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Winner of Broad Prize Pays Close Attention to Instruction

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So what put the Aldine Independent School District over the top to win this year's title of best urban school district in the nation, according to the Broad Foundation?

We already know the district had to demonstrate big gains in reading and math, particularly for its poor and minority students. According to Broad's data analysis, Aldine "broke the predictive power" of poverty with high achievement levels as likely to occur in its low-income schools as in its higher-income schools.

But it's Aldine's thoughtful approach to curriculum and instruction that really caught our eye.

For starters, Aldine's superintendent, Wanda Bamberg, is a long-time veteran of that system who spent six years as the head of curriculum and instruction. So she's got real academic chops, and presumably a deep understanding of what constitutes good teaching and learning.

According to Broad's background material on Aldine, the district's teachers, along with its curriculum and instruction folks, have created comprehensive scope-and-sequence plans for every subject and every grade level that clearly map out what teachers are to teach in six-week cycles over the course of the school year. Using that timeline, teachers tap into an online database of curriculum and assessment items where they can find model lessons that the district's curriculum experts have signed off on.

Teachers also use the online tool to submit their own lesson plans weekly to their principals, who then vet them to make sure that the lessons are aligned with the curriculum and that any content that must be re-taught will be done in a way that will be effective. The database includes data from common assessments that students take every six weeks in math, science, and reading/language arts. Scores from twice-a-year benchmark assessments also are fed into the database.

Based on the achievement data, teachers work together to tweak lessons and to identify students most in need of additional help. The district also uses the achievement results to shape its professional development strategies.

Here's a link to a 2006 power point presentation about Aldine's Web-based system for managing curriculum and instruction. There may be some ideas in here that folks in other districts will want to borrow.

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