Today was the big day: the first day of Scope and Sequence planning.
Department chairs from every secondary school in the district, along with a few other teachers, convened at central office today in order to begin work on developing a curriculum based on the state standards. We will have 3 more meetings this year in order to look at what we're doing, where we want to be, and create a plan to get there.
I had asked for support for these meetings in October---so the planning has been a significant part of my district contract since then. I've been very nervous about the whole thing. It is one thing to step into a classroom with 30 teenagers...and quite another to go into a room with 12 adults and lead them through heavy duty professional development and decision making. I think the teens are more fun. But my audience for the day was very supportive and positive. I feel much more at ease with things and am excited about our work.
There are a lot of reasons to not like the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which is also known as "No Child Left Behind." Some parts of it are unreasonable and unrealistic for schools in terms of student achievement. But the good of it is simply that it has forced schools to look at what they're doing. Shouldn't children from poor families have the same classroom opportunities as those from wealthier ones? Shouldn't black children be able to achieve at the same level as whites? Shouldn't boys and girls have the chance to perform at the same level? Until now, schools would likely have said "yes" to all these questions, but they would not have had any particular motivation to make sure that equity in education happened. They do now. All students are going to be assured of the opportunity to learn quality curriculum. Whether or not they will all achieve proficiency is the big question.
Anyway, the committee I am in charge of this spring is tasked with making the standards "real" for all kids, regardless of which school they attend or which teacher they have. There will be a great deal more work beyond this, but it's nice to know that I will have company on the road ahead.