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By Ed Fincher
Mark DeVoti, superintendent of Archuleta School District 50 Joint, has spearheaded a statewide effort to develop model curricula that would be available to all school districts in Colorado.
“We all teach to the same academic standards for kids (and the whole state has adopted those standards),” DeVoti explained. “We all react to the same assessment at the end of those standards, and the missing link there is curriculum. Nobody provides really solid, well-researched curriculum. Every single district is at the mercy of a vendor, is at the mercy of someone who says, ‘This might work; I saw it on the Internet,’ and they are at the mercy of having the money or not to purchase it.”
Acting as the president of the Colorado Association of Superintendents and Senior Administrators, DeVoti sent a letter to the Colorado Department of Education in which he stated, “We know by recent polling results that registered voters are willing to expend additional dollars to help fund K-12 education if they understand that funding will help students gain mastery of basic skills. We believe that a state-wide collaborative effort would address this concern. Wouldn’t it show our citizens and our legislature that as an educational system, rural, metro, mountains, plains, front range, west slope we are working together to pool our resources for the good of all of our students and all of our districts?”
The letter, which went on to advocate for the creation of statewide model curricula, created quite a sensation and gained a lot of momentum. At the Colorado Standards and Implementation Summit DeVoti’s letter was discussed and a timeline was developed.
According to the Development Plan for Colorado’s Model Curriculum, a framework and process guides were created last summer, a state level curriculum blueprint is being created now and will be finished by the end of December, a regional and local curriculum blueprint will be created during the second half of this school year, and instructional units will be created after the end of this school year. This plan specifically calls for the regional and local blueprints to be, “developed by teachers and leaders from across Colorado.”
There is some controversy over this issue at the state level because Colorado is a local control state. The constitution specifically outlaws the state from mandating curriculum to the local districts. DeVoti has made every effort to emphasize that these unit plans and lesson plans will be optional, and for small, rural districts that cannot afford to hire their own curriculum development person, having these curricula available free of charge will actually give local districts more control over what they can do in their schools.
“The state is pulling 400 teachers to Denver from around the state at four different times during the year,” DeVoti explained. “They’re taking care of their expenses to go and putting them up overnight. It’s a two-day thing for each group of teachers, and they are going to build these.”
DeVoti held out a piece of paper with the word “Draft” across it. This turned out to be a unit plan for fourth-grade history the state had developed and is using as an example of the model curriculum it envisions having teachers create. DeVoti went over in detail the features of this sample and how a classroom teacher might be able to use it to guide his or her instruction to students.
“They are going to do some training for the all teachers who get accepted into this,” DeVoti continued. “They’re trying to get the best of the best, which is why we have teachers from all of our buildings that have been accepted. People may talk about local control, but with that comes global responsibility. Our locals have really emphasized what needs to be done at the state level.
“By December,” DeVoti concluded, “the State of Colorado will have a book with every grade level, every subject and every unit addressed this deep,” he held up the sample unit again, “They will then make it available at no charge for people to access online.”