we were holding them back. So having added that in, to me, is just important.

— Principal Tammy Taylor

This initiative also helped Principal Taylor to extend a helping hand where her teacher’s didn’t have bandwidth. “We are short-staffed to be perfectly honest. So our ideas, we have incorporated this year some online tutoring.” Eighth graders that are eligible can take algebra online, which frees up the math teacher to work more closely with students still approaching that level.

Advice for Other Schools Implementing 1:1 Technology

As the principal at a 1:1 school, Taylor understands that implementing a new tech initiative can be scary. But first and foremost, it’s important to remember that everyone learns at a different rate. “Baby steps. Start with one program and get them to where they’re competent and then you can add another one. Even our most reluctant teachers have slowly started to use it more and more in the classroom.”

For administrators that are hesitant to embrace technology, Principal Taylor recommends leaning on the people and resources in your community as mentors. She notes that kids are often more likely to listen to other kids than to a teacher.

Just find those teachers and students that have those strengths, and use their strength. Having the older kids who know how to do it go in and show the little ones can take some of the pressure off the teacher trying to figure it out all on their own.

Whereas the teachers may be reluctant to use tablets and other devices as part of their instruction, the students themselves often feel right at home. “We had the 7th graders go in and help the kindergarteners learn how to log into the program and show the teachers how, for about two months.” By encouraging collaboration and relying on the students to step up for their community, Principal Taylor enjoyed a much smoother transition to using tablets in grade K. “By that time the kids could get in on their own. And the teachers were less worried about spending time with log in.”

This anecdote emphasizes the dual intent of technology at Wellton Elementary. Principal Taylor understands that it can be used to enhance the classroom experience in different ways. “At the primary level, it needs to be there to help support and help fill in the gaps of our students. In the intermediate, we have it to help and improve their comprehension and understanding of the subject areas, as well as knowing that our state testing is done on the computer.

All in all, what makes Mrs. Taylor such a sensational leader is her ability to pinpoint and rely on the individual strengths of people in her community. “The kids are why we’re here the most. The adults, we help guide them, but you have to trust them to do their job and that’s what I do. I trust them to do their job.

Recap: What Makes a Star School Leader?

Great school leaders empower their teachers. What teachers do is one of the most difficult, and often thankless jobs. And while we all agree that teachers are the true heroes of every school system, it takes a special kind of leader to enable their teachers with the right support to focus on the important things. Like teaching.

The Star School Leader rubric stands on three pillars, hanging from one common theme:

  1.  Empowering others by setting a positive attitude, culture, and environment.
  2.  Empowering others with the right use of technology as a means and not an end. 
  3.  Empowering others through supportive coaching and access to professional development. 

To read about the rest of the Star School Leaders, visit our recipient announcement page.

 

Building a School-Wide Digital Literacy Curriculum — Part 3 of 3

How to build and measure a cross-disciplinary, school-wide digital literacy curriculum using responsive curriculum management.

Principal Tammy Taylor: The Teacher Advocate — SSL Spotlight #3

As a principal and a part-time teacher, Principal Tammy Taylor of Wellton Elementary, Arizona keeps a close eye on the needs of her students and teachers.

Principal Shameka Gerald: The Inspirational Leader — SSL Spotlight #2

Principal Gerald encourages students to use technology to create their own path. Learn how she creates a community for both teachers and students to grow.

Introducing Responsive Curriculum Management

Responsive Curriculum Management provides visibility into classroom progress so you can build systems of continuous improvement

Academy’s New Curriculum Development Tool is a Game Changer — Part 1 of 3

After creating a team to test the new feature, our School Success Lead shares notes with both excitement and regret that she didn’t have this tool when she was a teacher!