As the Westport Board of Education began its review of the school administration's Five Year Plan For Curriculum and Instruction, as well as its , both of which were adopted at the board's June 4 meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Elliott Landon noted that "technology has now become an integral part of the curriculum," thus the reason the two plans were presented in tandem.
In fact, technology is now playing a "transformative" role in the Westport Public Schools — not just in terms of how its being used in the classroom, but also in terms of how the curriculum is being developed: During the discussion, Lisabeth Comm, director of secondary education, research and professional development, and Cynthia Gilchrest, director of elementary education, spoke highly of the "curriculum mapping" software the district recently implemented which gives teachers and administrators improved control over how curriculum is developed throughout the year.
The online software, called Atlas Curriculum Mapping, gives teachers better control and flexibility over the development of their classroom programs, while enabling them to interact with students and their parents in a more collaborative and personalized way, Comm and Gilchrest explained.
Teachers can deliver lesson plans via the platform, they said. What's more it gives parents and students full visibility into the curriculum — past, present and future — including all the classroom materials. This way parents can be more involved, Gilchrest said.
Perhaps most important the software inludes analytical tools that will help the school administration determine why certain performance results have been achieved.
Comm said the software will greatly aid the district as it moves from its tradition of "periodic review" of the curriculum every five to seven years to the recently adopted continuous improvement model. This "rolling, dynamic model" of continuous review, she said, will give the district more flexibility to respond to a recent flood of state and federal education mandates impacting program.
For example, although it is not a mandate, per se, the district is in the process of implementing the Response to Intervention framework, which is a widely-adopted system of identifying students who are having difficulty learning.
The Atlas Curriculum Mapping software will give the district the ability to react quickly to swiftly-changing state and federal education mandates, Comm said, while also allowing the administration to have full control over the core curriculum and the goals of the recently adopted Westport2025 curriculum roadmap.
Comm added that the software will be valuable in handling the changes that result when new curriculum programs are implemented, such as K-5 Singapore Math program. As students' math skills are improved in the elementary and middle schools, the high school may have to adjust its math curriculum to accommodate the more advanced freshmen, and the Atlas software will make it easier to do that, she said. The district is also planning the "backwards design" (from the high school down) of a new K-12 social studeies program.
"Meanwhile the science curriculum must also be revised to meet new state standards," Comm said.
Board member Michael McGovern noted that the school administration has 13 separate curriculum changes taking place by 2013. "That's an awful lot of curriculum reviews over the next couple of years," he said. "Who is going to do all this work? I know it's going to be the teachers — but aren't they going to be teaching at the same time?"
Gilchrest said curriculum development time has been factored into the teacher's schedules and added that the new software should prove to valuable in helping the staff quickly implement the sweeping changes.