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Teachers converge on Yuma for curriculum training
For more information about Ready Now Yuma, take a look at the past series Yuma Sun staff members wrote on the initiative:
YUHSD by the numbers - www.yumasun.com
What is Ready Now Yuma? - www.yumasun.com
Move On When Ready legislation - www.yumasun.com
Goals of the program - www.yumasun.com
Changes for teachers - www.yumasun.com
Changes for students - www.yumasun.com
Bridge program - www.yumasun.com
Focusing on financials - www.yumasun.com
Community outreach - www.yumasun.com
A team of experts from the National Center on Education and the Economy have spent the past two weeks in Yuma as part of the Yuma Union High School District's ongoing professional development for their Ready Now Yuma initiative.
Thanks to a $3.9 million grant to YUHSD last year by the Helios Education Foundation, instructors and staff members from Yuma, Kofa, Cibola, San Luis and Gila Ridge High Schools have had the opportunity to attend collaborative sessions with other teachers in their specific subject areas across the district. Teachers from Kingman Unified School District as well as Santa Cruz Unified School District have also traveled to Yuma for the training.
Katy Cavanagh, the Arizona representative for NCEE, said that YUHSD's five schools were among the first 12 Arizona schools that adopted the Cambridge curriculum during the 2011-2012 school year. This year, 18 more schools across the state came on board with the Arizona's Move On When Ready initiative, most of which also implemented the Cambridge curriculum.
Cavanagh, who previously spent 30 years in the Scottsdale area as an educator at the classroom and administrative level before retiring, now works with NCEE to help support teachers and schools as they transition to a new teaching and learning model. She said that schools are beginning to change their classrooms to be more about performance and not about compliance.
“It makes no sense for kids (today) to learn the same things I learned,” she said. “In the past it was OK to cover a lot of information, memorize it and be able to respond. That won't make you college- and career-ready anymore. It won't make you able to do the kinds of work that people are doing internationally that requires you to compare, contrast, think critically, synthesize and analyze.”
She noted, however, that this movement is not just about having a new curriculum.
“It's about support every step of the way; which would be supporting the teachers, supporting the students, having much more rigorous expectations and requiring that the learners can perform those before they move on,” she said.
District RNY project director Laura Campbell explained that she has worked with Cavanagh to determine what specific instructional strategies around the Cambridge resources teachers can benefit from during their professional development days throughout the year.
Cavanagh noted that by including YUHSD counselors and special education teachers and other staff members, the trainings will help build capacity within their district to understand the depth and rigor of this new learning style as well as the concept of college and career readiness for every student.
“NCEE has brought experts (to Yuma) who worked in rigorous systems, who taught through Cambridge, who learned through Cambridge and who created whole systems in countries about kids performing and mastering, not about kids just sitting and being compliant over time,” Cavanagh said. “Our high schools have been based on Carnegie units in the past, which is really about how much time you sit it really wasn't figuring out how much kids learned.”
Yuma High School English teacher Amarrah Kean said that the trainings have been very beneficial to her as she is able to hear how other teachers are delivering lessons to students.
“As teachers we're kind of shut into our classrooms a lot of the time when we're working, so we don't ever really get a chance to go around and see what other teachers are doing or see how other teachers address issues,” Kean said.
As a second-year teacher, she said that hearing different ideas helps her to be able to adapt various methods to improve her own classroom.
“I feel really privileged to be teaching Cambridge because it gives me so much more freedom to choose what my students will be interested in and then teach the skills using whatever text I find that they'll find engaging,” she said.