Making curriculum decisions for 2020-2021 due to COVID-19 is on every educator's mind—both addressing immediate learning concerns and prioritizing learning for the future. To discuss either, contact Janet to schedule a virtual meeting.

Category: Janet Hale Blog

I just returned a few days ago from attending the NSTA 2017 national conference in Los Angeles. I spent most of my time attending sessions in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) strand, given my on-going standards-based curriculum-design work with schools and districts.

During one session a presenter mentioned the Periodic Table of Elements and its organization, which got me thinking….

In 1869, Russian chemist, Dmitri Mendeleev, developed what has become known as the first periodic table. He arranged the elements according to their atomic mass and left spaces for undiscovered elements. His periodic table is a remarkable example of a scientist taking data and transforming it into usable information other scientists could then build upon, which is a hallmark of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs).

The subject areas of science, technology, engineering, and math, commonly referred to as STEM, are embedded throughout the NGSS and ask students to apply them authentically as both scientists and engineers. The cross-over of these four fields (five, if you include Arts for STEAM-based learning) enable students, similar to Mendeleev, to approach complex problems, collect necessary data, and synthesize and interpret findings.

These capabilities are in high-demand in our modern economy. Sadly, following the great recession(late 2007 until mid-2009), STEM job postings remained unfilled, according to Brookings:

“The shortage of STEM workers means that the gap in earnings and unemployment between STEM and non-STEM workers will worsen, exacerbating income inequality across all demographic groups,” said Rothwell. “Strategies to help the unemployed get jobs and low-wage workers improve their earnings should include improving educational and training opportunities to acquire STEM knowledge. Increased training in STEM fields like computer science and medicine will ease hiring for employers and lead to high-paying career paths for workers.”

This is why it is critical that NGSS-based curriculum and STEM/STEAM development must begin at the onset of students’ elementary education years and continue throughout their high school education.

Developing NGSS-based curriculum is challenging, but worthwhile and needed. Likewise, integrating STEM/STEAM into an existing curriculum framework is not a simple task. With any curriculum innovation, K-12 education leaders know they must be mindful of how these curriculum decisions will:

  • Affect their students’ abilities to reach determined STEM/STEAM milestones, while meeting or required NGSS 3-Dimensional education standards;
  • Ensure differentiated instruction and personalized learning opportunities; and
  • Provide adequate and embedded NGSS and STEM teacher training, including advancements in instructional technology.

Just like Mendeleev’s accomplishments nearly 150 years ago, we must create the best curriculum framework from what we know is in our students’ best interests today, and provide innovative opportunities for them by leaving room for future minds to improve upon it.

For expertise in how to design NGSS-based, three-dimensional curriculum and instruction, or incorporate STEM-based learning into your current curriculum development, please contact us at Curriculum Decisions.

Same goal, different day? You can achieve the success you’re seeking. Here’s how you can use past mistakes to your advantage.

Making mistakes is not inherently bad. In fact, if you are not making mistakes, then there is a good chance you are not growing. Calculated risk-taking demands comfort with both success and failure—and is a part of developing a Growth Mindset.

Mistakes are a natural outcome of trying something new. Adults become more risk-averse with age. Proper facilitation of leadership development naturally requires growth, and if mistakes are a natural part of growth, then learning how to positively deal with what you can learn from your mistakes is essential to meaningful leadership development.

You might know what is not working, but you might still be struggling to pinpoint exactly what is preventing you from reaching your goal. Bad habits are most often the result of simply repeating the same mistakes. Good or bad – habits rule actions when under stress.

Foresight, objective analysis and judgment, and sensitivity to others’ perceptions are key competencies of effective leaders. Unfortunately, one’s mind abandons these competencies and reverts to fight-or-flight responses when overly taxed – and what teacher or administrator do you know who does not live this reality every day! Therefore, to identify bad habits you must first recognize the mistakes you (or those you lead) keep repeating by taking these three steps:


1. ACKNOWLEDGE – Identify or clarify what you’ve been avoiding.

Actually, trying and risking failure is more troubling for some than not trying at all. Not trying is a way of keeping the hope alive that you can achieve your goal if you did actually try.

What are you (or those you lead) getting out of repeating this mistake? We don’t do things randomly. You’re getting something out of your bad habit. Unconscious feelings and motivations influence your actions. How can you get that same reward differently? Focus on figuring out how to replace the bad habit with a good habit that serves a similar reward.


