As I began writing about the updates to the district’s curriculum, it quickly became apparent that the topic was too large in scope for a single article. This column will focus on how we utilize technology to augment instruction. Next week will dive into the specific technology knowledge and skills our students will be acquiring.
The district took a huge leap in our use of technology to support instruction just in front of the COVID-19 pandemic. We made the decision to become a 1-to-1 school, meaning that all students would have access to a chromebook. This looks a little different depending upon the age of the student as access can vary from a classroom cart model where the devices are used during the day, but are stored in the classroom to a model where older students have a specific chromebook assigned to them and are free to use the devices at home.
This column will address the process utilized to adopt a new curriculum and will update readers on the most recent changes to our curriculum.
The district operates under an eight-year curriculum review cycle. That means that once a curriculum is purchased in a particular subject area, it will be utilized for instruction for eight years before being replaced. Selecting a new curriculum is a fairly lengthy process. It involves departments examining student performance data to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum currently being used. It also involves comparing the various curricula available for purpose to the local, state and national standards that we are required to teach. Departments and/or grade levels will make a recommendation that goes before the District Curriculum Review Advisory Committee (DCRAC) which is composed of school board members, administration, faculty and community members. If DCRAC gives the request a favorable recommendation, it goes before the entire school board for adoption.
The Minnesota Department of Education reviews the standards we are required to teach in each subject area on a cycle as well. Their process is fairly detailed. There are typically many opportunities for the public to be involved in the process before MDE officially approves new standards. Ideally, our district closely follows MDE’s cycle so that we are in alignment.
Before diving into recent changes, a short recap from last week’s article will set the stage:
This column is a thirty-thousand foot view of school finance and is in response to questions that come up in the community from time to time. I will start with a short synopsis on how schools in Minnesota are funded. Tax dollars are received by the state and dispersed to districts in the form of aids and levies. There is a basic formula determined by the state which gives greater funding weight to older students than it does to younger students.
The COVID-19 pandemic generated new, one-time funding sources for schools as we addressed the demands for personal protective equipment, sanitizing/disinfecting supplies and technology to assist and support distance learning which included chromebooks and mobile hotspots. Other programs that emerged during the pandemic to support students and families were targeting food and nutrition.