Our district's learning “arrows” may not travel identical paths, but they should all be pointing toward similar targets. That was the message to teachers on Sept. 1, their official first day back to school for professional development.
“We can’t all do everything the same … but each teacher in each building should be trying to help all of our students achieve similar learning standards,” School Operations Manager Sherri Kokx told Visual and Performing Arts teachers in the Roosevelt High School theater.
Arts teachers were among the certified staff who participated in the districtwide day of training at various Seattle Public Schools locations. Most of the sessions focused on using or developing an overall learning map, called a “scope and sequence,” for each grade level and subject area, to help teachers aim their “learning arrows” toward the same educational targets.
A scope and sequence provides direction for teachers about which learning standards to emphasize and suggestions about how to get there, but teachers still have plenty of creative freedom.
For example, tenth-graders should be able to support their arguments well with evidence. That’s a Common Core standard. The language arts scope and sequence for grade 10 suggests that students show they can do that in a unit called “Conflicting Ideologies.” Dozens of texts are suggested, such as “Lord of the Flies” or “The Kite Runner,” or teachers may choose something else.
“Teachers can still build these skills and meet the same standards with the texts they like to use,” says Jamie Kemano, a Rainier Beach High School language arts teacher.
“It isn’t a curriculum, but rather a tool and a guideline. I’m really excited about using it,” says Erica Wheeler, a Hazel Wolf K-8 kindergarten teacher who helped lead a session on the language arts scope and sequence.
The scope and sequence work is one way the district is moving closer to the first goal of its Strategic Plan, to ensure educational excellence and equity for every student.
District teachers and staff worked together on a K-12 physical education scope and sequence a few years ago, followed by English language arts in 2013-14 and math in 2014-15. In language arts and math, teachers are now working on sharing smaller units of study that fit the overall scope and sequence.
“I really like that we are given something that we can immediately apply in a couple weeks. It’s great, especially for a new teacher like me,” says Emily Knight, who will teach ninth-grade language arts at Rainier Beach.
Visual and performing arts teachers are working together on a scope and sequence this year, and science teachers are doing the same, based on the state’s newly adopted Next Generation Science Standards.