"It's a huge undertaking for a tiny district with a few people doing this work,
but I do believe that it's well worth the effort and time and energy that we've put into it."
Wilma Kozai, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction, Grandview School District, Washington
Wilma Kozai is the assistant superintendent of teaching and learning in Grandview, Washington's agricultural valley. Coming from San Diego, where she also held an assistant superintendent's role, Kozai has developed a strong set of beliefs about teaching, and what constitutes good instruction for the 3,600 students in her district.
Kozai works with a small team of independent consultants who provide units of study based on open educational resources (OER) that they collect and organize. These units (see sample 11th grade poetry unit here and screenshot of lesson 1 below), which are replacements for traditional textbook instructional materials, are then reviewed by the consultants, instructional coaches and classroom educators. They look for issues related to sequencing, alignment with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and their relevance to classroom instruction for both educators and students. This is an iterative process; units are revised as needed each year.
Grandview School District Sample OER Unit- (11th grade poetry, Lesson 1):
Even before the addition of the CCSS, Kozai was passionate about equity and access to a quality education for all students.
"Education should not matter based on the school you are in, or the teachers you have," Kozai says. For Kozai and her team, the CCSS imparts a common vision for creating curriculum and instructional design in the district.
With the adoption of CCSS, Kozai was challenged to find instructional materials that were truly aligned to the standards.
"A lot of publishers said 'we are aligned,' but they were not," Kozai explains. "They made some modifications or changes, but [they] were not strong...they may have added a few pieces, but along with that we wanted context."
Kozai and her colleagues in Grandview have completely rewritten their K-12 curriculum and replaced all textbooks with openly licensed resources. Since beginning this process six years ago, the district has worked in partnership with the University of Washington, where Kozai herself consults in support and leadership roles. She has helped to create strong teachers and administrative leaders, who know the curriculum, are knowledgeable about the process of using open resources, and are active participants in the classroom.
Kozai's team has utilized open resources through a variety of sources including Engage NY and Odell Education. At the end of the 2014-15 school year, Kozai and a group of other superintendents applied for an OER User Group Grant in the area of "ensuring adherence to licensing permissions, proper open resource attribution, and wide scale dissemination of district-generated core instructional materials." As part of her grant, Kozai's team works with Barbara Soots from OSPI to provide guidance and information on licensing permissions and attributions.
Kozai sees the value of OER on many levels, especially as a long-term investment.
"If you buy a textbook adoption, that book is yours for maybe seven years," Kozai says. "We feel our units are living documents; every year we go back, and our students are getting stronger. What might have been taught years ago in 6th grade is now [covered] in 5th."
Writing instruction in particular is one area that Kozai says demonstrates the high quality materials that Grandview is creating.
"Now we have kindergartners producing writing by the end of the year," she explains. "They would not have done that three years ago."
Kozai feels strongly that her district's self-created units are more rigorous than any other curriculum, in large part because of the district's teaching philosophy.
"Our goal is to get students to be independent readers, writers, and thinkers. How do we build that independence?" According to Kozai, published textbooks do not include questions related to deeper meaning and synthesis. She wants the students in her district to learn how to write arguments that are based on evidence, policy, and justification of research, which the teachers learn first.
"It [our professional development] is an intense process," Kozai says. "Teachers have to do the work before they can teach it. We have lots of professional development; they do the math before they teach it, and they have to make meaning of the story- do the writing... our professional development is ongoing ...and there is lots and lots of support."
Kozai knows that her team will always need to review units, even those that are complete. She would like to continue current work on assessments, and would like to ensure that new teachers come into their positions with units ready to be taught.
"It's a huge undertaking for a tiny district with a few people doing this work," Kozai says, but "I do believe that it's well worth the effort and time and energy that we've put into it."
Wilma Kozai, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction
Grandview School District, Washington