Science and language arts curriculum update planned
January 18, 2011
By Laura Geggel
The Issaquah School District is preparing to adopt new curricula this June: one for elementary school science and another for high school language arts.
District administrators try to update curricula every seven years, but sometimes budget cuts get in the way. The elementary science curriculum was last updated in 2003, but the wait has been longer for high school language arts — it was last updated during a three-year period from 1999-2001.
Some parents said they felt unsettled after last year’s math curriculum adoption, saying the district did not allow them enough input, especially because a group of parents disagreed with the curriculum that the Issaquah School Board approved.
This year, district administrators inserted an extra step in the adoption process: a parent preview night.
At the preview nights, parents can thumb through various curricula and write feedback on comment cards next to each station.
The step is one of many the district takes when adopting a new curriculum.
Waiting seven years for each adoption is standard for the district, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Emilie Hard said.
By the end of seven years, textbooks begin to show wear after hundreds of students have used them. Information becomes outdated, effective teaching practices evolve, technology changes and state standards adjust, she added.
“There is research that is done on an ongoing basis, and we want to stay as current as possible to give our students in Issaquah the best possible experience we can,” she said.
Some subjects, such as health or technology classes, have curriculua that are updated annually, ensuring they comply with state standards and evolving technology.
While district administrators are still unsure of the price for this year’s adoptions, last year’s chemistry curriculum adoption materials cost $120,000.
The Issaquah Schools Foundation has pledged it will use money raised during its Calling for Kids campaign to help pay for the elementary science curriculum adoption.
Hard said the recent budget cuts from the Legislature’s special session in December — a loss totaling $1 million for the Issaquah district — and the predicted $3.1 million the district could lose in 2011-12 if state legislators approve Gov. Chris Gregoire’s 2011-13 budget, are not expected to affect the curriculum adoptions.
How the process works
Once the district determined it would proceed with two curriculum changes, it sent surveys to parents in June 2010. Parents answered questions about their children’s interests and abilities in science or language arts, and asked whether families liked the current curriculum.
The district then posted the survey responses on the district website.
After the survey, the district formed two committees — one for science and another for language arts. Each committee has teachers and representatives serving specific student populations, including special-needs students and gifted students.
The committees decided the evaluation protocols, first seeing if each curriculum met state standards and later making sure the material was not biased toward one gender, if it was easy to understand, if it had online components for both students and parents and if it would appeal to students and teachers.
The top materials they choose will make appearances in Issaquah classrooms during a field test period. The committee asks teachers, students and parents to provide them feedback, seeing if the lessons were clear yet challenging.
During that time, the district will invite the community to two parent preview nights.
Using feedback from both the field tests and the preview nights, the committee will look at its resources one last time, and then make a recommendation to the Instructional Materials Committee.
The committee — composed of community members, teachers and librarians — will review the recommendation and make sure the committee properly carried out its work. Parents can also look at the recommendations at the district’s Administration Building during a two-week period: from May 24 to June 7 for high school language arts, and from June 9-23 for the elementary science curriculum.
If the IMC approves the work, it will send the recommendations the school board in June. If not, the committee goes back to square one, starting the process over again.
Preview the publishers that could be used in your child’s classroom. Both previews will be presented at the district Administration Building, 565 N.W. Holly St.
Elementary school science, 4:30-7:30 p.m. March 11
High school language arts, 4:30-7 p.m. March 15
On the Web
Learn about the curriculum adoption process at the Issaquah School District website.
Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.