BOULDER - Learning takes all kinds of shapes and sizes in classrooms across the Boulder Valley School District. Whether students are learning through a STEM experiment, project-based learning or a good old-fashioned lecture,, one thing is assured -- our educators put a lot of thought and heart into the lessons. After all, they know that when they are effective in their work, students have the support and opportunities needed to reach their full potential.
That is also why BVSD is always working to improve our instructional practices and curriculum to support our teachers’ work.
“We want to ensure that our students have learning experiences that are really worthy of them,” said BVSD Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services and Equity Dr. Samantha Messier. “To me they are learning experiences that are relevant and engaging and also that are aligned to what research says about best practice.”
Curriculum is the roadmap that shapes learning across BVSD
These concepts are embedded in BVSD’s curriculum, the roadmap that supports instruction and ensures consistency across the district.
“The curriculum should help to shape the learning experiences that are happening. While the learning experiences themselves are hard to predict, because they often evolve in the moment, the curriculum is your road map, our guidebook to creating great learning experiences,” Dr. Messier said.
She says that the district is monitoring the international trend towards digital materials. Regardless of whether BVSD chooses textbooks, digital materials, open source materials or a combination of all of them, her focus is ensuring that teachers have the support and flexibility they need.
“It is crucial that we give our teachers good tools,” Messier said. “We don’t want them creating everything from scratch and we want them to be able to adapt what is happening in the classroom to meet the individual needs of learners.”
She says that it is important that BVSD’s curriculum meet three objectives:
Meet or exceed the Academic Standards set by the State of Colorado, the basic information that every student in Colorado is expected to learn
Align to best instructional practices
Support BVSD’s vision of equity and social emotional learning
“If they mismatch for either of those things it makes the job for the teacher really, really difficult,” Messier said.
BVSD plans curriculum revision process, with focus on equity
In the near future, BVSD will have an opportunity to make some changes to its curriculum to ensure it is meeting these objectives. One of the many tasks in Superintendent Rob Anderson’s 100-Day Plan is for staff to launch a curriculum revision process, with a focus on embedding equity within the instructional experiences for students throughout the system.
“We are going to be in the process over the next few months of trying to bring together a design team about what the basic specifications of the new curriculum might be,” Messier said. “I think we can always get better. The reality, when you look at our data, we are a high achieving, high performing district -- but we still have a persistent achievement gap. We must provide students with the learning opportunities that will help them thrive and grow.”
As always, teachers will be heavily involved in the process -- but Messier also hopes that students will join the team.
“Students are the ones we’re trying to serve ultimately. I am a huge believer that if we really want to serve students well then we have to engage students as part of a design process to help us think about how to best meet their needs,” Messier said.
She says it will likely take two or three years for BVSD educators to work through and revise the district’s curriculum materials and a couple more years for the new materials and strategies to be implemented.