Tag Archives: curriculum

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.

Feedback – Curriculum & Assessments

The DeKalb County School District implemented a new curriculum August of 2017 in the required K-12 core courses and selected Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) pathway courses. It was characterized by the school district as an intense instructional road map while providing flexibility to accommodate individual student needs.
Part of the Curriculum Management Process, as described by the school district is “Feedback from stakeholders including teachers, parents/guardians, and students. Review and revise curriculum units based on feedback and data analysis.”
I don’t think the district planned on collecting feedback so soon, but I’m getting flagged down in parks and football games. So let’s use this forum to provide feedback on Curriculum, Assessments and Lesson Planning.
What message can I take to Superintendent Green and Lisa Martin, Chief Academic Officer, Curriculum & Instruction.


This open letter was written to the board and published by the AJC. A number of principals and teachers have indicated they feel exactly the same way.

To the DeKalb County School Board, Dr. Green, and concerned DeKalb Parents,
This is my 12th year as an educator. I have put my blood, sweat, and tears into helping my young students reach their potential. I work very diligently to plan, teach, and challenge myself to always improve. But I am being pushed to consider leaving DeKalb, and one reason is the rollout of the new curriculum.
The curriculum was launched and not fully uploaded before school began. As an educator who takes time to plan a scope and sequence, this makes it difficult to see the big picture of where I am being expected to guide my students during the year.
The new kindergarten curriculum has been evaluated by my school’s team. We agree it is chaotic, disorganized, lacking substance, and fails to follow a logical sequence of concepts and skills. As a team, we had already planned a curriculum map for this school year based on the Georgia Standards of Excellence that includes a project-based approach to science and social studies.
I am proud to be part of an excellent teaching team focused on helping each unique child achieve. However, we are no longer allowed to follow the excellent plan we created. We are being forced to follow a curriculum that we know is not in the best interest of our students.
My school includes many students on or above grade level. If I follow the new DeKalb curriculum, the majority of my students will not be challenged and will be ill-served by a system that treats all students the same.
Another problem is the new lesson plan template. I understand and advocate that lesson plans should have required elements; our kindergarten team already includes these elements. What I don’t understand or advocate is all educators using the same template. It is not developmentally appropriate that a kindergarten and 10th grade lesson plan are the same. A 5-year-old and 15-year-old are different.
Why are we not recognized as professionals who can create our own template that includes the necessary elements? Why are we continuously told we are not doing enough? Why are schools that are excelling being treated as if they are failing?
The lesson plan template is not user-friendly in that each subject is broken up and you cannot see a weekly plan as a whole. The template is technologically archaic; there are no easy-to-use dropdown menus.
Therefore, we have to spend hours copying and pasting standards, essential questions, big ideas, engaging scenarios, extra unnecessary work just to make our format the same as all the educators in DeKalb. I will have to write a 20-page lesson plan for each week just to appease the enforced format when I could use my own format that is five pages and includes the elements I need.
This is a massive waste of time and money as you can imagine how much more paper will be wasted in printing out these plans each week. There are 8,500 teachers in DeKalb County. Each teacher is roughly using 15 more pages a week than normal. That is 127,500 more pieces of wasted paper a week. All 8,500 of us will be spending so much more time following this enforced order instead of spending time to plan quality instruction that will engage and support the growth of our students.
My last concern is the convocation at the Gwinnett Infinite Energy Center. A speech made by a school board member assumed everyone in the audience was Christian with multiple references to Jesus Christ. It was a sermon rather than a speech.
In our nation, we have a clear separation of church and state. Not every educator in DeKalb shares the board member’s religious beliefs. It made me uncomfortable for all the unique and diverse educators present. We have a great opportunity for DeKalb to be lifted up and for our diversity to be celebrated. After all, the motto “All Rise” states all people involved will be lifted up.
DeKalb is on the brink of losing dedicated, experienced, passionate educators because our professionalism and expertise are not respected and valued. Who will suffer the most? All of the precious, unique children that DeKalb seems to desperately want to all be the same.
Respectfully Yours,
One Qualified, Experienced, and Passionate Educator


I thought Maureen Downey made a good point on her Get Schooled blog.

Avatar for MaureenDowney

Maureen Downey

A friend is a VP of sales for a computer company and oversees 245 sales people in 11 states. (They handle corporate clients.)
She must be great at her job as she is sought after – just about every major name in the industry has offered her a post.
Here are her two rules to live by in management:
When people are doing well, leave them alone.
And make sure 98 percent of their time is spent on selling, not paperwork or meetings or training for something they already know how to do.
The teacher who wrote this essay is a successful teacher in a successful school.
I would leave her and her school alone — one of the central tenets to every Georgia reform effort that I have covered has been to let high performers keep doing what they are doing. Yet, we never do. We make everyone jump through the same hoops. I have never seen any evidence or research that more paperwork for teachers improves outcomes for students.