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3 Ways Teachers Can End the School Year on a High Note

3 Ways Teachers Can End the School Year on a High Note

Abbas Manjee

Abbas Manjee

Chief Academic Officer, Kiddom

Abbas Manjee is Chief Academic Officer at Kiddom. Before Kiddom, Abbas taught high school math serving at-risk youth in New York City. 

It’s already May. Can you believe it?

If you’re done with standardized testing, your students are on the final stretch. This is a unique opportunity to go the extra mile and close the year with a bang. So instead of limping to the end of the year, use Kiddom to make every second count.

Share individualized resources

You strategically prioritized what to teach throughout the school year, and the end of the year should be no different. Instead of trying to keep up with your scope and sequence, consider taking a step back and reflecting on the progress you’ve already made. Determine what’s most important for your students to learn on an individual basis, given your time constraints.

Luckily, your reports in Kiddom can help you do just that.

 

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To get started sharing personalized work, use the drop-down menu in your Kiddom reports to cycle between individual students. Review the progress they’ve made on the skills you’ve covered, then use Kiddom’s library of teaching resources to quickly find and assign intervention resources.

 

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Add a message of encouragement to the individual resources you share — your students will appreciate the personal touch.

Send good vibes

You’ve spent an entire school year building relationships with your students, which means you probably have a lot more influence over them now than you ever did before. Unfortunately, you might never get another chance to advise or inspire your students again. So take advantage of every opportunity you have now to positively impact their work and their lives.

 

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The simplest way to do this would be to start with the assignments you’ve already graded. Do this through your Kiddom timeline and find an assignment for which you’ve entered scores without adding comments. You don’t have to have the assignment in-hand. Simply find the submissions with very high scores and add a personal note.

Then, be sure to go through a few more assignments spread the positivity to as many students as possible.

 

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A little positive enforcement can go a long way this time of year. Use it!

Spread the word

It might be tempting to simply keep your head down, submit your final grades, and walk out. But why stop now?

This time of year presents a golden opportunity to help parents and guardians understand why their child struggled in your class. Print PDF reports of students struggling in your class and offer suggestions, in writing, for things they can practice while school is out to prepare for next year.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t hold them accountable to act on it once they’ve moved on from your classroom. What matters is equipping them with knowledge to act in the best interest of their child.

 

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Let’s not forget about the students who excelled in your class. This is your last chance to help parents and guardians of students who excelled in your class to understand why they excelled. Consider providing extension playlists for your top-tier students to access and engage with over the summer.

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You’re almost there

Let’s be honest, you might be so overwhelmed with work right now that you’re at risk of losing sight of how important times of transition are for your students. You spent a lot of time at the beginning of the year setting norms, establishing routines, and building procedures. Consider spending just as much time bringing your classroom community to a thoughtful close. That’s the kind of stuff that sticks.

 

 


kiddom

By: Abbas Manjee, Chief Academic Officer

P.S. Thank you for passionately serving your students.

Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in a centralized hub. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

Raising $15M to Build Kiddom Academy, a K-12 Operating System for Schools and Districts

Raising $15M to Build Kiddom Academy, a K-12 Operating System for Schools and Districts

Kiddom’s mission is to build technology that unlocks the potential of all teachers and learners. In fact, we believe it takes a village to raise a child, from parents to teachers to school and district administrators.

For centuries, schools and technology have struggled to find a balance, with technology typically attempting to dictate the relationship between teachers and students. We believe technology has failed to unburden teachers. We believe technology has failed to help schools become centers of proactive support. Teachers, school leaders, and district administrators continue to spend an inordinate amount of time piecing together data to take the pulse of teaching and learning in classrooms, schools, and districts.

Given these inefficiencies, the idea of “personalized learning” seems impossible to achieve. For Kiddom, “personalized learning” is not about applying technology to learning or adding screen time, it’s about designing and implementing technology that enables every student to learn through pedagogy optimized for them, at their own pace. Our aim is to give schools and districts the power to execute on their vision for teaching and personalized learning.

Today, we’re excited to announce two things: (1) Kiddom Academy for schools and districts and (2) a $15M Series B round of financing led by new strategic partners Owl Ventures to help us deploy Kiddom Academy. Owl Ventures is a venture capital fund that invests in the world’s leading education technology companies. Existing investors Khosla Ventures also participated in this round.

