Curriculum-Mapping Improves Learning
About 100 miles northeast of Indianapolis, Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corporation, or RBBCSC, comprised of 3,000 students and 200 teachers, has struggled to update its curricula year after year. This was an especially tedious project last summer when the suburban district aligned their English language arts and math curricula to the Common Core State Standards and Indiana’s state standards. Teachers spent hours creating curriculum binders that were rarely used because they cannot be updated easily.
Assistant Superintendent Carol Gardiner recognized this problem and decided to make the process more efficient than create, print, bind and repeat. When Tamra Ranard, director of technology, was hired in 2009, Gardiner asked if she could develop curriculum-mapping software, as the district could not afford to purchase this type of software, which costs at least $8,500 per year. RBBCSC is in the process of a digital transition.
“My technology team had never programmed something as extensive as this program,” Ranard explains. “When software is in development, it is generally given a code name, and we chose Goliath because we were in a David versus Goliath situation.”
Teach, Evaluate and Revise
Ranard also developed a data warehouse, which allows teachers to access and store data from formative assessments, class exams and state tests.
“Our former method left curriculum on shelves, but now it’s alive in classrooms,” she says. “Teachers look at their curriculum maps monthly at the very least, and they are reflecting on their practice—making changes to lessons that didn’t work and updating those that did.” When building their maps, teachers can run reports to find out if standards are left out or if there are redundancies.
“I don’t know how any teacher can possibly manage the standards and what they’re doing daily and quarterly without a vehicle to help,” says Gardiner. “You must have something in place that not only facilitates your work but gives you the opportunity to see where you’ve been and where you’re going.”
Teachers meet with their professional learning communities weekly at the elementary and middle school levels and three times per week at the high school level to discuss curriculum and to update their maps.
Consensus and Diary Maps
“We are currently in the process of finishing up consensus maps—a quarterly view of what will be taught in each subject—and will likely start diary mapping next school year,” says Ranard. With diary maps, teachers document what they have taught and are reminded of what worked and what didn’t.
“Teachers will easily be able to revise and evaluate lessons based off the consensus maps, so we want to make sure that we have those well developed before we move on,” she continues. “One thing we have learned through this process is that, many times, you need to go slow to go fast.”
Ranard’s software was so effective at RBBCSC that she repurposed it to sell to small districts around Indiana in January and in other states later this year. Her product is called NoMoCho, short for “no more chaos.”
Richland-Bean Blossom Community (Ind.) S.C.
- Superintendent: Steven Kain for 33 years
- Students: 3,000
- Schools: 6 (includes one alternative school and one technology center)
- Staff: 400
- District size: 72 square miles
- Students receiving free or reduced-price lunches: 32%
- Per-pupil expenditure: $9,045
- Web site: www.rbbcsc.k12.in.us
Courtney Williams is products editor.