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Curriculum Personnel Interview Project Anissa Bigler EDCI 803 Curriculum Development Kansas State University July 10, 2010

Authors Bio: I have been a teacher for twelve years, and I currently teach at Salina Central High School. My masters degree is in Digital Teaching and Learning, which ties in well with my teaching interest which is integrating technology into the everyday classroom as an effective tool of instruction.

CURRICULUM PERSONNEL INTERVIEW PROJECT Abstract This paper ties the interview I conducted with Dr. Corbin Witt, Executive Director of School Improvement in USD 305, into the readings for the class and outside sources. The topic of written, taught, and tested curriculum is discussed and the impact of each area is debated. The reality of a national curriculum is on the horizon, and the pros and cons of this Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) are discussed. Competition can play a key role in curriculum when American students are examined against the rest of the world. This paper looks at how we actually stack up. The three focal points of effective curriculum and also educational aims to guide curriculum are addressed, and the new aims for Dr. Witts school district are shared. Finally a utopian educational system is dreamed about.

CURRICULUM PERSONNEL INTERVIEW PROJECT Curriculum Personnel Interview Project with Dr. Corbin Witt The development, enabling and experimenting of curriculum is the heartbeat of every school district around the United States. Speak to anyone in education today, and they will tell you that change is in the air. With the intense pressure of state assessment that the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 set into motion, educators are wondering what does this change mean for their district, their profession, and the students that sit in their classrooms. I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Corbin Witt, the Executive Director of School Improvement of USD 305, to find out how his view of curriculum meshed with what I had learned in class and what it means for Salina schools in the future. If you log onto Unified School District 305s website, you will find this quote. Salina USD 305 is centered in the heart of the nation, and our commitment to challenging each student to his/her greatest potential and to addressing individual needs is at the heart of the school district. It is a true reflection of how education is approached in the district. One of the aspects that makes it such a solid organization is its commitment to excellent curriculum. Curriculum development has not become a backburner issue that the superintendent or administrator works on when h/she has a few extra minutes; USD 305 has an Executive Director of School Improvement who spends his time making sure Salinas education is kept fresh, relevant, and applicable. Dr. Corbin Witt took the job at USD 305 four years ago. His educational career began in the elementary classroom. He has since continued working on his personal educational goals and worked in almost every position the traditional school system has to offer. He has been a lead teacher, principal, assistant superintendent, and superintendent and is now working in the area of curriculum development and school improvement. He said he made the change because

CURRICULUM PERSONNEL INTERVIEW PROJECT the role of superintendent spends a lot of time dealing with the political aspects of education and also personnel issues. He found that his passion was really working in the area of school improvement through curriculum development, implementing career and technology programs, and staff development. His job with USD305 was a perfect fit. The Salina Unified School District is the eighth largest district in the state of Kansas. It has a K-12 enrollment of over 7,300 students who attend one of eight elementary schools, two middle schools, and two high schools. The district is also the sponsoring agency for a Special Education Cooperative (which supports twelve school districts), a Head Start program, and an Adult Education Center. It employs approximately 750 certified staff members. It touts the Mission Statement of Learning for All, Whatever it Takes. Our interview took place in Dr. Witts office at the district building. I began the interview by asking Dr. Witt for his definition of curriculum. With more than 120 definitions of the term appear(ing) in the professional literature devoted to curriculum (Marsh and Willis, 2007, p. 9), I wondered if he would be able to answer me quickly. He was. His definition was simply what students should learn and how to help them learn it. He did not seem to find it too important to get caught up in the technicalities of the definitions. He said there were three types of curriculum: the written, the taught, and the tested which parallel closely with the planned, enabled, and experienced curriculum Marsh and Willis (2007) discuss. According to Gerunda Hughes (2002), a professor at Howard University, the Written (or Intended) curriculum is the document produced by the state education agency, the school system, the school, and/or the classroom teacher. It specifies what should be taught Taught curriculum is the curriculum that the teachers actually deliver