A blast from the past

When we started Kiddom over three years ago, we first focused on classrooms and the tools needed to enhance the classroom experience for teachers and students. We realized every classroom experience played a role in the larger ecosystem within the school, so we designed a set of collaborative tools to help school communities work together, share, and learn from each other more effectively.

By connecting classrooms to each other, we discovered a disconnect between classrooms and their respective administration bodies, and so we listened and worked closely with public school administrators to understand how to connect school systems from the top-down and bottom-up.

Academy for schools and districts

With this funding, we’re ready to release Academy, our K12 school operating system for schools and districts to take advantage of our technology, allowing leaders at the school or district level to identify and act on aggregate achievement trends, manage and disseminate curriculum and proprietary content, and efficiently integrate with other tools districts have come to rely on.

To facilitate Academy adoption, we’ll be using the funds we raised to aggressively recruit for technical roles, as well as implementation and success roles to ensure that each and every learning community subscribed to Kiddom Academy is bought-in, on-boarded, and equipped with a plan to take full advantage of the product.

A special thanks to teachers

Since our inception, we’ve experienced rapid growth across hundreds of thousands of classrooms, catalyzed by word-of-mouth referrals from great teachers. The Kiddom team is forever indebted to our teacher base. Thank you for being our biggest champions. Thank you for continuing to passionately serve students around the world.

What’s next?

As the Kiddom team works toward our mission, we’re excited to help more and more teachers, schools, and districts achieve the wonderful things that were previously thought impossible. While today marks an exciting milestone, we’re just getting started, baby. Thanks for being with us on this journey. 💜


By: Abbas Manjee, Chief Academic Officer

 

P.S. Kiddom’s core product for teacher and learners will always remain free.

Just Added: Teaching Resources for Literacy, Writing, and Grammar

Just Added: Teaching Resources for Literacy, Writing, and Grammar

Knock knock. Who’s there? To. To who? To whom!

Grammar puns aside, the literacy gap is serious business. In the United States alone, an estimated 8.7 million 4th-12th grade students struggle with the reading and writing tasks required of them in school.

At Kiddom, we believe students deserve strong literacy instruction in all of their classes. That’s why we’ve just added teaching resources from the fine folks at Quill.org and RocketLit to our library.

Quill.org provides free writing and grammar activities for elementary, middle, and high school students. Activities are great for small group instruction or station work. They’re excellent for homework assignments as well.

Activities are designed to be completed in ten minutes, so there’s a lot of flexibility in how you use them. For example, a sentence combining activity asks students to combine multiple ideas into a single sentence. They then receive instant feedback to help them improve their clarity and precision.

Instantly find Quill.org’s resources and build grammar and language skills for writing assignments

Do I need a Quill.org account?
No. Both teachers and students can access the activity directly via the content library preview or in the student assignment. When a student completes the activity they will see a results screen.

RocketLit offers non-fiction science and social studies articles, written in a voice students love. The articles are packed with analogies and available at multiple reading levels, covering topics for upper elementary and middle school. Science resources are aligned to NGSS and a growing number of state standards.

Articles for students include listening support for lower reading levels and annotation options. Assessments include multiple choice and free response style questions. Students complete an initial reading diagnostic and RocketLit adapts each assignment you choose to the student’s own reading level. This adjusts as student’s reading improves.

Find RocketLit’s articles in Kiddom to introduce science or social studies topics

Do I need a RocketLit account?
Yes. However, teachers get a free one month trial and all 5th grade reading level versions are free. Your students will also need accounts which you can set up when you create your teacher account.

Whether you’re an English Language Arts teacher, literacy specialist, or just a grammar nerd, you’re going to love these resources. To learn more about library of free teaching resources, visit our help desk.

https://upscri.be/17b283/


By: Abbas Manjee, Chief Academic Officer

P.S. This educator guide on literacy instruction provides a definition of content literacy, its impact, strategies for incorporating literacy skills, and tips for using Kiddom to help you integrate literacy and content seamlessly for yourself and your students.

Introducing Standard Mastery Reports

Introducing Standard Mastery Reports

How to dig deep into student performance on individual standards

As more and more teachers across the globe manage their classrooms using Kiddom, we’ve been thinking about how our reports can be even more actionable.

Simply put: we want teachers to be able to complete the instructional cycle for every student faster. And more efficiently. To do this, we believe teachers must need to be able to (1) investigate progress already made on specific standards/skills and (2) quickly act on it.

