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  • What are Cornerstones?

    Cornerstones are engaging, rigorous, in-depth lessons and tasks that are taught within – not in addition to or on top of – the DCPS curriculum. Students will begin experiencing Cornerstones in the 2017-18 school year. In this first year, Cornerstones will be taught across grade levels and content areas including ELA, math, science, and social studies, and will include cross-disciplinary connections to health, physical education, career and technical education, and the arts.
    Cornerstones advance research-based content-specific instructional models, such as close reading, inquiry-based math, Paideia seminars, novel study, and research projects, and will each lead to a variety of meaningful student work products such as, but not limited to, essays, oral presentations, musical pieces, or art products. 
    Why are we launching this initiative?
    After looking at feedback on this year’s PD cycle and on our curriculum guides, we believe that organizing that body of work around high-quality lessons and tasks, and collaborating to elevate the rigorous, engaging work possible with our materials, will help us continuously improve our work for students and with each other. Our district has invested in high-quality curriculum materials and job-embedded supports for educators that are aligned to our vision for excellent instruction, but we are still facing varying levels of investment and implementation in our schools and community.  As we take on our next level of work, we need a curriculum and professional learning strategy that supports rigorous content, academic ownership, and continuous improvement in every classroom – while also investing and inspiring teachers, parents and the community. 
    What will the Cornerstones experience be like for students?
    Cornerstones are going to offer students rigorous, fun learning experiences that they remember well into adulthood.  Cornerstones will be a seamless part of instruction for students as they will fit within our existing curriculum and connect to what is being taught. At the same time, the quality of the experience should have an impact on students as they will be engaging in activities that are memorable, valuable, and relevant.  
    How many Cornerstones will we do next year? When will they be taught?
    Our K-8 students will experience four Cornerstones next year, approximately once per quarter.  Time will be set aside within appropriate curriculum guides to support the implementation of Cornerstones: 
    • Grade K- 2: 2 ELA/SS, 1 Math, 1 Sci
    • Grade 3-5: 2 ELA/SS, 1 Math, 1 Sci
    • Grade 6-8: 1 ELA, 1 Math, 1 Sci, 1 SS
    Our high school students will experience Cornerstones in:
    • 1 English I
    • 1 Algebra I
    • 1 Biology
    • 1 American History
    Who is creating Cornerstones?
    In many cases, we plan to “elevate” moments in our existing curriculum for focus, such as the rich performance tasks included, but not always taught, in our materials.  Where appropriate lessons or tasks don’t exist in our current resources, we plan to work with our peers in other districts and non-profits who have already developed high quality tasks so that we can customize their work for our context. In rarer instances when there is no good starting point for us, we’ll develop Cornerstones from scratch locally.  No matter the original source of the lessons and tasks, Duval County teacher leaders serving as Cornerstones Curators will work with district content specialists to vet content and provide excellent guidance on implementation to the field.  See more information on Curators below.
    How does this relate to our Instructional Implementation Teams and our professional learning structures?
    Next year, we plan to organize much of our leadership and teacher professional development around the implementation of Cornerstones.  We think that this will be an effective strategy because the lessons and tasks themselves embody our vision for excellent instruction; if we use these to calibrate our expectations and offer supports for successful implementation, the goal is that this learning will transfer across the full year of instruction.  Structures of release time, common planning, teacher and leader professional development sessions and other supports should coherently align with the priorities of Cornerstones.

    What are the hallmarks of effective Cornerstones? How will we decide if something is good enough to use?
    Only Cornerstones that meet the following criteria will be implemented in the field:
    • Focuses on some of important learning for the year and is seamlessly integrated into our curriculum
    • Gives opportunities for interdisciplinary learning
    • Model the four pillars of our vision for excellent instruction
    • Provides a special, memorable, or relevant experience for students that help them see themselves as part of a greater community
    • Leads to a meaningful student product that can be recorded and celebrated in a digital learning portfolio
    What resources and teaching materials will be provided for each Cornerstones experience?
    Complete Cornerstones sets will include:
    • A full teachers guide, including an overview page, daily lesson plans, rubrics and student work samples (some this year, more in future years)
    • Lesson supporting materials
    • Student work rubrics
    • Student work samples (some this year, more in future years)
    How much instructional time does executing a Cornerstones take?
    Cornerstones can range from one lesson up to fifteen, but remember, they will be built in to our curriculum guides.  Some multi-lesson Cornerstones should be done in sequence, and some will be spread out through the unit.  Here are two examples of the kinds of work we’d be talking about as Cornerstones, showing how this work can take different amounts of time.  Keep in mind that these are just illustrative samples; we are going to work with teacher leaders to select and curate our Cornerstones.

