As we settle into a new year, Curriculum Trak would like to thank you for the opportunity to serve you in 2021 and wish you a very healthy and happy new year!
From our vantage point, this past year seems to have been about nourishing the roots that support the best educational outcomes rather than branching out into new territory. Much like any great tree during uncertain times, in 2021 educators seemed to instinctively focus on pulling their resources to support their core practices, shedding extraneous things, and driving their roots deeper into their main priorities. That is certainly true for us here at Curriculum Trak as we leaned into our efforts to support faith-based educators (those are our roots, after all!) and refocus on our efforts to play the supporting role we are designed to play for schools like yours. We have heard similar things from many of you. As you worked to adapt to new (and still changing) realities in the area of education, much of your energy was devoted to making these new expectations work. This past year was not a year to explore, or test, or branch out into new practices or initiatives. It was a year to return to the basics. Some have even described their practices as “survival mode” with a determined focus on only those elements most necessary for living, flourishing, and future growth.
It is from that perspective that we reflect on 2021 and are excited about the possibilities of 2022. Would you join us as we make a few observations about the year? Ultimately, we hope to have you join us as we move forward together.
Reflecting on 2021
We saw an either/or approach to curriculum mapping. This past year brought unprecedented challenges for school leaders and teachers. As we attempted to serve schools, we noticed a heightened level of intentionality in what school leaders chose to spend their energies, time, and capital on. This led to two very interesting results:
- For some, this led to even higher engagement with Curriculum Trak. Our training and support questions seemed to go much deeper than ever before. Schools were digging into their curriculum planning and instructional efforts. Teachers, instructional leaders, and administrators were looking for ways to make curriculum mapping a relevant and helpful practice for everyone involved, not just a task to be completed. It became clear that educators no longer had time to simply check boxes and complete tasks. They needed to be engaged in real work that made a difference. We were grateful for the opportunity to support these efforts and enjoyed being kept on our toes as we tried to respond to questions and provide training and support.
- Others had to put their mapping efforts on hold to focus on other things. This was very understandable. Many schools are still dealing with hybrid instruction and changing technology platforms to support remote learning. Others are struggling with staffing shortages and changing health protocols. Most teachers still feel overextended on a regular basis. So, we respect the decisions some instructional leaders made to prioritize other things. If your school is in this category, we do want to make sure that you know we are ready to help you dive back into your curriculum mapping efforts in meaningful and relevant ways when the time is right.
We got intentional about training and support. Due partially to the increased demand by schools who needed to go deeper with their instructional efforts, combined with reduced demand by schools who needed to prioritize other things, we realized that the time was right to overhaul our support opportunities.
- PD Seats Included. One of the major changes we implemented this past year involved including training opportunities in every standard Curriculum Trak account. This training takes the form of “professional development seats” that can be used in a variety of ways, and these seats renew annually. We have been honored to see the many ways schools have opted to take advantage of their PD seats, from staff training webinars to CT Certification and beyond. In 2022, we hope to see an increased use of these credits, and invite you to contact Support should you like to discuss your specific needs and how we might be able to meet those. (Find out more here.)
- Expanded Use of Curriculum Trak Features. As some schools have leaned into their curriculum mapping efforts, we have seen growth in the use of some of the key Curriculum Trak features beyond basic mapping and unit planning. This is a natural outgrowth of a goal to make curriculum planning and review relevant and useful. We saw more schools begin to use the Curriculum Trak Lesson Planner as many schools seek to connect their daily instruction more closely to their guaranteed curriculum plans (maps and unit plans). But, we have also seen expanded use of our Faith Learning Integration content as schools lean into their biblical integration efforts and mission alignment practices. We have also seen an explosion of standards alignment into non-core areas, including Bible, the arts, and technology. We are grateful to be able to serve schools as they seek to make their planned curriculum more useful and relevant to every learner.
- The Curriculum Trak Community Continues to Grow. While 2021 was not a record-breaking year for us in terms of adding new schools (although we are grateful for the significant growth we did experience), we saw more connections formed among Curriculum Trak schools. It is really a huge honor for us to be a part of the growth of this community. It seems as though periods of isolation and social distancing have changed the way we educators want to connect. We expect our network to be engaging, relevant, and applicable to our daily and professional lives. The Curriculum Trak community is growing into such a network. More and more schools are taking advantage of our map sharing program and the ability to import high quality maps from like-minded schools. We have seen steady enrollment in our CT Certification program, and there have even been rumors of regional or local interactions among CT Certification users. Our list of publisher partnerships continued to grow over the past year (stay tuned for some announcements soon!), and we have received some great engagement from our efforts to expand our blog as a base for communications and networking among our community. We look forward to even more opportunities to promote connections, thought sharing, and encouragement through the Curriculum Trak community in the next year.
- We have expanded our support team! In the last quarter of 2021, we decided to proactively expand our support team to allow for even more focus and engagement in the coming year. We posted the position in November and received a record number of applicants. Our new support person joined the team on the first day of this year (be watching for a later post to introduce her to you), but we were honored, once again, by the response from the Curriculum Trak network and the number of highly-qualified candidates who, like us, are ultimately seeking to serve faith-based schools.
- We are developing a staff evaluation tool. Throughout some of the slower months over the past year, we began exploring what else members of the Curriculum Trak community would like to do with their curriculum data. Based on some of the feedback we received, we realized that many school leaders are looking for ways to support staff evaluation and reflection efforts. So, we began designing a feature within Curriculum Trak to support those efforts. We are excited to announce that the Curriculum Trak Staff Evaluation module will be available as an add-on to your Curriculum Trak account very soon. Stay tuned for more details!
Overall, this past year was a year of increased depth. We saw many schools digging deeper into their curriculum planning and instruction, and that led us to dig deeper in our approach to training and support. These “below the surface” efforts have us excited to see what next year will bring!
Looking Forward to 2022
As we look at the year ahead, we are excited to imagine what can grow from the deepening roots. We also wonder how we might be able to help you in that regard. So, we invite you to let us know what we can do to better serve your school.
- Could we provide some training or support to help you relaunch your mapping efforts? A wide range of opportunities are built into your annual fee. We would be happy to meet with you to explore what options might work best for you.
- Maybe you would like to see some of our expanded features—the lesson planner, faith learning content, or our coming staff evaluations tool. We are happy to provide a demo, answer questions, or provide specific examples of how schools are using these features.
- Do you need a refresh or support reviewing what you have and where your school might need to go next? If you are new to leading your school’s mapping efforts, or just have not had a chance to explore it recently, we would be happy to provide a guided tour, answer your questions, or point you toward some of the best reports or processes to meet your current needs.
- Do you have thoughts, experiences, or ideas related to curriculum planning and instruction you would like to share with our growing community? The Curriculum Trak community is a gold mine of faith-based educators who are engaged in thinking through the latest educational trends and even cutting-edge practices. We believe that by working together all students and teachers can grow. We also believe that you have something to share, and we would be happy to receive it.
Regardless of what 2022 brings for you, we are honored to have the opportunity to play a part in that. We wish you and yours all the best and look forward to celebrating with you the visible growth this year will bring. Contact support (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to explore any of these opportunities, or discuss how Curriculum Trak can better support your planning efforts in 2022.
Photo by Sincerely Media from Unsplash