Well, we’re thrilled to announce this is now possible. Teachers, meet your new standard mastery reports and prepare to say, “Ooh la la…” 🤗

Standard Mastery Reports

To access your standard mastery reports, visit your reports page. Click on an individual standard from your reports to view a more detailed summary of your class performance on a specific standard.


Access these reports by clicking on an individual standard
  • At the very top, you’ll see a more detailed description of the standard you clicked on
  • Use the arrows next to this card to cycle between standards
  • The first reporting metric, Class Average, shows your overall class average for this standard
  • To the right, Class Average is distributed by mastery group
  • Use the graph below this to track the performance of your class on this standard over time
  • Sort the order of students by first name, last name, or by performance (e.g. sort by “lowest grade” to display students who need the most support first)

Individual Student Progress on Standards

From your standard mastery reports, scroll down and click on any student to open up individual student progress over time on specific standards.


Click on an individual student from your standard mastery reports to dig even deeper
  • At the top, you’ll see a graph you can use to track the performance of this student (on this particular standard) over time
  • Every assignment that is aligned to this standard (and assigned to that student) can be viewed here
  • Clicking on an assignment will open that particular student’s submission (where you’re welcome to add additional feedback and/or comments)

Find Resources Directly From Your Reports

Remember the, “we want teachers to be able to complete the instructional cycle for every student faster” thing we mentioned?

  • From your standard mastery reports, clicking “Find more assignments for this standard” will instantly open your resource library.
  • Use our library to find and assign free teaching resources (videos, quizzes, activities, and more) based on the intelligence you obtain from your standard mastery reports
  • Teaching resources here are meant to supplement/enrich instruction and offer teachers additional differentiation materials

Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in a centralized hub. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

Introducing Collaborative Curriculum Development for Co-Teachers and Teacher Teams

Introducing Collaborative Curriculum Development for Co-Teachers and Teacher Teams

Curriculum development represents the journey teachers plan for their students to make meaningful connections. It’s labor-intensive and emotionally exhausting. Co-teachers share this responsibility. Teacher teams (across grades or content areas) also co-plan curriculum, with each team member then taking the “master curriculum” and making it their own.

At Kiddom, we recognize co-planning curriculum is challenging given the structural limitations of the traditional school day. Are co-teachers provided with common planning time? Does common planning time frequently get interrupted by other tasks, duties, or colleagues? Is common planning time scheduled during a time when teachers actually have the mental energy to write curriculum? We believe teachers must be able to collaboratively plan curriculum without the need to be in the same room at the same time.That’s why we’re proud to introduce our latest feature: shareable curriculum.

 

Collaborators with edit permissions may now co-plan curriculum with class owners

 

How to share and co-plan curriculum 📝

Starting today, when you create a new class in Kiddom, you’ll see a “master curriculum” (of the same name as your class) waiting for you in Planner. Your master curriculum is the curriculum that will automatically be shared with class collaborators, i.e. the team members you invite with viewing or editing permissions.

 

A shareable master curriculum is created for every new class a teacher creates on Kiddom

 

  • Once you’ve created a new class, invite collaborators using their email addresses.
  • If you’d like your collaborators to contribute to your curriculum, invite them with “can edit” permissions. If you’d like your collaborators to only see your curriculum, invite them with “can view” permissions. You can always change these permissions from your Class Settings.
  • When your collaborators accept your invitation, they can co-plan this curriculum with you from anywhere, at any time.

It’s that easy. Whether you’re a co-teacher, or a part of a teacher team, shareable curriculum can make co-planning more effective, more productive, and less dependent on the structure of the school day.

Tip: Sharing your class with “can view” permissions is a fantastic way to share your curriculum to solicit feedback from department leads, instructional coaches, assistant principals, and principals.

For Kiddom pilot program educators 💁🏻

Shared curriculum is currently only available for new classes created, unless of course you’re a Kiddom pilot school or pilot district teacher. If that’s the case, we’re happy to make sure the curriculum you’ve worked so hard on over the past few weeks is available to co-plan with members of your school community. Please reach out to us by emailing support@kiddom.co with your request and we’ll take care of it as soon as possible.

P.S. If this is your first time hearing about the Kiddom pilot program, that’s okay — we’ve been pretty quiet about it. Our pilot program is designed to help school and districts plan, assess, and analyze learning more effectively as communities.Although the school year is underway, we do have a limited number of spots still available. Click here to learn more about our free pilot program.

