The West Warwick Public Schools are presently engaged in significant educational reform. Preparing students for the complexities which have become inherent in an era of rapid technological and informational advancement has created the need to revise old curricular practices. New "best practices", many of which were developed in response to the publication of "A Nation at Risk" (1983) by the federal government, have now replaced those that were less effective.
The development of new, standards-based curriculum documents is based upon the defining beliefs of teachers and administrators from the West Warwick Public Schools who now use these "best practices". This collection of work is the result of countless hours devoted to the research and development of curriculum ideologies. With this in place we must now provide support throughout the district in the use of various instructional strategies and assessment tasks that will lead our students to meet local, state and national standards.
The following curriculum is intended to be used as a “living document”. It goes far beyond the old conceived notion that curricula were merely reproductions of the scope and sequence of a particular text. These curricula will require periodic visits to review the validity of the content and performance standards. Student work benchmarks will also be re-evaluated. Educators will also constantly examine what constitutes good student work.
The standards embedded in this curriculum are global, challenging, flexible and attainable for all students. Many school design adjustments, however, will be needed for all students to succeed. Different instructional strategies must be introduced and new supportive programs must be developed. The ideas of time (the 180 day school year) and student age (grade level) as constants, also must be re-examined. Students may also meet standards in non-traditional sequences. These adjustments will ensure all of our students an equitable education.
The new curriculum document reflects content standards, that is, specifically what students should know and be able to do respective to the discipline. It also reflects performance standards, namely, what are students able to do to show what they know and understand specifying "how good is good enough" (NCEE).
The WWPS is a Rhode Island Skills Commission district. They have joined a cadre of other school districts in Rhode Island focused on improving instruction and student learning. These districts are presently laying the groundwork developing programs to allow students to achieve a Certificate of Initial Mastery (CIM), an endorsement to be earned in addition to a high school diploma. This endorsement will offer evidence through performance-based assessments, portfolio assessment and a long-term capstone project that supports a set of academic and applied learning standards. This document will not replace but will go beyond the traditional diploma thus signifying a stamp of validation of a child's demonstration of knowledge that he/she acquired during his/her educational experience from our school system.
Teachers will also need to develop a curriculum mindset that "what a child has learned" is paramount and must replace a curriculum where "what a child is taught" was enough. This will require continuous assessment of students and teacher reflection upon a variety of strategies necessary to help students meet the standards set forth. The assessments at grades 4, 8, and 10 therefore, must be reviewed as cumulative measures of what students have learned during the intervening years.
The WWPS identifies with such people as Compte, Dewey, Eisner, Siggins, Resnick, and Gardner . The ideas of Compte (Rational Humanism) are the cornerstone of a belief that one obligation of the school community is for children to cultivate their ability to make rational and defensible judgements about the world in which they live. To do so, we seek a common core curriculum for all, regardless of ability and the promulgation of high-level thinking.
As Dewey stated “intelligence itself is not fixed, rather it grows as a process, which requires the resources of culture.” The WWSD must create a culture to incorporate a variety of social skills and tools. Dewey's constructivist approach connects students' prior knowledge and experience to the learning process. These ideologies have long existed and are the foundations of a standards-based education.
What grows through this process of increasing competency is the child’s intelligence (Eisner). We need to develop learning goals that reflect the belief that ability is a continuously expandable repertoire of skills, and that through a person’s efforts, intelligence grows incrementally. The paradox is that children become smart by being treated as if they are smart. (NCEE, Resnick, 1998).
The WWSD curriculum design is child-centered. Educators must develop an understanding of where a child is in terms of the intellectual potential of this curriculum. It is important to relate problematic experiences to a child’s experiences. Today’s society requires that the school community design a culture that views education as a matter of developing unique "intelligences" (Gardner) as students meet standards. Given the fact that there are various levels of ability in one classroom the ideology of cognitive pluralism stresses the importance of equity. The primary responsibility for designing educational programs resides with the teacher. Events within the classroom are often unpredictable and the need to exploit the teachable moment is always present. With this in mind, a wide array of tasks must be provided to afford opportunities for all students. It is important that these opportunities receive the same educational merit that values the intelligence of all students.
Self-directed learning behaviors therefore, must become habit. Student effort must be encouraged in the most positive way. Our classrooms must be places that are student-centered, experimental, holistic, authentic, expressive, reflective, social, collaborative, democratic, cognitive, developmental, constructivist, and challenging (Zemelman, Daniels and Hyde, 1998). The following curriculum document reflects these beliefs.
Eisner, E. (1994), The Educational Imagination On the Design and Evaluation of School Programs. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey : Prentice Hall
National Center on Education and the Economy and the University of Pittsburgh (1998). New Standards. Harcourt Brace.
RIDE. (1999) Educational Expectations in a Democratic Society.
Standards-Driven Curriculum: Course I. (1999), National Center on Education and the Economy. Washington, D.C. NCEE.
Zemelman, S., Daniels, H., Hyde, A. (1998) Best Practice New Standards for Teaching and Learning in American Schools. Portsmouth, NH : Heinemann.
WEST WARWICK PUBLIC SCHOOLS
The mission of the West Warwick Public Schools, as a diverse learning community, is to provide every student with a positive, stimulating, and personalized learning experience, where intellectual curiosity is encouraged in a safe and orderly environment. Students will become life-long learners and responsible citizens in a democratic society.
We believe that…
We are a diverse learning community that strives towards a partnership between our staff, our students, our families and our town. We encourage all students and staff to achieve their highest potential. We teach students to become creative thinkers, problem solvers, and effective communicators while fostering a life-long love of learning.
With our mission as a guide, we will provide a personalized education plan for every student within the context of a continually improving curriculum. We will have an environment that accepts and encourages diversity and growth in an atmosphere of respect and responsibility.
Thursday, June 20th, 2013