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curriculum

26 Sep School Leaders Use Curriculum Audits to Support Positive Changes

By Debra J. Kennedy, Educational Consultant (The Professional Learning Curve, LLC)

Educational wellness today in the United States is determined by judging schools on test scores, which only serves to promote teaching as a “one size fits all” model and creates a widening of social class inequities. A school’s main purpose needs to stay focused on the positive relationship between student and teacher in an environment that fosters creativity, curiosity, and collaboration. In the current system of education, schools do not exist for learning; they exist for teaching.

If we, as educators, want students to be able to explain how they learn, be engaged in learning, and express their learning in creative ways, then we need to Think Differently.

Society continuously changes to match the latest technology. It is astounding to ponder some of the technological advances that have occurred. For example, the speed of communication has come from the pony express, taking many days, to the cell phone carried on most people every minute of every day.

Schools began with students sitting in rows memorizing facts, and unfortunately, some schools still look quite similar to the way they did one hundred years ago. Maybe, it is time to look at schools and teachers to see if they are actually keeping up with the societal changes. Though many educators work hard to keep up with society, the speed of change happens so quickly that most teachers feel like they are inside a tornado with initiatives and mandates buzzing around their heads, and taking cover seems to be their only course of action.

In order to get out of the way of the storm, we need to prepare and set a clear vision for Why, What, and How we want learning to occur in our schools. A curriculum audit review assists every district in thinking through and aligning the written, taught, and assessed curriculum so students receive a more rigorous learning environment.

Why Should Schools Change?

Society is changing at a fast speed, and although many schools are doing a good job, they are having difficulty keeping pace with the rate of change.

What Do Schools Need to Change?

Educators need to create a vision for learning. The vision is a focal point for schools to map their plan of attack. This can occur by examining three types of leadership:

1. Organizational Leadership
2. Instructional Leadership
  • Focusing on learning with curriculum alignment
  • Creating a culture of collaboration
  • Using data to inform decisions
  • Ensuring safety of learning environment
  • Connecting with parents and community
3. Teacher Leadership
  • Lesson design planning
  • Implementing effective instructional strategies
  • Fostering classroom environment
  • Using assessments to guide instruction
  • Providing professional development in the form of coaching

How Do Schools Get Started?

Leadership is the key to pulling out of the storm and into the light. Leadership is not about a person, rather it is a function or commitment to become better. Leadership is about a continuous drive to learn, change, and grow. It is a growth mindset put into action a plan.

The curriculum audit is a starting point to examine learning in a collaborative way. An audit consists of five standards, and within each standard is the opportunity to question and think about where next steps need to be taken in order to avoid further tornadic turbulence.

Standard One:  The Control Standard
  1. Are there written policies for curriculum?
  2. Is there written curriculum for all subjects taught?
  3. Is curriculum development part of a strategic plan?
Standard Two: The Objectives Standard
  1. How do you monitor the curriculum for your school?
  2. How do you know if your teachers are “on schedule” throughout the year?
  3. What school efforts are under way now that promote quality teaching?
Standard Three: The Connectivity & Equity Standard
  1. How does professional development support teaching?
  2. What are the teaching strengths/weaknesses?
  3. How are resources allocations determined?
Standard Four: The Assessment Standard
  1. What does the district test?
  2. What information do the tests provide?
  3. Who uses the data?
  4. What decisions are made with the data?
Standard Five: The Productivity Standard
  1. How well do facilities support the curriculum priorities?
  2. What is the relationship between curriculum priorities and how are resources allocated?
  3. To what degree does the school and district climate support productivity?

To begin thinking differently, take a journey to school wellness by conducting a curriculum audit to ensure that learning is the top priority for your students. The resources below will aid you and your staff in fostering creativity, curiosity, and collaboration.

Debra Kennedy is an educational consultant and owner of The Professional Learning Curve. She has been in education over 33 years, working as a teacher, administrator, and instructional coach in several districts in NE Ohio. She is co-author of the book, Student-Owned Learning.

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