Sharing is Caring: Introducing Collaborative Teaching and Learning

Sharing is Caring: Introducing Collaborative Teaching and Learning

Abbas Manjee

Abbas Manjee

Chief Academic Officer, Kiddom

Abbas Manjee is Chief Academic Officer at Kiddom. Before Kiddom, Abbas taught high school math serving at-risk youth in New York City. 

A sense of collaboration and community is important for the success of any school. Collaborative environments allow teachers to feel appreciated and guided in their role. It’s not rocket science: when teachers collaborate and communicate effectively, they design richer learning experiences for their students. Today, we’re proud to announce that collaboration tools are now available on Kiddom.

After months of researching, designing, engineering, and testing, all Kiddom users everywhere can now effectively collaborate with their colleagues. Hooray! 🎉

Here’s how collaboration works

  • Adding a collaborator is as simple as entering their email address.
  • As the class owner, you decide the type of access your collaborators gain, depending on each adult’s goals and roles (view vs. edit).
  • Share your classes with multiple adults — there is no limit to the number of collaborators each class can have.

 

     

     

    Adding a collaborator that can view your class 👀

     

    • This means a collaborator may only see your class timeline and reports, without the ability to edit, add, or remove any assignments or students.
    • A collaborator that can view your class won’t be able to see or send comments to students on assignments.
    • This is best for administrators, instructional coaches, paraprofessionals, or support staff who may need access to student achievement data or assignments for their own focus areas.

     

     

    Adding a collaborator that can edit your class ✍🏽

     

    • This means a collaborator gains modification privileges for assignments, grades, commenting, class settings, and rosters.
    • A collaborator that can edit your class has the ability to add additional collaborators.
    • This is best for co-teachers in special education, multi-age, or interdisciplinary classes who share the responsibility of creating and grading assignments.

     

    Teamwork makes the dream work

     

    The Kiddom team believes technology should enable teachers to share and learn best practices across their school communities. In fact, our pilot school communities intend to make big strides this year using Kiddom, all of which are using our collaboration features a little differently.

     

    While we’re excited about collaboration and what it could mean for teachers and learners, we recognize there’s more work to be done. Over the next several weeks, we’re building co-planning feature sets for curriculum to accelerate our vision of building a collaborative education platform.

     

    In the mean time, what are you waiting for? Start sharing and tweet us with your collaboration best practices using #SharingIsCaring.

     

    Editor’s note: You can only share personally identifiable information with other teachers and administrators at your school. Please confirm that sharing your class and student achievement data with others in your school community is allowed under your school (or district) technology policy.

     

    Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

    For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in a centralized hub. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

    Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

    Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

    Closing the 2016–2017 School Year

    Closing the 2016–2017 School Year

    Dear Educators,

    For many of you, the 2016–2017 school year has come to a close. On behalf of the Kiddom team, thank you for your passion and your service to students. We’re incredibly grateful you trusted Kiddom in your classroom.

    This year, Kiddom got a major facelift. Based on feedback from teachers like you, we completely redesigned the platform to allow you to plan, assess, and analyze learning from one place. A month later, we released a redesigned student experience to promote student ownership. Oh yeah, we also released an iOS app to help you and your students work together effortlessly, no matter where you are.

    In addition to a makeover and a full set of new features, we published a plethora of professional development guides to help you learn more blended learning and standards-based grading. We shared how Kiddom’s Planner makes for an effective curriculum tool for self-paced instruction. And finally, we outlined how curated playlists support differentiated curriculum development.

    Since our inception in 2015, we’ve experienced rapid growth across hundreds of thousands of classrooms, catalyzed by word-of-mouth referrals from teachers like you. Your communication and collaboration has inspired us to think about how teachers might collaborate together on Kiddom. So as we wrestle with this project over the next several weeks, we wish you a fun, safe, and restful summer.

    Thanks again!

    P.S. If your school or district is interested in piloting Kiddom for the 2017–2018 school year, book a demo for school and district leaders and submit your school information here. You’ll be among the first to access all of the collaboration tools we’re working on.

    4 Ways Teachers Can Better Prepare for Next School Year

    4 Ways Teachers Can Better Prepare for Next School Year

    As a teacher, you know there aren’t enough hours in the day to plan, teach, evaluate, and still have time for yourself. Reflecting on and planning for individual student strengths, areas of growth, and interests can take a backseat if you’re constantly overwhelmed by lesson planning and making resources from scratch. That’s where Kiddom comes in.

