Written by Megan Davenport, featuring Maureen Cohon, Mendon-Upton Regional School District
“To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”
Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
As educators, we know it is important to help our students understand how academic content connects to the larger world- we are better, more engaged participants when we understand the “why” behind what we are doing. However, when we work with adult learners, like teachers, sometimes we forget that it is equally important to articulate the “why” to help them understand the importance of tackling a new challenge. Maureen Cohen understood this need to articulate the reasons behind curriculum mapping when she pioneered the role of Curriculum Director at Mendon-Upton School District in Mendon, Massachusetts.
As Maureen introduced curriculum mapping, she created and shared with her teachers a centralized curriculum website to communicate why this process is worth everyone’s valuable time and provided a variety of resources. She opened the website by outlining the importance of the work in relation to the district’s strategic plan:
In identifying the reason why we are embarking on the curriculum-mapping journey, the best starting point for us is to look at our district strategic plan. Highlighted and underlined below are the many references to curriculum within our district plan. We will continue to come back to the district strategic plan as we travel upon this journey to improve student achievement for our students. Any successful journey needs a map (our curriculum) and a guide (our teachers) to take the passengers (our students) to their destination (college and career readiness). In addition to connecting the curriculum maps to the strategic plan, she provided a wealth of information on the website. Here is an excerpt from the Table of Contents:
- Introduction & Strategic Plan
- Implementation Plan & Benchmarks
- Purpose of Curriculum Mapping
- 10 Tenets of Curriculum Mapping
- Types of Curriculum Maps & Curriculum Mapping Process
- Understanding by Design
- Start with the End in Mind
- And more!
All of this information not only built initial knowledge for teachers, but it created a resource hub that could be referenced again and again.
Breaking down the “How”
Once Maureen built in the “why” (the vision and purpose of mapping), she added resources to support the “how.” One resource that is particularly helpful for teachers is a rubric. Though units are continuously re-visited, revised, and re-invented with no “end point”, when teachers’ maps reach a “Proficient” status on the team’s rubric, they are ready to go “live” and be published to a public site for parents, students, and community members to see. Maureen shared that, as a parent, she appreciates the idea of transparency even more, so she can know what’s occurring in her child’s classroom and support that learning at home.
You can find below the rubric teachers use to review their units and create a shared language to talk about their work and prioritize their time. Click on the image below to download this resource- use it to spark conversation at your own school!
And there you have it: Maureen brought the whole process full circle.
“Why are we doing this?”
- To reach our students, at school and at home.
- To make their learning journey full, rich, and comprehensive.
- To constantly improve.
Not only did Maureen answer the “why”; she also answered “how” to make it happen, all with her teachers’ support. The teachers at Mendon-Upton School District have now been mapping for about 7 years, demonstrating that laying a strong foundation leads to lasting results!
Megan Davenport is a member of the professional development team for Faria Education Group. Megan’s passion for education is at the forefront of her work. Megan earned her master’s degree in education from Arizona State University and bachelor’s degrees in sociology and business management from the University of Montana. Thanks to her academic background, Megan takes a well-rounded approach to working with schools and benefits from knowledge of organizational structure as well as change management paired with classroom experience and a love of helping children learn. Megan has consulted with public and independent schools both domestically and internationally and enjoys synthesizing knowledge gained from working with a wide variety of schools to provide training and professional development for educators.
Dr. Maureen Cohen is the Assistant Superintendent in the Mendon-Upton Regional School District located in Mendon, Massachusetts. With twenty years experience in education, Maureen has worked across urban and suburban school settings in as a high school teacher, school building administrator and district leader. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College in government and legal studies; a master’s degree in political science and international relations from Northeastern University; and a doctorate in educational leadership from Northeastern University. Her doctoral research focused on the strategies high school administrators use in leading 1:1 schools in Massachusetts. A frequent presenter at the MSSAA Summer Institute and assistant principal conferences, her presentation topics include: Understanding your Leadership Style, Mentoring, Educator Evaluation, Common Core, and Web 2.0 for administrators. She has presented at MASScue on Transformational Leadership on her dissertation findings and MASS/MASC 2017 Conference on the topic of social-emotional learning. In 2012, Dr. Cohen was the MSSAA Massachusetts Assistant Principal of the Year and was selected as one of 3 national finalists for NASSP Assistant Principal of the Year. Currently, she serves as a member of the Grafton School Committee and as Co-Chair of the Blackstone Valley Curriculum Consortium.
You can follow her on her district website: http://mursdcurriculum.weebly.com/.