QUINCY -- Newly-updated K-5 curriculum maps will guide what's taught in Quincy Public Schools elementary classrooms but not how the material is presented.
"Curriculum is the what, but it's never intended to say this is how you're supposed to teach it. That's the creativity of teachers," QPS Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Kim Dinkheller said. "The wonderful part of being a teacher is that you get a new group of students every year and are able to see what their needs are."
Teachers take what the district and state determine should be taught to children and "make it come alive for them," Dinkheller said. "We want teachers to be able to use their individual skills, training, creativity and expertise to be able to look at the students in front of them and say ‘I know what you need' and it may look different than what's needed in the classroom next door."
Two curriculum maps with varying levels of detail, slated to be rolled out in August, keep the teaching staff on course to increase student growth and achievement -- and give the public a better understanding of what happens at each grade level.
Curriculum maps sometimes emphasize "teacher-speak," so QPS created a new "consensus map" for K-5 to highlight "what we've come to consensus as a district based on state standards, of what children will learn," Dinkheller said.
Quincy Junior High School and Quincy High School already have something similar in place for the public with the program of studies at the junior high and the course description booklet at the high school.
The consensus map outlines the scope and sequence for specific grade levels without the detail found in grade level curriculum maps.
A fourth-grade consensus map, for example, touches on what's covered to launch writer's workshop and the personal narrative unit while the curriculum map outlines the workshop framework for whole class, small group and independent practice, prompts for a writing sample to launch the workshop and how-tos for personal narratives.
The curriculum maps "match what the consensus map says, but it's more broken down by the weeks and months. It goes into more detail," Dinkheller told the Quincy School Board last week. "A veteran teacher may need to see just a big picture, then say ‘I got this.' A brand-new teacher may need those step-by-step."
School Board member Shelley Arns, a former classroom teacher, says curriculum maps move the focus beyond solely the textbook.
"They give teachers freedom to find resources that speak to them and fit their teaching style," Arns said. "Maps are a life force for new teachers. They give them somewhere to go to feel grounded again."
The QPS Curriculum Alignment Team revised curriculum maps which sometimes offered so much detail that they reached upwards of 50 pages.
The process also looks at district resources that go with the maps and whether the right resource is in place to implement the curriculum, which in turn drives purchases of textbooks and supplemental classroom materials.
"We have to make sure that no one wants to work in an environment where you're walking in and just repeating a whole bunch of things and then walking out. People get into teaching for creativity. We want to make sure that we're honing in on that," Dinkheller said.
"We just tried to put it in a better format for teachers to take away the overwhelming and to open up more of a we trust you. We know you have that expertise. Go for it, and be innovative."