    Whether you’re just starting to explore education technology or you’ve already got a set of favorite tools, these four strategies using Kiddom can set you up for success next year — and save some precious time.

    1. Juxtapose performance with curriculum

    It’s important to reflect on overall student performance, but juxtaposing that performance against curriculum can give you even more insights. With Kiddom, you can easily monitor student progress over time and analyze performance on individual standards and skills.

    As you review individual student performance, ask yourself: Which students grew the most? Which skills took students multiple assessments to master? Where and when did my students encounter the most challenging roadblocks?

    To gather insights from reports:

    • Your reports are already full of life if you’ve added and graded assignments using Kiddom. To adjust your reports to display longer time intervals, choose the monthly view.
    • Your first report, Class Grade Average, is an average of all graded assignments and allows you to identify larger trends in overall student performance.
    • Use Mastery Groups (the stacked line graph) to reflect on and analyze changing student performance trends. As the year progressed, which students grew the most? Which students fell off your radar? Did any students make drastic performance changes? Clicking a point will reveal which students were in each group at a selected point in time.
    • Use the Class Standard Mastery graph to evaluate the progress your class made on specific standards and skills. Use insights gathered from these reports to start thinking about how you’ll adjust curriculum for next year.

     

     

    2. Fine-tune curriculum from lessons learned

    Gathering insights on which units need refining can become wasted labor if we never actually get the chance to revise curriculum. And once the school year gets underway, making those0 changes can get exponentially harder given time and resource constraints. With Kiddom’s Planner, you can modify your curriculum with ease.

    To fine-tune curriculum in Planner:

    • Open Planner from the right side of Timeline. If you haven’t created curriculum in Kiddom yet, start by adding a new unit. Add items you’d typically include within a unit like assignments, videos, and other types of resources.
    • If you’ve already created curriculum in Planner, easily add more items to it by using the blue + button. To remove assignments or resources that didn’t work the way you thought they would, press the trash button. Be sure to use the insights you obtained from your reports to make the changes you think could improve student performance next year.
    • The best part about Planner is that it makes ongoing curriculum development simple, which opens up more possibilities for students to make meaningful connections with academic content. Changes are saved in real-time and of course, your curriculum can be imported across all of your classes.

     

     

    3. Build differentiation in early

    Differentiated curriculum allows students to meaningfully connect with content, but designing it well can be time-consuming. If you know a specific topic requires a little more remediation, why wait until your students hit a roadblock to design resources? Alternatively, if you know a certain point of your curriculum generates a lot of student interest, wouldn’t it be nice to have exploratory resources at the ready? Use the playlist feature in Planner to grouping together resources like videos, readings, and assessments on a topic for enrichment or remediation.

    To differentiate instruction with playlists:

    • Open Planner and find a unit or topic for which you’d like to add resources based on your experience teaching it. From there, click the blue + button and add a new playlist. Title it whatever you’d like.
    • To get started adding resources to your playlist, hover over the playlist until another + button appears. Clicking this + button will add this assignment to the playlist. You can add as many assignments and resources as you’d like within a playlist.
    • Some students love knowing what’s coming up, while others can get overwhelmed by this information. Assign a set of resources or share individual assignments from your playlists, depending on the student. This allows you to match the working style of every student.

     

     

    4. Supplement curriculum with digital resources

    A teacher’s challenge is twofold: lessons must align to standards and engage students with relevant connections. This is inherently time-consuming. To save time and avoid reinventing the wheel, use Kiddom’s Library to find free, standards-aligned resources. Attempts and scores sync with Kiddom, which means your Kiddom reports encapsulate everything students work on, from materials you’ve made to pre-made digital content.

    To find free, standards-aligned resources:

    • Open your Timeline and click the blue + plus button to add an assignment. From here, click the “K” icon to access Kiddom’s Library. From here, perform a keyword search (e.g. “fractions’) to find a plethora of lessons, videos, exercises, and more. Use filters to zero in on grade level and/or subject-specific content.
    • Use resources from Kiddom’s Library to supplement assignments you create in each unit in your Planner. This way, you won’t have to create an entire lesson, with all of the resources that go with it, by yourself.
    • Finally, don’t forget that content from Kiddom’s Library can not only be assigned to a class, but to an individual student too.

     

     

    When the school year gets started, every minute counts. We hope these Kiddom features save you time and help you develop authentic learning experiences for all of your students.

