Teachers and school administrators across South Carolina now have access to a resource designed to connect their teaching and learning to a set of state standards. It’s due to a new partnership between Anderson School District Five and the Department of Education.
The Anderson district developed its own school curriculum, which has been used and reworked over the last nine years.
This fall, the Department of Education purchased curriculum rights from Anderson District Five at a one-time cost of $673,000. All 53 school districts in the state already have access to a statewide curriculum standard at no cost on the Department’s website. Now that curriculum, called the South Carolina Standards Support System(or S3), which serves as a kind of default curriculum for the state’s schools, will be enhanced using the Anderson material. The curriculum focuses on standards in the core academic areas of English and language arts, math, science and social studies.
Thirty-two local districts at some point have already purchased the Anderson curriculum for their own use.
Department of Education Deputy for Standards and Learning Valerie Harrison says the contract with Anderson is exciting. “We’ll be able to benefit from the nine years of reviewing that they’ve done,” says Harrison. “We just started ours a little more than a year ago so the piece we have will be strengthened greatly.”
State Superintendent Jim Rex says that the Anderson curriculum has already been tested successfully by more than a third of the state’s school districts.
Harrison says the enhanced statewide curriculum will help teachers to pace themselves through the instructional standards they have to focus on. “You hear teachers say that there are so many standards and they can’t teach them in a year,” says Harrison. “This kind of organizes them based on content, to help the teachers organize their lessons, that will help them to teach all that they need to in a given year.”
District Five Superintendent Betty Bagley says money from the sale of the curriculum material will be used to help in revising the curriculum.
Harrison says the statewide curriculum will be used around the state more and more. But she says while some states have more pronounced use of statewide curriculum, there is never a mandatory curriculum.
“This is an optional tool, about improving student achievement,” says Harrison. “That’s what we continue to focus on. It’s like if you’re a teacher and you want some flexibility in your classroom. With a mandatory curriculum you’re not able to meet the needs of your students. Teachers can use the curriculum if it fits their students. That’s really important.”
Officials say the statewide curriculum will help realize Dr. Rex’s vision of leveling the learning field for all students, no matter where they live or attend school.