Curriculum Mapping

August 7, 2008

Perusing the sites for Curriculum Mapper, Rubicon Atlas, and Tech Paths, my main goal was to learn more about the process of curriculum mapping and which site would have the best potential for my school district.

Regarding the individual web sites, I found that Curriculum Mapper had too many words, and then insufficient information to back it all up.  Rubicon Atlas and Tech Paths were both easy to navigate, with plenty of information to substatiate their claims.  Other areas for my interest was with the data generated by each system.  I found that they all had great information, and were displayed nicely.  In this area, I rated each the same. I felt that aligning standards with curriculum is a necessity, and was impressed with the claims made within each site… but did find that Rubicon made the most sense.  I felt that Curriculm mapper and Tech Paths simply did not go into as much detail as Rubicon.  The last area of my focus was with how the curriculum programs can be integerated into the classroom assessment.  I found that Curriculm Mapper was the best in this category, especially with how their grade book is tied into the system. 

After making my notations, I met with my classmates to discuss our findings.  I found that most of my feelings about each particular website were corroborated by my colleagues.  They each brought more information to the table as well, and helped broaden my perspective.  In the end, Rubicon was rated highest by my investigation, with Curriculum Mapper the lowest.  After our classroom discussion, we also rated Rubicon as the highest, but had Curriculm Mapper as 2nd highest.  Good idea for a classroom project, and it was nice that each member seem to come to the table prepared ….


Philosophy of Education

July 8, 2008

My varied experiences within the restaurant business – as employee, manager, and owner for 20 years – along with my master’s degree in counseling, and experiences as a school psychologist, have had a tremendous influence on my viewpoint on an educational philosophy.   My beliefs are centered on the importance of skill development, appropriate modeling, effective communication, and strong teacher – student rapport (in which leader demonstrates care, support, professionalism, and high expectations of his or her student).  I feel these traits are essential for my potential success as either “Arick the businessman” or “Arick the educator.” For me, the philosophies of Perennialism, Essentialism, and Contstructivism are ones that would help most in aligning my beliefs with my philosophy.


Perennialism: The area I like most about this philosophy is the idea that teachers should “teach principles, not facts.  Since people are human, one should teach first about humans.”  The focus this philosophy has on treating people as people is the foundation of my beliefs.  Once we begin forcing issues and topics down our student’s throats, they begin tuning us out.  However, by building a solid rapport and treating our students with respect, we will have much better success. 


Essentialism:  While I feel that rapport is the foundation of effective teaching, essentialism helps re focus teachers on the essential areas that our students need to learn.  Essentialists believe that the students need to learn the subjects “thoroughly and rigorously.”  This aligns nicely with my belief that within the teacher – student bonding experience, high expectations must be kept. 


Constructivism:  Constructivists believe that learning is “an active process of recreating knowledge … (with) emphasis on the role of learning activities in a good curriculum.”  The expectations of teachers within this philosophy are one of involvement, encouraging students to become active learners.  The result is a meaningful learning experience for all, including the teacher.  I believe that this philosophy would also encourage a leader who has the ability to demonstrate my “tools for success,” including developing skills, appropriate modeling, effective communication, and strong teacher-student rapport.


Prennialism, Essentialism, and Constructivism are the philosophies I feel will naturally support my educational beliefs.  As I slowly make the transition from businessman to educator, I feel these beliefs will help develop my future plans and overall visions – helping remind a large educational system to stay focused on their top priority: the well being of its children.

Teaching and Learning Document

July 8, 2008

Teaching and Learning (TAL)




Name Arick Branen




Standard:     ISLLC 2 Instructional Leadership

Strand(s):     2.1 Advocating, nurturing, and sustaining a school culture 

                      2.2 Advocating, nurturing, and sustaining student learning

                      2.3 Advocating, nurturing, and sustaining Professional Development

Performance Indicator: Data of Review of School Context and Culture

Presents a thoughtful critique of the SIP areas for Teaching and Learning with both suggestions for improvement and commendations. Suggests where to find additional data when indicated.

Meadows elementary school is a member of the North Thurston school district (NTPS) in Lacey, Washington.  NTPS is the largest school district in Thurston county, and 22nd largest school district in the state of Washington.  Enrollment is currently approaching 14,000 students, with an expectation that it will raise to 20,000 within 15 years. NTPS is comprised of 12 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, 3 comprehensive high schools and one high school of choice.  The overarching strategic focus for NTPS schools is academic excellence, welcoming facilities, a healthy and safe learning environment and strong communication with staff, parents and community.


NTPS is the most ethnically-diverse school district in the South Sound region, serving African American, Asian, Native American, Hispanic and other populations.  4,500 volunteers have dedicated more than 160,000 hours towards student learning and support. NTPS shares strong partnerships with the City of Lacey and the local Chambers of Commerce. There are also a wide variety of family events, including a Lacey Loves to Read, Lacey Spring Fun Fair, the Thurston County Fair and a Military Family Support March, plus programs through the Lacey Area Youth Task Force, LaceyParks & Recreation, the South Sound Reading Foundation and the Lacey Timberland Regional Library. Additionally, the buildings, playing fields and three swimming pools are used nearly every day of the year and are shared with the community at affordable rates.


