DeKalb Schools Responds To Poor Curriculum, Assessments and Planning Templates

DeKalb Schools characterizes their curriculum and assessments as “an intense instructional road map while providing flexibility to accommodate individual student needs.” I characterize it so far as less than stellar.

Lisa Martin  –  (.pdf link icon  resume)  Lisa Martin has been DeKalb Schools’ Chief Academic and Accountability Officer since June 2016. – She was previously the Superintendent and Associate Superintendent for various school districts across the South East over the previous 5 years.

Dekalb Schools Lisa Martin

Q&A With Lisa Martin
DeKalb Schools’ Chief Academic and Accountability Officer

Question: Many of the curriculum unit assessments have been thus far poorly written. What is the plan to address that?
Answer: Lisa Martin – The teacher created pre assessments were developed during the curriculum writing design process. The content area, grade level teacher teams vetted the assessment questions and responses throughout the end of second semester and over the summer. Content coordinators and master teachers again vetted the assessments for a second editing. Revisions have been made as needed. Additional revisions will be addressed as we continue to seek input through the implementation of the units. Post assessments were developed through a partnership with the University of Georgia Assessment Center.
The C&I Division is soliciting continuous feedback from curriculum writers and teachers to identify possible modifications and adjustments during the first year of implementation of the units and assessments. As feedback is provided, the C&I division is enhancing the documents. Each core content area coordinator conducts a monthly Lead Teacher level meeting (K-5, 6-8, 9-12). The schools have appointed teacher leaders to attend these monthly meetings. A portion each monthly meeting has been dedicated for teacher input regarding the new curriculum and its associated components. This time also provides the coordinators with teacher/school specific input regarding teacher support.
Question: How do you respond to the open letter to the Board and Superintendent that says the curriculum is chaotic, disorganized, lacking substance, and fails to follow a logical sequence of concepts and skills.
Answer: Lisa Martin – DCSD partnered with the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE), a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, to develop 528 units of study in all K-12 core content areas (Math, ELA, Science, & Social Studies) as well as the first course in 8 CTAE pathways.
Using DeKalb Schools’ own K-12 teachers, the new curriculum is built on the Georgia Standards of Excellence for DCSD students, and is aligned to the GADOE suggested/recommended pacing. Some standards were shifted in DCSD’s CAAGs based on an analysis of student data and teacher input. For example, in July 2017 GADOE released the pacing guide for science. GADOE’s science units are connected to only one phenomenon for the entire course. In DCSD, our curriculum addresses several different phenomena and allows for the lessons within the respective unit to be thematically connected to that specific phenomenon.
The Unit Plan Template includes:
• A Curriculum-at-a-Glance, which was posted in May for each grade level and content area, outlines priority standards and pacing of units and provides guidance to teachers to plan for the entire year.
• A weekly planner for each unit, which provides teachers with the autonomy for planning for instruction on a daily basis.
• A lesson plan template aligned to the weekly planner, which provides guided support for teachers to plan for instruction.
Question: Lesson Planning Template – The teachers need the flexibility to customize the Lesson Planning Template. Perhaps they could customize the templates and submit the new templates to the principal and/or regional Superintendent. What are your thoughts about that?
Answer: Lisa Martin – In an effort to address the recommendations from the independent curriculum audit, as well as the AdvancED improvement priority and standard 3, a lesson plan template was created. The AdvancED visiting committee questioned the district-level and school-level representatives about the school district having a “uniform lesson plan” template. The template was vetted by curriculum writers (teachers), randomly selected Principals, and CIA2. We listened to the feedback shared and made several adjustments. The lesson plan template is aligned to the rigorous curriculum design model.
The lesson plan template aligns to a standards based curriculum model that accounts for the components of a well-designed lesson (the opening, the work period and the closing). The newly added components include the instructional strategies and interventions to ensure teachers are preparing rigorous lessons and addressing the needs of the learners. These instructional strategies and interventions allow for a teacher to include ways in which to differentiate and to personalize the lesson for the struggling student, the special needs student, the English as a second language student and the gifted student.
While the lesson plan draws attention to the necessary components of a well-designed lesson, it still affords each teacher the opportunity, the flexibility and autonomy to design and to plan lessons that meet the needs of their students. The lesson plan template only provides the framework for lesson planning. Teachers continue to have and retain the ability to customize their lessons within the framework.
We continue to welcome teacher feedback on the lesson plan template and the curriculum units.
Question: We spent $675,000 on Illuminate Education to Implement Learning Assessment Platform. My understanding was that teachers could customize these standardized tests and add questions as they saw fit. What is the plan to communicate to the principals and teachers that they can customize these tests?
Answer: Lisa Martin – The Illuminate Learning Assessment Platform was approved by the Board of Education in June of 2017. The District is in the final stages of implementation of Illuminate, ensuring that all of the data uploads, technical specifications, and integration of student information systems are completed. There is a comprehensive professional development and communication plan ready once the system is live. During professional development, teachers will learn how to develop and implement their assessments, inclusive of utilizing available question banks for their own classrooms. This will go live by September 15th.
Question: Are teachers required to enter pre-tests into Infinite Campus? Why?
Answer: Lisa Martin – As the District finalizes the transition to the online formative assessment platform (Illuminate), the pre and post assessments are being administered via paper/pencil. Teachers are entering into Infinite the numeric score only as a pre-assessment grade. Infinite Campus allows the District to monitor student progress on pre/post assessments throughout the school year. Once the technical implementation of Illuminate is finalized, the scores will auto-populate to Infinite Campus for the teachers.
Teachers, Grades 1 – 12, are required to enter pretests in Infinite Campus (IC) in the Pre Assessment Category that is weighted zero percent. This entering of the score allows parents, school staff and district staff to gauge what the students know prior to introducing new content and concepts. Furthermore, the data allows teachers to plan lessons to ensure students are exposed to and demonstrate understanding and application of the new concepts. This data point also provides a comparison point once the post test is administered to aid in the determination and understanding to the degree to which the student has demonstrated growth and mastery of the concept.
In an effort to support our kindergarten teachers with assessing students individually, they will receive additional time to administer the assessments. At this time, the kindergarten pre and post assessments will not be entered in Infinite Campus until further notice.
The Division of Curriculum and Instruction is forming an advisory group to address the concerns expressed by several kindergarten teachers. We have requested principals to nominate an experienced kindergarten teacher who they feel would provide valuable insight as the school district makes adjustments during the first year of implementation of the new curriculum.


