After more than three months of research, interviews and observation, Dr. Denise Seguine reported her findings to the USD 443 Board of Education at Monday’s meeting. Seguine conducted a systemic review of curriculum and instruction at the direction of the Superintendent and board.
"Your staff, overall, is incredibly committed to this district and to the students," Seguine said.
The study of the district’s curriculum was initiated by administration to ensure students are getting what they needed to meet expectations of state requirements.
"There is no consistent process right now for curriculum adoption," Seguine said. "Teachers have a lot of different materials and they have to figure out how to integrate all of that so kids get everything they need. That’s an intensive load on teachers."
Seguine said she found that when teachers felt the curriculum didn’t align with the standards, many chose not to use it.
"Teachers felt strongly that they knew their students and their need," she explained. "Your teachers work very hard; they work diligently."
Seguine said when teachers are not using the same curriculum across grade levels, a gap is created for students as they move on in their education.
"Teachers feel like they have the freedom to use or not use the district curriculum," she said. "If you use different vocabulary or practices, you’re creating gaps for kids that don’t have to be there."
Seguine presented 10 recommendations to the board, starting with the design of a five-year plan for implementation of intended changes that align with a district strategic plan.
"You don’t have the finances, resources, energy, or people to do everything at once," she said. "You wish you could but you can’t so by creating a five-year plan, it helps you see when things are going to happen."
Seguine encouraged administration and the board to consider and prioritize all the work to be accomplished. One suggestion is that core curriculum is reviewed to determine what is essential and what is supplemental. Since the district already uses EngageNY, Seguine recommends that be continued.
"But I would recommend purchasing Eureka Math for grades K-8 as resources are needed," she said. "I’ve had a little angst about this recommendation because of the negative feedback about EngageNY at the middle level but I’m making it because I feel like you can’t start misaligning programs right now."
In addition, the district does not yet have full implementation of the EngageNY program, success is difficult to judge.
"I recommend you go back and look at professional development," Seguine said. "Teachers feel like they didn’t get the training they needed to implement [EngageNY]."
Teachers reported they value the collaboration time afforded them by the district; however, some felt as if, in the past, curriculum was chosen based on how well it worked with the iPads.
"Look for what’s best, not what fits," she said. "I encourage the use of iPads for instructional resources but purchase the best possible curriculum, whether that’s paper books or online."
Seguine urged the board to once again set up a Newcomers program at the elementary level. The program is for English Language Learners and was canceled due to lack of funding. Seguine proposes the hiring of a top-level administrator to support the work of curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development.
"This is a position that is strategic. It’s the person who is going to watch over all of this to make sure it’s happening," she explained. "Right now, you have great administrators but they’re trying to do that and a bunch of other things. If you really want to move the system forward, you really need someone watching the details."
Hiers said he commended administration for bringing in Seguine.
"I appreciate you opening the doors so we could take a look at it and see where we need to go," he said.