    Extra credit: for even more time-saving tips, register for a free one-on-one coaching session with a Kiddom team member.

    Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

    For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in a centralized hub. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.

    Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?

    Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.

    Nobody Puts Curriculum in a Corner

    Nobody Puts Curriculum in a Corner

     

    “We’ve blocked three days off leading up to the first day of school for curriculum and lesson planning. You’ve got time to plan ahead.”

    When school leadership made this announcement in August during our staff training, I immediately felt overwhelmed and confused. I was a first year math teacher placed at a brand new, alternative high school serving at-risk youth in New York City. Despite my lack of experience, I was tasked with teaching Algebra 1, a course culminating in a standardized test all New York high school students must pass to graduate. I knew three days of planning wouldn’t be enough to design flexible curriculum that could empower every student to have an “aha!” moment every day. Unfortunately, the feeling that there’s never enough time to write and adjust curriculum is a major source of frustration and a bitter reality for teachers across the United States.

    Because I taught at a competency-based (a.k.a. standards-based) school for at-risk youth, pre-packaged curriculum and assessments offered very little flexibility for personalization or modification. The content was prescriptive and standardized, which meant taking it apart to meet student needs sometimes took longer than just making it myself. Plus, the available content was designed around how much time I’d spend teaching it versus what I actually needed to get students adept at learning the topic at hand. With students on my roster performing at a range of grade levels from elementary to beyond high school, I decided against bundled curriculum and textbooks and instead committed to building an in-house curriculum tailored to mystudents’ needs.

    If that sounds like a lot of work, it was. But writing curriculum wasn’t just labor-intensive, it was emotionally exhausting. I put my heart and soul into plotting the journey my students took with me. There are thousands of teachers doing this kind of work at any given moment. And while this practice might be best for students, it’s unsustainable given how many responsibilities teachers already juggle.

     

    Curriculum planning sessions: where “the work” really gets done

     

    Despite the immense amount of work involved, my colleagues and I fine-tuned our curriculum every year based on student skill gaps and results from formative assessments. We experimented with online curriculum products such as Rubicon and BetterLesson as well as adaptive learning programs such as Cognitive Tutor and Math180 to supplement our custom curriculum — but it was virtually impossible to get the kind of flexibility we wanted without sacrificing quality. To somewhat quote Darth Vader, I found the lack of quality edtech curriculum deeply disturbing. This was at odds with my experience, because I relied extensively on edtech for assessments. I taught in a school with high rates of chronic absenteeism, so it was vital students could demonstrate mastery without having to physically show up to class.

    As I gained more experience teaching, I realized the most effective curriculum for students should provide a variety of options for assessment and instruction. Beyond a library of PowerPoint slides, my mathematics curriculum evolved into a patchwork of in-house and free online resources following a scope and sequence specifically tailored to meet my students’ needs. They could easily access a library of lessons and assessments I’d created from scratch, or use Khan Academy videos coupled with IXL exercises aligned to standards we were learning in class. It took a lot of time and effort to curate the best resources from the surplus of providers, but it was worth it; I learned a lot about my students and my students learned in a way most suitable for them.

    Curriculum design is fundamentally emotional work, representing the journey educators plan for students to make meaningful connections with concepts.

    At Kiddom, we understand the benefits of a homemade approach to curriculum, but we also recognize the incredible burden this practice can add to teachers’ lives. That’s why I’m proud to announce Kiddom’s Planner will soon be available. It’s a curriculum tool designed specifically to offer teachers the flexibility they need to meet the needs of 21st century students. With the Planner, teachers can design curriculum for a class and easily modify pathways for groups or individual students. The Planner will be integrated with the Kiddom platform, which means teachers can effectively plan, assess, and analyze learning from one place.

     

    Kiddom’s Planner — design curriculum and modify pathways for individual students

     

    Well-designed and differentiated curriculum affords teachers the opportunity to help students meaningfully connect with the subject matter and expand their skill sets. It must offer the flexibility to individualize learning in real-time based on student needs without inconveniencing teachers. Teachers can’t sustainably inspire students if they’re overburdened and inadequately equipped. My experience has taught me to believe that it is possible for technology to ease administrative burdens and increase the quality of interactions between teachers and students. If teachers can use technology to thoughtfully guide individual students through the learning process, then we can expect every student to learn what’s necessary their own way: to have their own “aha!” moment. And as teachers, we know those are the moments that really matter.

