MARINETTE—Ensuring that all students have equal access to learning may be a challenge in some districts, but the Marinette School District’s quality assurance director and former superintendent Wendy Dzurick says that in Marinette, it’s guaranteed.
Since 2015, she said the district has used a systematic process for designing, organizing, delivering and measuring what and how students are taught, resulting in what education experts call a “guaranteed and viable” curriculum. Dzurick described the process and its benefits during a presentation to the Board of Education at its April 20 meeting.
“A guaranteed and viable curriculum ensures that all staff know what to teach so all students have an equal opportunity to learn. Each student will have access to a highly effective teacher, and access to the same content, knowledge and skills in each section or class,” said Dzurick.
The goal of this system is to improve levels of academic growth that can be measured using a balanced assessment system, which Dzurick also explained during her presentation.
She said the curriculum development system is a four-step process beginning with research and planning for implementation including a review of best practices and selection of materials to be used. Second is initial implementation of those practices and materials, including writing the curriculum, developing the assessment plan and training teachers during staff development time.
After that, Dzurick said the next step is advanced implementation and adaptation, including finalizing plans for the curriculum and assessment and continuing teacher training. Finally, step four is sustaining implementation and continuing to improve. She said this step includes evaluating the curriculum implementation and monitoring both student achievement and assessment data.
Dzurick said that the final step is a critical part of the process that is done when teachers work together during common planning time or staff development days to analyze student achievement data and assessment results.
“This time allows staff to adjust their teaching practices or determine if students need additional support to ensure that all students are growing and learning.” Dzurick said.
She said the overall curriculum development process is based on a framework of standards, or specific descriptions of skills or knowledge that are being taught, which creates clear expectations for students and teachers. They know what they are teaching and learning each day, why it is an important thing to know or know how to do and how to do it.
Dzurick creating a guaranteed and viable curriculum like this will result in increased student achievement, as much as two years of growth in a single year.
Although the curriculum design process is applied to all subjects and grade levels, Dzurick selected one subject to show board members how the process is applied in the classroom. Brenda Socha, an art teacher at Marinette Middle School, showed board members art projects and how they are graded, or assessed, according to the established curricular standards.
Assessment is a crucial part of the process and the district has developed a balanced assessment system as part of its curriculum development process. Dzurick explained that a balanced assessment system uses multiple types of tools to measure what students know. She said the system promotes using the right assessment at the right time to provide the right information to determine the next steps.
“Educators need the right tools at their disposal to measure, monitor and verify student learning,” Dzurick said. “A balanced assessment is balanced in the sense that it offers the necessary information to create the appropriate learning environment. It’s comprehensive in the sense that it integrates different assessment types to appropriately serve all students and their needs.”
“This comprehensive system is possible because the Marinette School District has the good fortune of employing a teaching, learning and technology quality assurance director to provide staff with the support and assistance they need to ensure a guaranteed and viable curriculum through the implementation of the district’s curriculum design process” she said. “In my role, I’m fortunate to work alongside compassionate and passionate educators who leverage this system to help all of our students continuously improve.”