CURRICULUM PERSONNEL INTERVIEW PROJECT to students Tested (or Assessed) curriculum is the curriculum that is embodied in state tests, school system tests, and teacher-made tests. p. 2 Dr. Witt did stress that, though the written curriculum is extremely important and is a foundation from which teachers can write viable and detailed higher order thinking questions what really makes a difference is the taught curriculum. The taught curriculum is the culmination of all the teachable moments and classroom discussions along with the curriculum as it is being enabled. Eisner would agree that many of the most important decisions about the curriculum be made in the classroom by the teacher who enacts it and who observes how the students experience it (Marsh and Willis, 2007, p. 87). Eisner likens what happens in the classroom (the taught curriculum) to artistry, whichhe believes teachers actually go about creating varied, meaningful, and satisfying learning opportunities for students (p. 85). However, not all in the arena of education place the same amount of emphasis on the taught curriculum. Tyler stated that in his view, it is essential for us to identify the major concepts and skills to be taught; these concepts and skills are then introduced and reintroduced in successive teaching unitsthese educational objectives become the criteria by which materials are selected, content is outlined, instructional procedures are developed, and tests and examinations are prepared. (p. 70). Tyler also emphasizes the need for us to see to what extent the learning experiences that have been developed and organized actually produce the desired resultsnotion of evaluation is determining the degree of fit between the results specified in the objectives and the results actually achieved (p. 77). Where Dr. Witt and Eisner stress the importance of the taught curriculum as most impactful, Tyler downplays it and directs his main focus on the link between

CURRICULUM PERSONNEL INTERVIEW PROJECT the written and the tested curriculum as key. Glatthorns view (as cited in Hughes, 2002) takes the tested curriculum one step farther. The tested curriculum has a tremendous influence on what teachers teach. Due largely to teacher accountability, teachers focus more on what is in the tested curriculum than what is in the written curriculum (p.2). The tested curriculum has become such an area of concern with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which relies on state tests to measure student learning(such a concern that) some states have actually lowered their standards to make their test results look good (National Education Standards, 2010) Dr. Witt shared this is one of his concerns with NCLB, we dont want to be so focused on state assessments that we dont teach a well-rounded curriculum anymore. It scares me that we will get so focused on the test that we forget we have standards. Most would agree that a balance of all three, written, taught, and tested curriculum is the ideal. Student performance and achievement are dependent on improving the match between curriculum content and test content. The essential task is aligning the relationship between the written and taught curriculum with the test curriculum. A quality program ensures that alignment (English, n.d., para. 5). But curriculum, regardless of how good it is, has to be revisited and reworked to keep it current and relevant. I asked Dr. Witt what process for revising the curriculum USD 305 uses. He said that yearly he looks at which subjects/grades have not reviewed their curriculum in a few years. He then asks the administrators and department heads to review the curriculum and decide if it needs to be revised. If so, revision begins. I asked him who made up the curriculum development team if revisions were necessary. His answers clearly showed me the trust and respect he has for the teachers in the district. The subject areas experts are the teachers, so they make up the bulk of the team. He strongly supports the fact that teachers are among the key stakeholders in curriculum planning (Marsh and Willis, 2007, p. 181) and that their input is vital.

CURRICULUM PERSONNEL INTERVIEW PROJECT The teachers are usually selected by the building administrators from the subject area which is to be revised. The rest of the team is composed of principals, perhaps a counselor, and Dr. Witt himself. He shared that teachers make the best committee members because teaching is their life and that is where they live so they are the ones who know best what is working and what is not. His job is not to have all of the answers, he stated. He has a team he trusts, and they find the answers together. For curriculum development to result in real change, that change must take place in individual classrooms (p. 148) so teachers from the classroom are the obvious ones to start with. But the opportunity for local school districts to development their own curriculum might be on its way out. Dr. Witt shared that he believes with the idea of a national curriculum on the horizon we (the district) will be looking at making changes in the near futures. Several states have already adopted the national curriculum, and the state of Kansas is still looking into it. I asked Dr. Witt if he had any concerns about a national curriculum and/or the impact it might have on his job. His answered surprised me. He said he really had no concerns about it. In fact he thought that the more who collaborate and work together instead of everyone trying to create the wheel on their own is a move in the right direction. He also stressed that textbooks and resources would be more applicable to all schools with this new push. Since many textbooks are currently written to align with Texas or Californias standards, other states often have to supplement to address all of their standards. New textbooks would be aligned with national standards and therefore relevant to all, Dr. Witt said. But not everyone is as confident that the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) is such a positive thing. To the extent that they are permitted to fashion the curriculum and the procedures of the school they will definitely and positively influence the social attitudes,

