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Running head: INTERVIEW 1

Curriculum Development Interview

Michael Miller

Concordia University, St. Paul

ED 554 Curriculum and Instruction, Cohort 378

Professor Michael Foster

May 22, 2015


Curriculum Development Interview

Edison High School, in the Minneapolis Public Schools district, serves about 750

students in Northeast Minneapolis. This very diverse high school includes a student population

that is 49.5% black, 18.8% Hispanic, 17.3% white, 10.5% Asian/Pacific Islander and 4%

American Indian (Minnesota Report Card, 2015). These statistics are slightly misleading as the

students labeled black not only includes African-American students, but also includes

immigrant students from countries including Somalia, Ethiopian, Kenya and many more. Edison

High School is further diversified with a student population that is 24.1% English Language

Learners, 28.6% Special Education and 85.4% free and reduced lunch (Minnesota Report Card,


Sharon Cormany is the International Baccalaureate Middle Years (IB MYP) Program

Coordinator at Edison High School. In her role at Edison, Sharon takes the district mandated

Focused Instruction curriculum and makes it work with the MYP curriculum. This difficult

process involves incorporating MYP components such as the Approaches to Learning and the

Personal Project with the very high paced, district aligned Focused Instruction curriculum. In this

authors interview with Ms. Cormany, it quickly became clear that she has a very active role in

curriculum alignment between Focused Instruction and MYP and plays an important role in

developing the MYP curriculum at Edison, but her role in curriculum development at a district

level is quite limited.

According to Sharon Cormany, the Teaching and Learning department at the Davis

Center (Minneapolis Public Schools district headquarters) is responsible for developing the

curriculum for the district (personal communication, May 14, 2015). The district wide

curriculum in Minneapolis Public Schools is known as Focused Instruction, which was designed

to create more consistency across the district because of the transient nature of the student

population in Minneapolis Public Schools. While the Teaching and Learning department was the

driving force behind the creation of Focused Instruction, most of the work for the actually

curriculum development fell on teachers shoulders. Volunteer teachers in the district were the

ones who took on the task of developing common objectives, common assessments and

establishing a sequence and pacing that the district uses (Sharon Cormany, personal

communication, May 14, 2015).

The only real guide for teachers developing the Focused Instruction curriculum was the

state standards. These standards were taken directly from the Minnesota Department of

Education and first turned into learning outcomes also known as learning targets. Once the

desired student outcomes were determined resources were gathered, assessments were developed

and special needs were considered. The new curriculum was shared with teachers via the staff

Intranet thought links on the teaching and learning homepage (Sharon Cormany, personal

communication, May 14, 2015). This author has also experienced training and professional

development during the summer and throughout the school year that was designed to share the

curriculum with teachers and help everyone become more familiar with the requirements.

Through its creating and adoptation, Focused Instruction has become an all encompassing

curriculum that considers the needs of all learners, provides resources and lesson ideas to

teachers and establishes a sequence and pacing to be used throughout the district (Sharon

Cormany, personal communication, May 14, 2015).

Once the Focused Instruction curriculum was developed and disseminated to the

schools, via the district website, Ms. Cormany had the job of aligning the curriculum to the MYP

Standards and adding global context to the curriculum. Once we (Minneapolis schools) had the

curriculum I had to add in the global context to give it that world perspective that goes with the

International Baccalaureate program (Sharon Cormany, personal communication, May 14, 2015).

This task involved creating profession development trainings specifically for the Edison staff,

searching for text and other resources that would provide global perspectives and putting an

increased focus on critical thinking skills. This author has seen first hand time and energy Ms.

Cormany gives as she works ceaselessly to ensure that the Edison staff has a proper

understanding of MYP and how it aligns with Focused Instruction.

