MEMO: Questions about Curriculum
DATE: November 2, 2021
Schools across the country have come under scrutiny the last few months for a variety of reasons. Topics around Critical Race Theory, social emotional learning, and, most recently, library books are all questions on the national level. With so much information out there, we thought it would be helpful to get information out to all parents in case you had similar questions and to clarify how these issues are addressed here at I-35.
Critical Race Theory (CRT): In the Spring the Iowa Legislature voted to pass HF 802 which requires the superintendent to ensure “any curriculum or mandatory staff or student training provided by an employee of the school district or by a contractor hired by the school district does not teach, advocate, encourage, promote, or act upon specific stereotyping and scapegoating toward others on the basis of demographic group membership or identity.” Even prior to this being law, I-35 teachers were not engaged in teaching Critical Race Theory. We advocate that our students become critical thinkers, not indoctrinated into any one way of thinking. If you suspect that your student is being subject to one specific way of thinking, please contact your student’s teacher to discuss your concerns. If you suspect your student is being taught Critical Race Theory (or any equally concerning curriculum) as a part of indoctrination, please contact me at email@example.com or 641-765-4291.
Social Emotional Learning (SEL): At I-35 we value teaching our students how to advocate, how to solve problems, how to respect different opinions, how to finish tasks, how to show compassion, etc. Our guidance counselors and teachers take these lessons to students throughout the year to reinforce the values we have. Two years ago, our counselors--with the support of the administrators recommended the Second Step SEL curriculum to help create consistency in teaching/reinforcing these values. I was asked if the Second Step (SEL) Curriculum is required. In short, no, the Second Step (SEL) curriculum is not required. So, why do we use it?
The State and our guidance department uses ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success: K-12 College and Career Readiness Standards for Every Student. It is broken into three general domains: Academic Development, Career Development, and Social/Emotional Development. The domains have 35 standards that can be applied. Schools choose the standards that best work given the context of the school. Below is a sample of those standards.
Category 1 Mindset Standards include
M1 Belief in development of the whole self, including a healthy balance of mental, social/emotional and physical well-being.
M2 Self-confidence in ability to succeed.
M3 Sense of belonging in the school environment.
M4 Understanding the Postsecondary education and life-long learning are necessary for long-term career success.
M5 Belief in using abilities to their fullest to achieve high quality results and outcomes.
M6 Positive attitude toward work and learning.
Category 2 Behavior Standards include Learning Strategies (LS), Self-Management Strategies (SMS) and Social Skills (SS). Examples of these include
B-LS1 Demonstrate critical thinking skills to make informed decisions.
B-LS2 Demonstrate creativity
B-LS3 Use time-management, organizational and study skills
B-SMS1 Demonstrate the ability to assume responsibility
B-SMS2 Demonstrate self-discipline and self-control
B-SMS3 Demonstrate the ability to work independently
B-SS1 Use effective oral and written communication skills and listening skills
B-SS2 Create positive and supportive relationships with other students
B-SS3 Create relationships with adults that support success.
The Second Step (SEL) curriculum that we use supports the above standards for students in the guidance curriculum. A full list of this curriculum is available at the school and we are working to get it on the district website as well. If you would like to review the curriculum, please let your building principal know to schedule a time.
Library Catalog: Our current card catalog is up and listed on the website. This was on the old site and when the transition to the new website happened last year, the link was inadvertently deleted. It is located under each building and also on the district site under the learning menu. If you have any questions about specific titles in the library, please let Paula Schultz, our librarian, or myself know. We do have a reconsideration policy to work through this process.
Once we began to see the conversations happening at the national level, I checked our library for the titles that were questionable. We do not have any of those titles available in our circulation for students to check out. Our librarian focuses on subject relevance, age appropriateness, language, and theme when purchasing books for our students. This isn’t to say that we won’t have resources in the library that may have controversial topics--we just try to balance the books available for students to current topics with topics students are asking for--in light of the subject relevance, age appropriateness, language, and theme.
If you have any additional questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 641-765-4291.