Letter to the Editor

Your View 9/23: MAP the way

Monday, September 23, 2002

Sikeston Public Schools has had faculty and administrators aligning the curriculum to the state objectives and expectations since the beginning of the Missouri Mastery Achievement Tests (MMAT) in 1987. Prior to that, the curriculum guides were adjusted to incorporate the Basic Essential Skills Test objectives. With the Missouri Assessment Program (1997) alignment was accomplished with the Show-Me Standards, the Missouri Curriculum Frameworks and the MAP, which all show congruence. In fact, the designations of the standards taught by each curricular objective were identified and designated beside the objective number in the guide. Two state Missouri School Improvement Program reviews (1993 and 1998) identified the curriculum as quality. The alignment activities were accomplished with teaching staff who spent countless hours making sure there was proper sequence from unit to unit, grade to grade and subject to subject. It was not perfect and will never be perfect, but it was aligned and students have done well. The computer program for alignment which was developed by the state department and made available to the schools in 1998 makes the job go a lot faster and greatly negates human error (once the curricular objectives are keyed into the program) and makes it a lot easier to determine what areas need to be a focus.

Faculty training with "teacher MAP senior leaders," who went to workshops to learn ways to present material to students and energize the classroom to get students to think and develop problem attack skills, began in 1997. These leaders came back to the buildings and worked with teachers to build skills that would help them work with students. Work groups emphasized that the written curriculum must be the taught curriculum and the taught curriculum must be the tested curriculum if students are to succeed. "Ownership" of a particular unit the teacher liked sometimes had to give way to tested items. Students must be eager to show what they know and are able to do. However, all schools must contend with student apathy.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education provides comparisons of school districts with other districts of similar socio-economic level, similar size and similar ethnic make-up. When you compare apples to apples you should have a rather valid measure. Also, by disaggregating scores at the district level areas of concern and focus may arise. Building administrators were given this information which was also used to determine the goals for the school improvement plan which is mandated by the state.

In looking at the other districts' scores from the internet, you might find that those who score with a higher percentage of students in the upper three achievement levels (not quintiles, they went out with the MMAT), you may find that they teach as teams (classroom through central office), benchmark their teaching and promote an enriched learning environment for the development of problem solving skills. Benchmarking is an important teaching tool. It helps teachers stay on track and it helps administrators know whether the written curriculum is taught in the classrooms.

Realignment of the curriculum is never complete, however, alignment had been accomplished to several testing instruments prior to the MAP. Our schools have believed that new knowledge is created from existing knowledge (constructivist) and therefore paid particular attention to sequential learning activities for students. The program of studies in social studies was revamped to provide proper sequencing MAP alignment in math, and communication arts were complete for the 1998 MSIP review, followed by science and social studies. Just setting the record straight. Thank you for your indulgence.

Sincerely, Retired SPS educator