One hurdle to the alignment process has been contrasting pacing for the two different

curriculums. MYP requires a deeper level of understanding and critical thinking that simply

takes time, while Focused Instruction has a very rigid pace in order to cover all of the state

standards (Sharon Cormany, personal communication, May 14, 2015). Take World History for

example. The Minnesota State Standards require that a teacher cover pre-history, ancient history,

African history, Asian history, early American history, European history and make it through

globalization all within a single year. This becomes even more difficult when the necessary

elements of MYP, such as global context, critical thinking skills and varied assessments, are

added into the curriculum (Sharon Cormany, personal communication, May 14, 2015). The

concern over pacing and the impact of the high pace on student learning is the greatest concern

in the curriculum adoption process.

In addition to adding the essential critical thinking skills and global context, Ms.

Cormany works to develop and align literacy strategies with the assistance of the building

Literacy Coach. The building goal of Edison High School, as stated in the School Improvement

Plan (SIP), is to improve vocabulary usage and reasoning skills. Adding the necessary literacy

and vocabulary instruction needed to meet the building SIP goal further compounds the major

concern over pacing and the amount of content and skills that needs to be covered each year. In

order to get the different curriculums to fit together, and to meet all of the different goals, it is

important to use backwards design (Sharon Cormany, personal communication, May 14, 2015).

This process involves starting with what you want the end result or the outcome to be and then

planning each student starting from the end and working toward the beginning. Once the entire

curriculum has been developed and aligned, Ms. Cormany has the difficult job of preparing

professional development for the staff in order to ensure that everyone is prepared and has the

resources they need to teach.

The final positive factor of the curriculum adoption and development process at Edison

that Ms. Cormany shared was the high level of community involvement. When deciding on the

MYP curriculum teachers, administrators, coaches, community leaders and students were all

brought to the table to discuss the idea (Sharon Cormany, personal communication, May 14,

2015). Bringing many different stakeholders into the conversation allowed for a greater sense of

community to be developed at Edison High School. It also ensured that a greater number of

stakeholders would buy into the new MYP curriculum.

This authors only transformative experience with curriculum came from the idea of

backwards design. When this author began teaching he immediately experienced the

overwhelming feeling that comes with lesson planning day-to-day. Taking very broad state

standards and turning them into daily lesson plans left this author exhausted and wondering if he

would ever be prepared for more than just the next day. Once Ms. Cormany introduced the idea

of backwards design to this author it led to significant changes in lesson planning and curriculum


Now lesson planning starts by determining what the students will be expected to do at the

end of a unit and working backwards to ensure that the students develop the appropriate skills

and content information they will need to meet those goals. Sharon Cormany states that,

backwards design encourages teachers to focus on the boarder goals, which ensures that the

MYP Approaches to Learning are incorporated in a thoughtful way that promotes higher level

critical thinking (personal communication, May 14, 2015). Backwards design was a

transformation experience that not only helped this author get past the day-to-day lesson

planning, but also allowed this author to incorporate more critical thinking skills and create a

more rigorous classroom environment.

In the beginning of this authors career curriculum was viewed as an open process of

pairing resources and learning activities with state standards to ensure that the students in this

authors classes learned what the state of Minnesota said they need to know. This overwhelming

process was very freeing at first, but became much more defined by the development of Focused

Instruction in the second year of this authors career. After experience with developing Focused

Instruction curriculum in the Minneapolis Public School district, this author has come to have a

more negative view on curriculum and the curriculum development process. This change in view

comes from the lack of flexibility and the intense pacing that this author believes in harmful to

student learning. The balance between covering the required state standards and providing

students with learning activities and lessons that develop critical thinking skills and prepare

students for college is one of the many challenges of the curriculum development process.

Curriculum development is a difficult but important process that requires the work of

highly qualified individuals. Sharon Cormany, the MYP Coordinator at Edison High School, is a

skilled curriculum developer that has successfully aligned the district mandated Focused

Instruction curriculum with the framework of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years

Program. This process has involved countless hours of planning, researching and coordinating

resources, as well as several meetings with a variety of stakeholders (Sharon Cormany, personal

communication, May 14, 2015). All of the work of Ms. Cormany has paid off as the curriculum

continues to improve each year and the staff feels more comfortable with the curriculum being

used and Edison High School.



Minnesota Department of Education. (2014). Minnesota Department of Education, 2014.

Retrieved from http://rc.education.state.mn.us/