Related Posts

Feedback – Curriculum & Assessments
August 23, 2017 – DCSD implemented a new curriculum August of 2017 in the required K-12 core courses. What message can I take to Superintendent Green and Lisa Martin, Chief Academic Officer, Curriculum & Instruction.

Central Office ReOrg Phase III
April 25, 2016 – At the business meeting last week, the Board of Education approved Phase III of the Central Office Reorganization to include the appointment of senior-level personnel, reclassification of existing positions, creation of new positions, elimination of existing positions, and the realignment of existing positions.

14 responses to “DeKalb Schools Responds To Poor Curriculum, Assessments and Planning Templates

  1. Interesting – she is basically saying that teachers were highly involved and continue to be involved in the process … “The teacher created pre assessments were developed during the curriculum writing design process.” … “Using DeKalb Schools’ own K-12 teachers, the new curriculum is built on the Georgia Standards of Excellence for DCSD students, and is aligned to the GADOE suggested/recommended pacing. ” … “The template was vetted by curriculum writers (teachers), randomly selected Principals, and CIA2. ” … “We continue to welcome teacher feedback on the lesson plan template and the curriculum units.” …

  2. I just don’t see how the pre-tests were vetted by grade level teacher teams and then vetted again by content coordinators and master teachers. These tests are riddled with bad questions and wrong answers. Asking Kindergartners to fill in the blank with the number that comes between 5 and 6 … come on!