CURRICULUM PERSONNEL INTERVIEW PROJECT ideals, and behaviors of the coming generation (Counts, 2009, p. 45). Many are asking who the they should be; if the influence of curriculum truly shapes the next generation and future of the United States, who should decide what it should look like. Although national educational goals and national curriculum standards have received wide publicity in the United States and bipartisan political support, the initial enthusiasm of most citizens seems to wane upon careful consideration of what such goals and standards actually mean for local schools (Marsh and Willis, 2007, p. 155). Schools are often the heartbeat of a community and giving up control of what is being taught in the classroom can be scary. According to Labaree (2000) some might even go as far as to say it is an infringement of individual liberty (p. 29). With the NCLB Act of 2001, the idea of a higher power suggesting what should be taught is not a new idea. In fact many Americans have embraced the idea. Marsh and Willis (2007) stated, According to a recent Gallup poll, the general public supports the NCLB legislation requiring each state to establish standards and tests for reading and mathematics from elementary into high school yearsand two-thirds of Americans currently back a standardized national curriculum and concomitant testing. (p. 18) So what is the real concern? Since 1965, with the enactment of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), federal policy, undergirded by federal funds, has strongly influenced American schooling, even though it is acknowledged that education is primarily a state and local responsibility (Hughes, 2002, p. 1), but this feels different. One big concern is whether the proposal amounts to a federal takeover of education- even though the common standards are being proposed by 48 state governors (National Education Standards, 2010). Proponents of the Common Core Standards say states may have concerns about these standards, but a federal takeover should not be one of them. The best defense against a heavy federal

CURRICULUM PERSONNEL INTERVIEW PROJECT hand is for states to act collectively, and they go on to say they made the standards voluntary (National Education Standards, 2010). Neal McCluskey (2010) along with other says that voluntary is not really telling the whole story. Tucked into the gargantuan federal stimulus was the Race to the Top (RTTT) fund, a $4.35 billion pool of money controlled by the U.S. Secretary of Education. To compete for the RTTT dollars, states had first to endorse the CCSSI, and now have to agree to adopt its standards by August 2 (para. 7). Many feel this could be a flashback to Vermont and their response to the NCLB Act. Vermont informed the U.S. Department of Education that it did not care to participate in NCLBs standardized testing, it was informed that it would lose its federal educational funding. When it replied that it would accept that loss, it was then told it would also lose all federal aid for highway construction and maintenance. Vermont thereupon capitulated (Marsh and Willis, 2007, p. 63). Many, including Dane Linn, education director of the National Governors Association, said of RTTTs nationalstandards provisions: Wed prefer no strings were attached (McCluskey, 2010, para. 9). Whether you agree with the CCSSI or not, change is in the air, and I asked Dr. Witt what he thought precipitated change in curriculum development. He first agreed with Marsh and Willis (2007), just as individuals are often slow to change their minds about how best to spend their own time, so, too, are whole societies usually slow to revise their collective thinking about how students can best spend their time in school (p. 25). Dr. Witt said: change is so hard because every person has experienced being a student. They think if it was good enough for me, it is good enough for students today. It is hard to change minds. One example he cited was the required classes necessary for students to graduate from high school and enter college. Students are required to take the same basic curriculum that was created by the Committee of

