By a 4-1 vote, the Delta County Board of Education agreed to implement a districtwide curriculum alignment effort in August.
The curriculum initiative was launched last summer with the goal of ensuring that every student at every grade level, regardless of school or community, is being taught the same core state standards at the same time.
Most of the curriculum has been written, it's being tested in classrooms throughout the county, and, after feedback from the teachers, the lesson plans will be "tweaked" so they're ready for full implementation in August.
The process has been long and, in some cases, stressful. Not everyone is on board. Parents and staff members from Paonia Elementary School were particularly outspoken about the issue at the Feb. 23 school board meeting. They pointed out that Paonia Elementary School consistently scores well above the state average, despite budget cuts that have resulted in reductions of the school's teaching staff. They're reluctant to give up a proven instructional strategy for a curriculum that is "fundamentally flawed and philosophically off track," in the words of Paonia Elementary School teacher Bob Bushta. He does not believe that the new curriculum is "nearly as rigorous, or as educationally sound, as what I currently do."
Several parents echoed Bushta's assertion that the new curriculum is nothing more than an "experiment on our students."
They also took issue with comments Dr. Jerre Doss made at a staff meeting, when he reportedly said, "Everyone needs to get on the bus." Teachers mentally tacked on "or else . . ." and felt they were being told they could be replaced.
At the school board meeting, Dr. Doss clarified his comments, saying he was trying to point out that the curriculum is mandated by the state. Using a bus as an analogy for curriculum, he said, "The bus is the vehicle by which we get there, so we all need to get on board."
Curriculum is an ongoing process, he added. Teachers need to be willing to try it out and to provide feedback (which can be given anonymously online).
"A lot of our staff believe this is the curriculum we need. Many of the staff members started at the beginning of this year with this curriculum. Many others started working with this curriculum in January. They're on the bus and moving it forward. They won't know if it works for them until they try it . . . the curriculum needs to be moved forward into revision, and it will be judged down the road as to if it's really the bus they want to get on."
The teaching staff is clearly divided, said Paul Beller, president of the teachers' Coordinating Council. A recent one-question survey found 54 percent of the teachers in favor of proceedings, and 46 percent against.
What's needed at this point, Dr. Doss said, is clear direction from the school board, so staff members know whether they should be moving forward with the curriculum.
Recognizing that the curriculum is "a work in progress," school board members adopted a resolution supporting a districtwide curriculum alignment process that requires monthly updates on revisions and implementation from the superintendent.
School board member Kathy Svenson cast the only dissenting vote after clarifying a previous comment from Dr. Doss. "The state sets the standards, not the curriculum," she said. The realization that Paonia Elementary School is meeting those standards with a proven method of instruction prompted her to vote no.
School board members Pete Blair, Tom Mingen, Tammy Smith and Cheryl Hines voted in favor of the resolution.
"I think the staff in this district will make this curriculum work," Smith said. "I believe in the staff. There may be bumps along the way, but we'll fix those bumps."
"The curriculum is just a tool," Hines added. "The main thing is the relationship between the teacher and the student. We have to put relationships on top, then the curriculum."
Staff and school board members were similarly divided in December, when the question was whether to proceed with the rollout of just one unit. At that time, the school board voted 3-2 to leave the decision up to each building principal.blog comments powered by Disqus