2. ACCEPT – Abandon perfection.

Growth requires that your leadership development be continuous. Learning is a journey, not a destination. Therefore, thoughtfully consider (and accept)…

  • What worked for you to achieve success in the past may no longer be effective (or your proven strategy or solution may no longer be the optimal solution).
  • The reality that there are aspects beyond your control. There will always be external factors that can hinder your success but that is true for everyone.
  • Your weaknesses. We all have them! Focus on enhancing your strengths, and finding a colleague who can help you with your weaknesses. If your success toward a particular goal involves a particular weakness – reach out for help. Explore options for job coaching or staff development. Collaborating with someone who has skill sets that aid your weakness, is oftentimes a win-win because his or her weakness will be your strength!


3. ACT – Take action by gaining outside perspectives and assistance.

Leveraging others’ creativity or learning how they have dealt with similar problems can be advantageous, as long as you do not relinquish responsibility. For example, getting a personal trainer is a great idea, but it is not the personal trainer’s responsibility to get you in shape – you still have to own the process.

Through this reflective practice remember to – Be kind to yourself. Be patient. Be persistent.

Use your own creativity to innovate new solutions, new habits. Select three of the best solutions and make a plan to try them out over time. Testing different solutions will not only help you to develop a habit of creativity and innovation, but also will help you feel more comfortable with success – and failure.


Given today is Groundhog Day, it is not a day where you – once again – want to feel like it is going to be the same old day…the same old way.

January 6 is National Technology Day! 

Computing power continues to grow at an exponential rate while its relative cost decreases at an equal exponential rate. This phenomenon, known as Moore’s Law, once only applied to the technology function within an organization. As more organizational processes become technologically dependent, this is no longer the case. Big data, social media, mobility, technological device size, student analytics, and other technological evolutions are disrupting school districts’ processes in big ways.

Is your school district’s technology transforming too quickly? Or is it not changing fast enough? Are your in-house experts struggling to adapt your district’s systems and processes to keep pace?

Many school districts responded by increasing technology spending, but continue to struggle with which technologies to use, where to use them, and the fastest, most cost-effective route to implement and maintain technology’s use in the classroom.

The question for public, charter, and parochial schools alike is: how do you leapfrog to the forefront of the technology frontier without losing sight of the need for meeting education standards, differentiated instruction, and of course, the budget?

Successfully reacting to these advancements demands a balance between disruption and transformation. In educational consulting, I help with more than just curriculum development. I also work with K-12 Educational Leadership in schools and districts to optimize curriculum decisions related to the complex challenges posed by the exponential growth of technology.

  • Privacy and Student Information – Tracking specific information on student development is necessary to provide students, both for general education and those with special needs, with adequate support related to personalized learning, as well as access to the incredible interactions now available to students and teachers through social media.
  • Technology Integration – Given the first quarter of the 21st century has almost passed by, integrating technology into a curriculum framework requires more than just considering its educational benefit to students. They must have access to global connectivity. Responsible K-12 education leaders must consider overcoming their current barriers to access. This includes the purchase and maintenance costs, adequate teacher training, and determine how to allow for students need for local and global access while maintaining required privacy.
  • Curriculum Innovation – Technological advancements affect both HOW and WHAT students learn inside and outside of the classroom. A successful school or district must look beyond just how to integrate technology into the classroom. It must build flexibility into its core curriculum to meet the exponentially evolving needs of students to develop their 21st Century skills. It must also consider how traditional teaching tools, like textbooks, fit together with access to Open Education Resources (OER) as prescribed by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).


Virtual technology, 3D printing, and the Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming commonplace in more and more classrooms. For me, the future of education is very exciting! As much as we talk about looking forward, effective schools and districts strategize by pausing to contemplate how to best build deliberate procedures around the connections among technology, student access, and meaningful interactions with the world as part of their curriculum evaluation process. This is imperative because if we don’t know where we’ve been, how can we figure out how to get to where we need to go?

To discuss your curriculum concerns, please contact me using this form.

Special Education Day on December 2nd marks the 41st anniversary of the passage of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

I have had the pleasure of working with this special-to-my-heart population since I was 12 years old! I taught swimming lessons to mentally challenged children on the military base where I lived in Korea, as well as taught English to Korean blind children in an orphanage near Seoul on weekends.

In honor of students with special needs, and the educators who are passionate about their educational and personal lives, let’s take a quick look at how the new federal education legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), affects five aspects related to special education students.


