EFFECTIVE SCHOOLS - Curriculum Development and Instructional Design in the Effective Schools Process

Article excerpt

Ms. March and Ms. Peters describe a three-year, six-district demonstration project that is proving to be one of the most exciting examples of curricular development in the long history of the Effective Schools movement.

A SIGNIFICANT number of school districts that adopted the Effective Schools Process for school improvement successfully managed to reinvent their infrastructures, only to realize that they had changed little or nothing in their classroom instruction or assessment. Many districts assumed that if they "purchased" a highly touted curriculum process or a cutting-edge instructional delivery system, these areas would automatically improve. But, following the initial fanfare, the "reforms" were never actually implemented in every classroom. Rarely was a building administrator held accountable for involving every teacher in the reform initiative. Even worse, most districts made few provisions to conduct formative monitoring of the impact of their reform efforts on student performance. Instead, they passively allowed the results of the state test to indicate their level of success.

As experienced Effective Schools researchers who have led the Center for Educational Leadership Services at Kent State University for more than a decade, we realized that this was the situation we were finding when we looked at the state of Effective Schools reform in Ohio. In response, we developed the Instructional Design process to help school districts actually restructure the delivery and assessment of classroom instruction and to monitor the impact of these changes on student performance. The three-year, six-district demonstration project that has grown from this work is proving to be one of the most exciting examples of curricular development in the long history of the Effective Schools movement.

Based on the findings of the first- and second-wave school reform efforts and on "best practices" research, Instructional Design and its data management system (dubbed ADAM - Academic Data Analysis and Management) were specifically designed to be used in conjunction with the Effective Schools Process. In 1999, Instructional Design was published in book form by Phi Delta Kappa International as Developing High-Performance Schools: Instructional Redesign for Learner-Centered Classroom Reform.

Between 1997 and 2000, Instructional Design was piloted in two urban, two suburban, and two rural Ohio school districts whose boards of education had passed resolutions adopting the Effective Schools Process. During this three-year demonstration project, teams of teachers and administrators in each of the six districts have taken a number of actions.

* These teams have translated the national and state content standards into academic performance indicators, developmentally articulated from prekindergarten to grade 12, and these indicators were adopted by each local board of education as the official achievement targets for the district. Because they drive the entire instructional program, these indicators affect all decisions, from the purchase of materials and equipment to course scheduling to professional development.

* They have developed yearlong curriculum maps for each subject and each grade level that sequence the topics, process, skills, and materials needed to help every student master the performance indicators by the end of each school year. Students who fail to master indicators in one year have an opportunity to do so in the following years.

* They have devised unit plans to guide the delivery and assessment of classroom instruction, and these plans specify teaching and assessment techniques that are congruent with unit objectives (some of which are performance indicators). The plans also incorporate such "best practices" as constructivism, active student involvement, the use of multiple modalities, authentic instruction, and performance assessments.

* In two of the districts, the teams have piloted ADAM, an electronic system for data management that enables teachers to monitor student mastery. …