As for Meadows Elementary school, it is located in the Eastern section of Lacey, in a neighborhood that is appropriately named “Meadows.”  Meadows has a “self-contained” special education program, that serves up to 20 students with high special needs.  Only 4 of the 14 elementary schools within NTPS have this self-contained program.  The one at Meadows will first accept potential students from Meadows, and then will accept NTPS elementary students from the surrounding area.   Meadows currently has 453 students enrolled for the 2008-09 school year.  Statistics for the student population and staff include:





Student Population


90% white certified staff, 50% while classified

46% non white


25% male, 75% female

51% male, 49% female

Reduced and Free lunch program



Special Education










Reflective Analysis:

NTPS is a large and growing school district, bringing a wide range of students with various issues.  At Meadows, a particular challenging area may be the difference in diversity between staff members and the student population.  Having a higher diversity among the classified staff (including maintenance, para professionals, office professionals, and nurse) has helped some students feel more comfortable, but the authority figures – especially teacher, intervention specialists and principal – are mostly white, which has made student-staff relationships challenging at times.


Performance Indicator: Student Learning and Assessment—beliefs, plans, and evidence

Reviews evidence of school-wide focus on student learning in beliefs statements, action plans, and assessment; includes school and classroom evidence of student learning with analysis of how data is used to improve student learning.

A particularly challenging problem in providing appropriate learning and assessment for the student population of Meadows is its transient population.  Many of our students are from military families, whom work at nearby Fort Lewis (boasting a population of 25,000 soldiers).  The average stay for these families is 2 years. The current situation in the military has made the transient population even more challenging as families have been forced to move in and out during the middle of the school year.  Meadows showed a 30% turnover rate in its student population during the 2007-2008 school year.  One of our fourth grade classes was hit particularly hard: Mrs. Pallido reported that only 25% of the children she had at the beginning of the school year were still with her at the end.

Deployment is another large factor Meadows must deal with for our children from military families.  The comfort level students bring to class is heavily influenced by their home environment.  The family structure will change dramatically when a parent leaves for an 18-month deployment, causing anxiety and transition difficulties for the entire family.  The feelings the family experiences are very similar to those many families will experience when going through a divorce or separation.  The parent remaining home will suddenly become the sole provider for comfort and family activities, often leaving them feeling over burdened and stressed.   The anxiety level for the entire family is raised even further by the unsafe conditions soldiers currently face.  In a worse case scenario, Meadows has had to deal with tragedy when a parent is maimed or killed while in the line of duty. 

Another issue facing many of the students at Meadows is poverty, with 40% qualifying for the free or reduced lunch program.  Research has demonstrated that children living in poverty have a less chance of academic success than children from families with higher incomes.  Children living in poverty have many obvious challenges to feeling comfortable in school, which may include low self esteem, negative peer interactions, low support for academics at home, and a dysfunctional family life.  With many of these children, we are satisfied that they simply attend school.

The last major issue impacting our student’s level of comfort is our high level of diversity. 56% of Meadow’s student’s are non-white, while 90% of the certified staff is white. In extreme cases, parents and students have complained of poor academics or behavioral problems due to “racism.” In general, non-white students do have more difficulty relating to their white teachers than their white peers.  Research has also shown that learning from a predominantly while staff may exacerbate feelings of inferiority non white students may feel about their race and / or ethicity.  

The culture of our school works to respect our children’s backgrounds by ensuring we are:

·         Offering group classes focusing on issues faced when a family member is deployed through our school-counseling program.

·         Respecting cultural differences within the classroom, both in teacher – student interactions along with teacher expectations and the type of lesson plans teachers use.

·         Aware of available resources for families

·         Promoting free breakfast program for eligible students

·         “Dressing” the school up with artwork promoting diversity

·         Acting comfortable and treating parents with respect whom may have different values than ours

·         Parent / community involvement: volunteer program, community support fundraisers for student programs, volunteers operating the Passport Club (focusing on Geography), and PTSA has shown increased membership and program support.

·         Offer after school activities (soccer, painting, gardening, technology, track & field, cooking, and music).



Reflective Analysis:

Meadows has many very effective programs in place.  I have especially been very impressed with the work of the two intervention specialists, whom have been extremely effective in identifying students with pressing needs.  Creating groups and helping families find resources have been successful in placing these students in a position where they will be able to have a better chance of learning in the classroom. The aforementioned racial differences between staff members and students is addressed, but has still not alleviated all problems.


Performance Indicator: Curriculum Overview

Reviews school’s curriculum scope and sequence; discusses gaps and/or overlaps in relation to EALR’s, GLE’s, and school mission; and provides suggestions for improvement.