  3. And what if the handful of teachers involved in the process write a poor test? The rest of us are stuck with it. Never should have been rolled out without more vetting by a broader (and better) set of eyes. This mixed bag of pretests will be used as post-tests, and those have to be entered as a grade that does count. I don’t learn much about my students from a 12 question test and don’t think the post-test should be a heavily weighted grade.
    This doesn’t address the mandatory “engaging scenarios”, which are difficult to implement and of dubious value. While many are engaging, they are narrow in scope and too time consuming and complicated to use.
    The lesson plan format is everything Dr. Martin says it is. It’s also 4 pages long. Most teachers have multiple preps, so this is a major burden.
    And then there’s the massive weight of RTI.
    No matter, I’m having a fine year, and I work with great people in my school.

  4. Horse designed by committee.
    We homeschooled and it wasn’t *this* difficult or confusing. This is a bureaucratic nightmare.

  5. Thats DCSS, more process, process, process. Eduspeak and poor implementation of a new curriculum. Nothing new.

  6. “I love Dekalb!”

  7. Well, I did want to engage my students with a higher-level writing activity, but instead, they have to pretend to run for President of the United States – all for no real grade. I have roughly 7 days to teach the Executive Branch and there are 5 tasks associated with this unit. Students must create a video – and I cannot assume they have the technology or know how at home (heck, I am not even properly trained on video editing that is mandated by the task) and frankly, a 5-10 minute video can take a long time to produce, and I’m speaking from experience doing that type of activity in high school myself.

  8. It’s way too late for this, but I have to wonder how the teachers who wrote this new curriculum were chosen.
    Did they have stellar TKES scores?
    Did they represent schools from across all five regions?
    Did they represent high achieving schools as well as low achieving schools?
    Did they represent a range of teaching experience, from those fresh from teacher college to those with many years of experience?
    Did they have experience teaching all levels of learners, from remedial to grade level to advanced/accelerated?
    Based on the comments above, I would guess that the answers to the above are “no.”
    If DeKalb’s best and brightest teachers aren’t writing the curriculum, then the result is likely to suffer.
    Perhaps the only way to avoid this new curriculum is to become an IB student.

  9. @wits end, can you just opt not to do this project or do a modified version of this task? just asking, really have no idea. I am not a teacher.

  10. What a horrible non-response. Essentially a teacher says, “Do you hear me? This is a problem.” And her response is, “We followed some rules and created this.” My kids, who have good teachers, say their days are being wasted by the inflexible new plans. Please, let our teachers who are doing a good job continue to do a good job. I am horrified that she is the Chief Academic Officer of Curriculum and Instruction.

  11. We have been told they’re mandatory.

  12. @witsend >> I produce videos and you’re right, they are quite a lot of work if you produce them documentary style. I would suggest that you simply have the students create a ‘news format’ style of video – like a talk show. Have them write a script and then perform it (with question and answers like on CNN or something) straight through with one camera on a tripod. No editing. Done. 100%. A+. now, let’s move on kids …

  13. What I have found from my kids are that these “tasks” are now being dumped on the parents as homework. 1 full sheet of paper to ask a simple math problem, which then needs to be justified and explained to a group of peers. Really?

  14. I worked on the RCD team and I can say that the teachers definitely were not the “best” or “brightest.” There was A LOT of bickering within the cohorts. There was a wide range of understanding as to what actually is “rigorous.” If you look at the lessons within the same grade level for the same content, you will find that it is inconsistent regarding quality. I didn’t think this was going to be a “mandated” curriculum. I was lead to believe that it would provide a resource for teachers who need more guidance with teaching. Furthermore, I looked at the parts that I helped to develop and the finish product that I submitted looks very different from what was posted on that infamous curriculum wheel. Teachers were not given proper training regarding implementing the curriculum, nor were they given the time to learn it. The units were not ready for previewing for teachers during the summer and the ones that were posted contained MANY errors. I think the “mandate” needs to be rescinded, but I know DCSD will never admit their culpability in how this was rolled out.