    2-Lesson Sample Cornerstones

    5th Grade Math: The Value of an Education

    Students practice computation with decimals as they model the real-world question, “What is the value of an education?” Each student is provided with an identity that includes an education level and related median income level. Students calculate differences and draw conclusions on the value of additional education in lifetime income.

    10-Lesson Sample Cornerstones

    High School Physics: Solar Cooker

    Students use a simplified equation to create a computational model to test the effects of changes in various elements on the oven temperature by keeping all variables constant in each simulation and changing only the variable being tested.  The students then plot and compare the data for each simulation. The simplified equation relates the thermal energy (as measured by the change in the temperature of the box) to the amount of solar energy hitting the walls of the box (affected by solar flux and the area of the window in the box) and to the other design components of the box (area, efficiency of box design, and thermal resistance of the box material). Students use their analysis to design improved solar cookers.


    What is the timeline in developing Cornerstones?
    We plan to work swiftly to develop Cornerstones this spring and summer so that teachers and leader have what they need to plan for the year ahead.  Here is a tentative timeline for this work:



    Cornerstones topics

    May 15, 2017

    Coversheets and basic descriptions for all four Cornerstones

    June 18, 2017

    Complete Cornerstones #1(to be taught in Semester 1)

    July 22, 2017

    Complete Cornerstones #2 (to be taught in Semester 2)

    August 7, 2017


    How will teachers and leaders access Cornerstone materials?
    All Cornerstones materials will be available on BlackBoard where teachers already access curriculum guides.
    How does the unit summative assessment fit with Cornerstones assignments?
    Cornerstones will be designed to align with the standards addressed in our curriculum guides. Teaching Cornerstones will support students in demonstrating proficiency on unit summative assessments.  


    Educator Engagement

    Are teachers involved in shaping this body of work?
    Teachers are front and center in this initiative.  We launched this project with a teacher survey that asked practitioners to identify moments in our curriculum that they thought were worthy of deeper study, either because of the rich opportunities for extension, or because current content was difficult to bring to life. This information informed initial proposals for which Cornerstones to develop.
    In addition, we’ve introduced a teacher leadership role to give us more intensive guidance from the field on this project. These leaders are called Cornerstones Curators; they will help inform the development and implementation of specific Cornerstones. 
    • Provide input on which configuration of Cornerstones we should implement next year
    • Share ideas on how to transform proposed lessons and tasks into Cornerstones to be used in the field
    • Provide input about the kind of professional development teachers will want and need to bring Cornerstones to life
    • Share your reflections on implementation, samples of student work, and pictures and videos from your classroom so that we can refine our approach and make Cornerstones better year over year
    Are school leaders involved in shaping this body of work?
    The Cornerstones Cabinet is a collection of administrators who will help inform the Cornerstones strategy overall.  The Cabinet will meet regularly throughout the summer and school year to ensure that we are designing materials that will work across schools and that we are learning from trends and expertise in the field.
    Cabinet Members:
    • Provide feedback on the configuration of Cornerstones we should select for development in the first year
    • Provide input on and co-facilitate (if interested) leader and teacher professional learning around Cornerstones
    • Share successes and challenges from the field and school artifacts to help us assess how implementation is going
    • Help shape and evolve the strategy overall by weighing in on desired outcomes, scope, calendar, and other tactical aspects of Cornerstones
    Research & Measuring Success

    What is the research behind this initiative?
    The instructional task put in front of students is a key lever in driving rigor in the classroom (Dougherty, 2012; Elmore, 2008) and in helping students reach the bar set by the Florida Standards. The Cornerstones initiative is DCPS’ opportunity to provide teachers with models of high-quality standards-aligned instructional tasks across grade levels and content areas.  


    What results does the district expect from this initiative? How will the district assess the initiative’s impact?
    As stated above, DCPS has committed to this Cornerstones initiative to ensure rigorous content for all students, a mechanism for driving high impact instructional models, cohort-based and student work- focused PD, and equity for all students.  The Cornerstones team is currently developing specific measures and metrics to determine progress towards these goals. 
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