Meadows Mission statement:  Meadows elementary works to ensure individual success for all students / learners in a positive, caring, challenging climate involving partnerships with staff, home, and community. 

The mission statement provides the school’s vision for the type of environment we wish to have for our school.  Accomplishing this will depend largely on our ability to ensure our students are truly learning the material they need to have future success.  Evidence that student learning is the fundamental purpose of Meadows includes:

·    Closely monitoring WASL results – following up with students who   perform poorly

·   Using DIBEL’s to track reading abilities for students and grouping accordingly; from “at risk” to “showing progress.”  The results will help determine if learning support is necessary, or if seeking special education services is warranted. 

·   Responding appropriately to students whom are having issues with behaviors, which may include placement on a behavior plan, contacting parent, or discussing possible interventions with teachers.


Additionally, faculty “data” meetings are held once / semester at Meadows, in which teachers are required to demonstrate how their assessments are aligned to the EARL’s. Hard data is used to verify the teacher’s statements, which will include progress seen on student DIBEL scores, comparison of individual results from classroom assessments, and year-by-year comparison of WASL results. 

Meadows is able to demonstrate all students have equitable, engaging opportunities to learn and to meet high standards by performing curriculum based assessments (CBA) on a quarterly basis (DIBELs for reading and handwriting examples for writing).  These results will be used to place students in appropriate reading and writing levels.  The principal of Meadows has been searching for a math CBA as well.



Reflective Analysis:

Meadows has proven to be very effective in identifying struggling students and making the appropriate recommendations for the evaluations needed in the special education process.  The format used is very similar to the “Response to Intervention” (RTI) model that the state wishes all school districts to adopt within the next 10 years.  Currently, only two schools within the entire NTPS use the RTI model.  Administrators, psychologists, and special education teachers have visited and met with staff members from Meadows on more than one occasion to learn how the RTI process works, and how it could be implemented within their own schools.


Performance Indicator: Staff Profile

Describes staff demographics, levels of experience and strengths, connection to curriculum.

As mentioned earlier, the staff is 90% Caucasian, despite the high level of diversity within the student population at Meadows.  We have 31 teachers, with an average of 12.3 years of experience.  77.4% have at least a Master’s degree. Meadows also employs 8 para professionals; 50% being considered non – white.    The staff does work hard at recognizing individual differences and appears to be non threatening.  However, there have been a few racist problems between students.  The principal has been working hard at helping children learn to respect their peers through group counseling (from their Intervention Specialist) and school assemblies which celebrate everyone’s unique differences.  Meadows also is implementing a “Caring and Noticing” program, in which staff members are matched with individual children to provide encouragement and recognition for daily successes.



Reflective Analysis:

Racial differences between staff members and students seems to be a theme noticed throughout this Teaching and Learning report.  It is a challenging problem that staff members need to be continually reminded about, especially being mindful of their position as a powerful role model to their students. 


Performance Indicator: Professional Development

Describes existing professional development: formal and informal; teacher strengths; coordination with student learning; role of principal in creating climate for adult growth in context of data.

NTPS encourages its staff to develop professionally by requiring 22.5 hours of time spent for professional development per year.  At Meadows, staff is given credit for these hours by attending in school workshops on technology issues: including how to use Excel to display and read data, using technology to help students learn to research more effectively, and reviewing information learned at off site locations during faculty meetings.  Staff members also participate in focused professional development in math, reading assessment and writing. 



Reflective Analysis:

Professional development is stressed top – down, from the NTPS district office to the individual schools.  Meadows takes its staff development very seriously, demonstrated in the requirement of individual staff members reporting their findings to their colleagues.


Performance Indicator: School History

Describes past critical events that have shaped the school’s present culture and analyzes implications for future reform efforts.

Taken from Meadows school website, it states the following:

“Welcome to Meadows Elementary! We opened our doors in 1986 and currently have an enrollment of approximately 450 students. We are proud of our school, proud of our students, have an excellent staff, and believe that Meadows Elementary is a wonderful place for children to learn and grow.

Staff and students have high expectations for learning and behavior. More than ever before we are focused on insuring that all of our students are successful learners. Every person at Meadows is expected to follow our guiding principles; respect, responsibility, excellence, acceptance, cooperation, and honesty (REACH). Ask any member of our school community about our REACH principles to capture a picture of our school.”


Meadows demonstrates respect to their former students by placing framed pictures of each “graduating” 6th grade class from the time Meadows opened its doors.  Former students and parents are often seen looking through these pictures, reminiscing about their experiences while attending Meadows.



Reflective Analysis:

It was difficult to find any school history.  It would seem that developing a more comprehensive picture of the history of the school, or promoting symbols that can be forever associated with the school, would help create a bond between students and their families with Meadows.  This might be an extremely important issue that could help alleviate some of the existing problems currently witnessed due to the differences in diversity and transient population.