CURRICULUM PERSONNEL INTERVIEW PROJECT Ten in 1893, but until colleges and secondary schools sit down and evaluate if this is still the best curriculum for the 21st century learner, changes cannot be made. Another component that precipitates change, according to Dr. Witt, is exactly what we are seeing instigating change today. Competition! It started Eisner (2009) said in 1983 with A Nation at Risk, in 1987 with America 2000, and a few years later with Goals 2000. Each was designed to work out and install a system of measurable goals and evaluation practices that would ensure that our nation would be first in science and mathematics by the year 2000 (p. 327) and the competition has not stopped. It is not really state competing against state so much as it is us against the world. International tests are given to compare students from around the world. The PISA test results underscore concerns that too few U.S. students are prepared to become engineers, scientists and physicians, and that the country might lose ground to competitors. An expert panel (was) appointedto recommend ways to improve public school math instruction (Glod, 2007, para. 6). Part of the disparity between countries which score exceedingly high on these test scores and the United States is the differences in the schools around the United States. The tricky thing about looking at average performances in the United States is that our education system is unusually large, diverse, and decentralized (Carey, 2009, para. 3). An interesting break down was done by Gary Philipps of the American Institute of Research (cited by Carey, 2009). Philipps broke down the TIMSS (another international math test given) test scores from the 2007 4th grade math test by individual states, and then compared individual states to top performing countries. A few of our states are on par with the worlds highest performing countries when it comes to educational achievement. Massachusetts in particular stands out and


CURRICULUM PERSONNEL INTERVIEW PROJECT four other states- Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Kansas rank right up towards the top. It is important in this world of keeping up that the focus on what is important is not lost. While changes in subject matter may be necessary to prepare Americas students adequately in math and science, we must remember these students are individuals who must function in a real world society. In 1918 the Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education was published. They stressed that curriculum was not simply an arrangement of subject matter but could include any and all activities that promoted the development of the individual within society itself (Marsh and Willis, 2007, p. 45). Two important principles are capsulated in this one statement. One is the ideas of focal points which need to be observed when developing curriculum, and the other is that a school needs activities that promote the development of the individual. Noddings (2009) would call these aims. The three focal points to create truly effective curriculum are: nature of the subject matter, nature of the individual, and nature of society. It was discussed in our readings how difficult it can be to balance all three, but Dr. Witt said as we enter into the 21st century it is becoming more of a reality. There are more opportunities and resources the educational system can use to implement all three. For example Eisner (2009) stressed that the individual student needed to be considered if they are to truly learn. When we narrow the program (subject matter) so that there is only a limited array of areas in which assessment occurs and performance is honored, youngsters whose aptitudes and interests lie elsewhere are going to be marginalized in our schools (p. 333). Noddings (2009) would agree. We do not even ask whether that education (subject matter) is appropriate for anyone, much less for everyone. The use of democratic measure when, in fact, it may well be


CURRICULUM PERSONNEL INTERVIEW PROJECT both undemocratic and ineffective. It will be ineffective if Plato was right when he said that people will care for (and do well at) work they love. Many will fail in schools because they are forced to do work they hate and are deprived of work they might love. (p. 429) Dr. Witt shared two programs used in the Salina schools which help focus on the individual. One is called the career pathways. Students as they enter high school focus on a career they might want to pursue after school. A individual four year plan is then worked outlining classes that are of high interest for that student. Perhaps as certain pathways are looked at, building administrators will see gaps between classes offered and ones needed. This hopefully will ignite the flame to add classes which currently may be missing. Dr. Witt also believes the Multi-Tiered Support System (MTSS) will help schools focus on individual students. This new program will help identify students who need specialized assistance to bring them up to the academic level they should be learning at. Society is also getting an extra focus. Working with the community is a great way to focus on how to adapt curriculum to align with what society presently needs and will need in the future. Dr. Witt was excited to share about USD 305 partnering with the Salina Chamber of Commerce in a program called E2C (Education to Career). The school meets with local businesses to ensure that the educational outcomes being offered to students match up with careers that the society needs. It has also opened up doors for students to do internships in businesses which help students make the connection between what they are learning and how it translates into the real world. Dewey (1915) would agree with this program. From the standpoint of the child, the great waste in the school comes from his inability to utilize the experiences he gets outside the school in any complete and free way within the


