FWCS Adopts New Curriculum by Ashlee Witte
In hopes of providing the best possible education to students, Fort Wayne Community Schools has undergone a complete reform of the curriculum of English and math classes across all grade levels. The goal is to improve student performance by challenging them to work at their full potential.
The new curriculum is meant to steer education away from rote memorization and encourage critical thinking. Another new component is the introduction of lessons on careers and a focus on group work, but the biggest shift is probably the introduction of a new schedule that will keep all teachers working at the same pace.
According to Principal Mr. Chad Hissong, the latter of these changes is meant to level the playing field by eliminating discrepancies in teaching styles. He lamented the tendency of teachers to gravitate to topics they particularly enjoy, encroaching on time that should be spent on other subjects. Mr. Hissong recalled one of his own experiences as a student spending up to eight weeks on The Crucible because the book was the teacher’s personal favorite.
Mr. Hissong hopes the implementation of this rigid schedule will bridge the gap between teacher performance, making transitions for students from one class to another much smoother. In this way, the new curriculum is intended to be more student-focused.
“What this curriculum does,” Mr. Hissong said, “whether it be English or math, is it helps align the teachers so that regardless of what classroom you walk into, every student and each instructor has equitable access to resources.”
Across the district, each teacher receives the tools necessary for teaching students the topics being covered.
“Everything is completely laid out for [us],” said English teacher, Ms. Arlana Haines. “The handouts, what we need to do each day, the standards, the essential questions, everything.”
An advantage of having all the teachers on the same page is that it paves the way for cooperation and collaboration through a site that allows them to communicate and share resources.
Mr. Hissong is optimistic about how this method will influence future roadblocks. The teachers will be provided with the original materials, such as the Agile Minds program, as well as other resources that have been used, approved and uploaded by their peers. These resources aim to facilitate “mid-game” corrections and enable instructors to navigate unforeseen challenges, streamlining the learning process.
The application of this curriculum to math and English is a tentative first step but both Mr. Hissong and Ms. Haines hope to see it applied to other subjects such as world history, chemistry and physics. Like any new change, not all the kinks have been worked out.
Mr. Hissong was insistent that the curriculum is not intended to restrict teachers, but Ms. Haines had some reservations regarding the “lack of flexibility,” when she said, “if something’s not working, you still have to teach it to all the classes.”
Ms. Haines is positive that the curriculum is here to stay but also recognizes that it is far from perfect and will require some revision. For example, she expressed concern over the fact that the students are to be reading excerpts as opposed to entire books. She has never taught an English class where students did not read a full novel. Ms. Haines also worries that there is an overabundance of group work, allowing less dedicated students to push their portion of the work onto others.
“What you can’t take out of instruction is personality,” Mr. Hissong said when addressing possible shortcomings of the curriculum.
The curriculum accounts for the concepts being taught, but does not cover the student-teacher relationships, which teachers will have to be able to navigate on their own. It is up to the teachers to inject their personality into the lessons and keep students engaged.
When asked if there has been a change in student performance, Mr. Hissong was adamant that it is too soon to tell and that it would be unfair to demand results so soon after the implementation of the curriculum. Teachers and students are still getting acclimated to the new adjustment, so any observable difference will likely take a few months to manifest.