High School Vision: Content Counts In Curriculum Overhaul

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“We use only the finest ingredients in our soups, including garden fresh vegetables.” “Our coffee comes from fresh Colombian beans. They’re the richest kind!” “Our meats are ‘ranchers choice’ quality.” “We use only the finest woods shaped with the loving hands of expert craftsman.”

As we continue our discussion regarding the vision for Payson High School, let’s talk about providing students with the “finest content”. The above quotes refer to the importance people place on using the best ingredients to manufacture a product and expecting the best ingredients when purchasing a product. It is no different in education.

As our world rushes forward, changes in technology, all areas of science, history, even geography occur at blinding speed. Take for example, name changes of countries in an entire continent after the fall of the Soviet Union; or the recent mapping of a Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA; or new insights into physics, chemistry and cosmology from the Large Hadron Collider in France and Switzerland (actually, under). While we all agree that certain fundamentals remain the same, the content and curriculum we provide to our students must be constantly adjusted to reflect new information and discoveries.

Over the last two years, teachers at Payson High School have evaluated the curriculum in all areas and created curriculum maps for classes. A curriculum map reflects state and district standards to be taught, when (approximately) those standards are to be taught and when they are to be assessed. As well, the curriculum map becomes the foundation for providing enrichment activities activities or materials, outside resources and successful or best practices. Additionally, a curriculum map ensures continuity when staff members move or are required to be out for a period of time.

Over the last 10 years as a principal, I have always been impressed at the number of classes, in-services and workshops teachers attend to stay current in their subject area. As well, teachers meet on regular basis in what we call Professional Learning Communities, to share what they have learned and how it may be integrated into their classes. While standards reflecting fundamental concepts will always be preserved, new information and concepts are modified or added each year.

An old saying goes, “You can’t make a silk purse out of sow’s ear.”

So it is with a great school. If you don’t begin with solid content standards; if those standards aren’t updated and modified as new discoveries are made; if a curriculum is not mapped and delivered in an organized and systematic fashion, the chances of excellence are about the same as a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

Of course, the finest content doesn’t mean much without people with the skills to connect with students. Next time, let’s talk about the kingpin — Instruction.

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