K-12 Education Funding

The ESSA allows for more flexibility in types of Curriculum Design for students with special needs. It provides (and wants) more state and localized control over how budgets are allocated based on each student’s specific learning needs.


Education Standards

While parents and guardians of children with special needs can opt their children out of statewide academic assessments, if permitted by state law, the number of severely cognitively impaired students using specialized assessments aligned to alternative education standards cannot exceed 1% of all students within the state. It will be interesting to see how this restriction will affect curriculum decisions made at for the state educational agency (SEA) and local education agency (LEA) levels.


Differentiated Instruction

According to the ESSA, key decisions about each special-needs student’s assessment, education, and social-emotional requirements are best made through the continued use of a multidisciplinary individualized education program (IEP) team. Specialized Instructional Support Personnel (SISPs) will still assist students with significant cognitive disabilities but can also be used for early intervention. Given my Special Education degree and experience through the years, having IEPs in place that are truly personalized to each student’s capabilities is a powerful tool to personalize learning relative to content, instruction, and assessment accommodations.


Technology Integration

And speaking of assessment accommodations, schools must continue to provide special-needs students with access to personalized accommodations, including the use assistive instructional technology. It is important to note, that technology integration must also be considers, as with general education, to be used to enhance a students’ learning experience. Students with special needs equally enjoy interactions that are only capable through technology integration, such as virtual “live” interactions (e.g., Skype, Google Hangout) and VR (virtual reality) experiences

Privacy and Student Information

Select data regarding student development must still be detailed to ensure students, particularly students with special education needs, obtain the support they need. Thankfully, privacy is still paramount.

For more information on specific provisions of the new legislation, please visit U.S. Department of Education web site and the National Education Association’s ESSA information page.

If you need to make curriculum decisions related to regular or special education learning or teaching, contact me to assist you in your decision-making process.

National STEM / STEAM Day occurred on November 8th. In the midst of the U.S. presidential election, it seemed to get lost in the mix.

STEM is a curriculum design focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. It’s close cousin – STEAM is a curriculum framework focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. Some view the inclusion of the arts, especially visual arts, inherent when involved in engineering (e.g., form, function, aesthetics). Others believe that fully articulated arts integration is essential to enhance a STEM curriculum.

Regardless, in curriculum evaluation, superintendents, school principals, and others involved in K-12 educational leadership must consider how their curriculum not only connects to education standards, differentiated instruction, advancements in instructional technology, but also how units of study can ensure STEM / STEAM experiences.

Schools and districts are not the only ones putting time and resources behind STEM. More and more corporations’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) platforms provide money and human capital into STEM programs nationwide.

For instance, JetBlue through its foundation established in 2013, focuses on STEM education specifically to encourage students to think about careers in aviation. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) created “A World in Motion,” a standards-based STEM program for K-8 education that is administered by teachers who are assisted by volunteers in the industry.

General Motors supports FIRST, a program that focuses on building STEM skills and 21st century skills, such as teamwork, communication, and collaboration for students in grades K-12 through mentor-based robotics programs.


Cisco, Pepsico, BP, Sodexo, Walmart, Johnson & Johnson, Tata, Cengage Learning, Apollo Education Group, MIND Research Institute, UST Global, and other major companies have come together to form the STEMconnector. This was the first nationwide attempt to identify, classify, and analyze STEM programs across the U.S, especially those centered on women and minorities. They selected four areas of importance:

  1. Engaging the next generation in food and agricultural industry STEM-based careers.
  2. Supporting boundary-breaking collaborations between higher education and industry to meet the education and training needs of a global STEM workforce.
  3. Developing STEM human capital through innovation.
  4. Engaging one million STEM mentors (male and female) to increase the interest and confidence of girls and women to persist and succeed in STEM programs and careers through the Million Women Mentors program.

Since its creation in 2011, the alliance now includes 147 corporations, educational institutions, and nonprofits. Their directory includes 5,000+ STEM organization and programmatic profiles. Incredibly, STEMconnector identified one million students with an interest in STEM and mapped their educational journeys to STEM-related jobs in all 50 states.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), like many companies, see STEM as an investment in our future human capital. For K-12 education, this private-sector interest allows schools and districts nationwide to tap into a pool of resources and support structures outside of traditional public-sector funding.

For more information on how to fully incorporate STEM/STEAM-based learning, standards, and technology into your curriculum development, please contact me.

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