Gahanna-Jefferson Curriculum Overview (continued)
Following this guiding principle, we have established high expectations for our students and hold ourselves accountable by setting benchmarks and other indicators for each course that are correlated to the State of Ohio Content Standards. Beyond the core courses of math, science, language arts and social studies, students are provided a balanced curriculum that includes courses in art, music, technical education, health and physical education with talented specialists in every building. Middle and high school students can select from a variety of classes in vocal, instrumental and string music, and options in an international language study in German, French, Latin, Mandarin Chinese or Spanish. Many extracurricular and curricular options abound for students to explore and develop their interests.
The district offers a variety of programs and differentiated instructional strategies to successfully meet the individual needs of each child, ranging from special education services for students with various handicaps to enrichment and accelerated classes for gifted and talented students. Our students also benefit from a wealth of experience offered by district psychologists, counselors, speech pathologists, nurses, and academic intervention specialists. Intervention programs conducted after school, in the classroom and in the summer assist struggling students with academic needs in various subject areas, especially reading and math.
The excellence of the Gahanna-Jefferson curriculum is maintained through a focus on quality approaches enabling us to use the latest research methods in a systematic way. Teachers are provided with professional development opportunities which increase the understanding of how we learn, specifically how the brain processes information, and provide strategies to reach the unique needs of each child, differentiating the learning experiences for all. Teachers are encouraged to give students opportunities to express their knowledge, their understanding and their questions in many different forums. Our new teachers are provided year-long mentors and monthly seminars to assist them in their first-year experience. Veteran teachers continue to be engaged in meaningful work that allows them to research, reflect and continue to deepen their understanding of student learning and the various content areas.
Using these quality strategies supports the district's goal of developing appropriate methods of assessment to ensure continuous progress and promote lifelong learning. A concerted effort to keep class sizes small has allowed teachers to meet the needs of the individual learner consistently by personalizing instruction and developing positive relationships with students. Our district's comprehensive improvement plan calls for class size caps be 25 or fewer students per teacher at the high school and three middle schools. At the seven elementary schools class sizes are 24 or less in grades 3-5 and 22 or less in grades K-2.
Comprehensive Improvement Plans at both the district and building levels hold us accountable and provide a guide to accomplishing measurable improvements in the schools' and district's performance.
In this global society, the district integrates technology education into daily lesson plans offering unlimited potential for customized learning. Teachers use technology as they explore content, developing students' competency and building expertise. A state-of-the-art technology training center provides technical support for staff and students during the day and for the community in the evenings.
Our students learn in an environment that fosters academic excellence, self-discipline, respect for different cultures, physical and mental fitness and parent/community involvement. Students' individual needs may be met through traditional or special/alternative educational options.
What is a Standards-based Education?
Our district approach to teaching and learning is standards-based education.
Standards-based education is a process for planning, delivering, monitoring and improving academic programs in which clearly defined academic content standards provide the basis for content in instruction and assessment. In standards-based education, the standards help to ensure that students learn what is important, rather than allowing textbooks to dictate classroom practice. Student learning is the focus of standards-based education. Standards-based education aims for higher and deeper level of what students should know, understand and be able to do.
Standards-based education is the underlying district philosophy behind the core academic areas-mathematics, English/language arts, social studies and science.
Mathematical literacy is essential to becoming an informed and competent citizen. This literacy involves understanding mathematical principles, developing mathematical ways of thinking, and developing fluency with numbers. Students develop this literacy by actively doing mathematics - using their skills and knowledge to explore and solve problems, investigating mathematical ideas, and explaining what they see.
The Gahanna-Jefferson mathematics program focuses on the meaningful development of mathematical knowledge through a standards-based approach that emphasizes the following:
- Conceptual understanding - less rote learning and memorization of procedures and a greater emphasis on spatial reasoning and conceptually-based learning
- Mathematical connections - the understanding of underlying mathematical concepts and the importance of learning to make connections within mathematics and between mathematics and the world
- Mathematical thinking and communication - students convey their mathematical ideas in written and verbal form and are encouraged to articulate their thinking and justify it to others
- Problem solving and mathematical reasoning - students learn to develop and apply differentiation strategies for investigating mathematical content and solving problems motivated by situations and applications that give them meaning
- Exploration - learning occurs through exploration and discussion of mathematical ideas rather than memorizing a teacher-directed set of procedures to follow. Students make conjectures and investigate them, explain their reasoning, and work individually and in groups to solve problems
- Listening - Teachers listen closely to their students' ideas, analyzing them to learn where student understanding is firm and where it is still developing, and planning lessons to move their students' understanding forward
Children who develop their own approaches based on mathematical reasoning, rather than relying on mathematical procedures, become better, more flexible mathematicians. Mathematics, when taught in a standards-based classroom, becomes "the power of thought" rather than "the power of facts" to build student mathematical literacy.
English Language Arts
The instructional philosophy of our district is to teach language arts through a balanced literacy approach. In this comprehensive literacy vision, teachers scaffold students' reading, writing, and thinking through demonstration, shared demonstration, guided practice, independent practice, response and feedback, and ongoing assessment. In creating this vision teachers work to:
- Establish a safe, caring, risk-taking, collaborative classroom
- Demonstrate reading, writing and thinking processes
- Teach explicitly
- Gradually release the responsibility of skills and strategies to the students
- Discuss quality text in many genres
- Extend text through oral and written response as well as through the arts
- Use resources - books, technology, peers, etc.
- Provide useful feedback and response to students
- Promote and inspire inquiry across the curriculum
- Provide for choice and plentiful reading and writing opportunities
- Guide and support students in becoming independent, lifelong learners
In working to embrace these practices, teachers rely on critical instructional components. These components are the foundation for what is taught as learners gradually move from dependence to independence. The degree and intensity of support the learner requires to be successful determines how instruction is structured. The components are:
- Reading Aloud
- Shared Reading
- Guided Reading
- Literature Study
- Independent Reading
- Modeled Writing
- Shared Writing
- Interactive Writing
- Guided Writing
- Independent Writing
- Word Study
Effective social studies integrate history, geography, economics, political science, humanities and social sciences enabling each young person to experience the connected nature of land and people, and the human experience in a developmentally appropriate way. Our program is aligned with the Ohio Social Studies Standards and the National Council for Social Studies. The framework is based on seven standards: History, People in Societies, Geography, Economics, Government, Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities, and Social Studies Skills and Methods.
Within our district we have an emphasis on helping students develop the skills necessary to make informed and reasoned decisions and to actively participate as a responsible citizen in our community, state and world. By learning about significant people, places, events and issues in the past, it better helps us to understand the present. The course of study is one that promotes learning by building on skills learned from kindergarten through 12th grade and is expanded through experiential learning and reading non-fiction and historical fiction texts that give students an appreciation of how people lived, why they made the decisions they did and the challenges they faced.
Science is one of many ways people explore and understand the natural world. Making discoveries and building understandings of the natural world through the scientific endeavor rely upon making observations, drawing inferences, and exploring testable hypotheses. The target of scientific activity is the development of operational understandings of how the world works. Our science program embraces this philosophy and consists of an articulated comprehensive set of engaging and challenging science activities which will consistently and incrementally develop powerful scientific literacy in the following six standards: Earth and Space, Life, Physical, Science and Technology, Scientific Inquiry, and Scientific Ways of Knowing.
In the classroom, students are provided many opportunities to develop and maintain the essential skills that form the basis for scientific lifelong learning and investigation of the natural world. Classroom materials integrate science content and scientific inquiry while students build investigative skills with a wide variety of hands-on experiences, critical thinking exercise, and problem-solving opportunities.