CURRICULUM PERSONNEL INTERVIEW PROJECT school itself; while, on the other hand, he is unable to apply in daily life what he is learning at school. That is the isolation of the school-its isolation from life. (p. 46) Programs like this one take away the isolation and connect the school, community, and the individual. Nature of society and nature of the subject matter must be tied together and then personalized (individualized) to make the curriculum truly perform the function it was developed for. Eisner (2009) suggests that balancing the three focal points may not be enough. We search for the silver bullet and believe that if we get our standards straight and our rubrics right and make our tests tough enough, we will have an improved school system. I am not so sure (p. 329) he said. Rather Noddings (2009) stated, we must continually reflect upon, discuss, and evaluate what we are doing to see if our objectives and procedures are compatible with our aims. What are aims? Aims are goals, ideals, life skills that schools want all students to leave high school knowing and implementing in life. Some would say that schools have enough to focus on. That schools need to reduce the responsibility of the schools, to academic learningno institution could take on such a broad array of responsibilities (p. 427). But the Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education report disagreed and USD 305 does too. Dr. Witt gave me a sneak peek into the new aims which will be introduced to the district when we return back for inservice in August. We are adopting a new acronym which reflects the aims of the Salina schools. H.E.A.R.T. (Higher order thinking, Engaged learner, Authenticity, Relationships, Technology use). He is hoping this will be a new lens through which curriculum, whether written, taught or tested, will be viewed through.


CURRICULUM PERSONNEL INTERVIEW PROJECT The interview with Dr. Witt ended with him telling me what the perfect school would look like if he were totally in control. The dismal image Montessori (2009) metaphorically portrays of the public school where the children are repressed in the spontaneous expression of their personality till they are almost like dead beingsthe children, like butterflies mounted on pins, are fastened each to his place, his desk, spreading the useless wings of barren and meaningless knowledge which they have to acquire (p. 28) would be erased. The massive intensifications of teachers workloads (Marsh and Willis, 2007, p. 188) would be gone. Dr. Witt sees an educational world where students learning is not based on time in the seat, but on skills learned. Students would move on because they had mastered the objectives, not because they are a year older and it is time to move on. Schools (mostly secondary education) would be a blend of virtual and campus learning and would be open from 7am to 8pm. Students could then attend when they learn best; they could also work it around their work schedules if necessary. Schools would adapt to the needs of the students; instead of the education of today where students must adapt to the schools. The teachers role would be more of a facilitator. The pressure to teach everyone the same material, in the same manner, in the same amount of time would be gone. Teachers would work with individual students or small groups and be able to provide and focus on exactly what the students need. Dr. Witt agrees with Freire (2009) that teachers will always be important to education. Only dialogue, which requires critical thinking, is capable of generating critical thinking. Without dialogue there is no communication, and without communication there can be no true education (p. 150). Teachers will always be needed for the dialogue, the relationship, and the base knowledge.


CURRICULUM PERSONNEL INTERVIEW PROJECT No doubt about it: The construction and shaping of a dynamic responsive curriculum are challenging tasks, particularly when we reflect upon the complexity of our times (English, n.d., para. 1), and it is not a job which can be taken lightly. With state standards here to stay and the possibility of national standards right around the corner, educators need to be prepared to step up to the plate, and I believe USD 305 is ready to bat. With the trust and respect the district puts in their teachers, dedication they have to working with the community, and commitment to the aims all student should leave our hallowed halls with the Salina school system will remain committed to excellence. Whether the utopian school Dr. Witt dreams about ever comes to fruition or our classrooms stay as traditional as they are today, curriculum in Salina will be the driving focus behind what the students in will be learning and the shaping of the next generation.


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