    “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”
    — Carl Jung

    Eight Resources for Designing Competency-Based Curriculum

    On DeVos: Let’s Stay Focused

    On DeVos: Let’s Stay Focused

    This week, Betsy DeVos cleared another hurdle towards becoming the next education secretary of the United States. Ms. DeVos is a vocal supporter of school choice, most notably vouchers. She advocates for parents to be able to choose the best schools for their children, whether they’re traditional public schools, charters, or private schools. American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten called Ms. DeVos “the most ideological, anti-public education nominee put forward since President Carter created a Cabinet-level Department of Education.” Opponents of school choice point to evidence that programs like school vouchers may be fueling re-segregation in American schools. This topic elicits emotional responses from all stakeholders, from parents to policy makers and everyone in between. Heated debate aside, I believe we’re getting distracted by a plan that’s meant to sound grand but is actually going to be very tough to implement. Our focus should instead be on a much larger problem.

    The majority of our students live in areas where school choice doesn’t authentically exist. The availability of vouchers would mostly impact urban schools because rural areas don’t attract enough attention to establish charters — sometimes, there aren’t enough students in these areas to fill even one school. In addition, President Trump’s $20 billion plan to pay for vouchers does not cover the cost of his school choice program — it requires states to collectively provide an additional $110 billion of their own education budgets toward school choice. So in essence, this is a lofty plan that’s very hard to swallow. The problem is, this is literally the only thing we’re arguing over in this debate about Ms. DeVos. Why aren’t we bringing up the elephant in the room? Why aren’t we talking about the structural changes all schools need to make in order to teach 21st century skills and improve student outcomes? I’m talking about competency-based education.

    Over 150 years ago, public education was a revolutionary idea. Driven by the economic imperative of the industrial revolution, schools prepared young people for citizenship in a democratic society. Students navigated school grouped by age and acquired knowledge by moving from one specialized class to another. If that all sounds familiar, it’s because schools still generallyfunction as they did over 150 years ago. However, the teacher’s role has grown vastly more complex over the years and as a result, today’s teachers are buried under an avalanche of responsibilities without added supports. No wonder teacher morale is low and burnout rates aren’t dropping.

     

     

    Whoever our next Secretary of Education is, they need to advocate for all of our children and our teachers, because we can talk about parents all day, but it’s the students that are attending schools interacting with teachers, not parents. I’ve taught high school at both a traditional public high school and a charter high school. I believe how a child is taught matters more than whether they attend a traditional public, charter, or private school.

    The next education secretary must make a push for districts to overhaul their schools to promote personalized learning, grounded in competency-based education (also known as standards-based grading). In this model, students demonstrate mastery of concepts and skills that are aligned to standards (and no, it doesn’t have to be the Common Core). When an individual student demonstrates mastery, they move on. If they don’t, the teacher is there to determine the intervention or remediation that’s required. Top-down, compliance-based schools grounded in dated pedagogy do not promote student voice and choice.

    During one of my years as a high school math teacher, I was teaching Algebra to a seventeen year old who also happened to be enrolled in an after-school community college English class. That means his math skills required work, but he was well beyond his peers in ELA. He spent the next year accumulating his math and science credits while pushing ahead in other subjects. It’s 2017 folks: why are children still navigating school grouped by age, as if they’re some kind of consumer good?

    The next education secretary must fight to rework how educators learn to design curriculum, so that it’s tailored to meet individual strengths, interests, and experiences. Teachers today can’t meet individual needs sustainably if they’re still constrained by limited access to quality tools, or mandated use of ineffective tools. It’s shameful that in America, teachers can graduate from a master’s program in education or receive a teaching credential, and still never have gained familiarity with a single education technology tool.

    At Kiddom, we’re big proponents of the standards-based grading practice and mindset. Our platform is ideal for teachers that write curriculum grounded competency-based education, but we don’t force teachers to embrace it. We offer educators support resources and professional development for the practice, but many teachers are just not there yet. We’re just a small team offering teachers and learners a platform: we don’t write education policy and we certainly don’t dictate how schools should operate (nor will we). If educators want systematic change to benefit all students, we as individuals must get behind something we can all agree on.

    So if Ms. DeVos does indeed become the next U.S. Secretary of Education, I hope we come together, from “both sides of the aisle” to advocate for competency-based education. It’s a practice that will fundamentally impact all teachers and learners for the better.

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