Release Date: 4/24/2014
Contact: Office of Communications, 410-887-5908

BCPS launches English language arts curriculum aligned with Md. standards, digital conversion

Curriculum shaped by teacher input and feedback

TOWSON, MD. – Baltimore County Public Schools has launched a home-grown elementary English language arts curriculum this year that meets more rigorous state standards and that also adapts to the school system’s move to digital instruction in the classroom.

“Our curriculum will be our own, developed and implemented by BCPS teachers, administrators, and Curriculum and Instruction staff," said BCPS Superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance. “We are grateful for the tremendous work of those teachers and educators who wrote this curriculum and provided valuable feedback about how best to meet the rigorous new expectations of the state as we prepare children with the 21st century skills they need."

A report to the Board of Education of Baltimore County on April 22 detailed the process for creating a responsive curriculum and a framework to guide instruction in upcoming years. The project’s first phase began during the 2012-13 school year with the assistance of the Washington-based firm edCount.

“Our teachers built upon the prototypes provided to us during the first phase of the project. During the project’s next phase, BCPS teachers and curriculum staff developed curriculum and digital resources specific to the needs of our students," said Verletta White, BCPS chief academic officer. “We are proud of our teachers’ accomplishments and will continue to work with them to amplify and extend curriculum resources as we all work together to meet 21st century literacy demands."

The curriculum reflects the instructional shifts required by the Maryland College and Career Ready Standards for language arts and literacy, including an emphasis on explanatory writing, a balance between literature and non-fiction, and texts and academic vocabulary that increase in complexity as students advance.

The curriculum includes six units per grade in Grades 1-5, with two to three performance-based assessments per unit. Each of the units and the assessments are compatible with the Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow (S.T.A.T.) initiative, the school system’s move to a 1:1 digital classroom.

While implementing the revised curriculum, BCPS is allowing for extensive opportunities for professional development, including face-to-face and webinar options for learning about the new standards, as well as curriculum resources. Next school year, professional development will also include site visits with teaching teams.

“Teachers still need professional development in regards to grading work and giving feedback, differentiation, and unpacking the standards," said Christina Davis, a Grade 3 teacher at Glyndon Elementary School. “We are confident BCPS will provide us with those opportunities."

According to principals and teachers who worked on developing the BCPS curriculum, the benefits include an increase in student reading and writing, problem-based learning tasks, and increased academic rigor.

“The curriculum has been written to support the standards, and each lesson has a specific focus," said Karen Harris, principal of Fort Garrison Elementary School. “As a result, there is a wonderful wealth and variety of materials that are now in each school to support student success in reading and language arts, and they are differentiated to provide support for small group instruction."

Added Sharon Fischer, a teacher at Kingsville Elementary School, “As the new curriculum is implemented, students are asking questions and discussing ideas created through reading and discussing a variety of texts. . . . Because of the new structure of lessons, which includes small group reading pathways, students are spending less time listening within whole group lessons and more time actively participating in their reading and writing each and every day. "

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