IBD: Who are we? Why do we exist? What’s our purpose, our cause? What do we believe?
We exist to dignify the work of teachers and to help them help all of their students get smarter. Everything we do is done with an eye on maximizing the encounter bw teachers and students.
This is the reason we are a curriculum company: bc we believe that that space, where curriculum connects teachers and students, is the place with the highest amount of transformational potential.
Richard Elmore says there are only three ways to improve performance in schools:
- increase the knowledge and skill of teachers
- change the content
- alter the relationship of the student to the teacher and the content
To this end, we do the following:
Offering #1: Provide curriculum-anchored projects that increase the knowledge and skill of teachers. (the thing: Curriculum-anchored PD without classroom materials)
- Assumption: no one gets smarter in isolation (teachers intelligence is “socialized” just like students)
- Assumption: well-designed professional development induces crisis, provokes reflection, promotes transparency and provides concrete ways to improve practice.
- Assumption: curriculum-“free” PD can inspire and comfort but it cannot improve performance bc it does not change the instructional core.
Implication: (WHAT WE SELL)curriculum-based PD projects marked by “as learner” experiences for teachers.
Who for?: the school or school district interested in convening groups of teachers for intensive cycles of work around common texts and tasks in ways specifically and intentionally designed to leverage the intelligence and experience of the group and to induce significant changes in the ways teachers think about using time, texts, tasks in classrooms with students.
Offering #2: Provide schools and school districts with curriculum (content) that specifically and robustly interprets the standards. (the thing: curriculum courses)
- Assumption: any curriculum embodies answers or arguments to these three questions:
- What is the nature of the field, the work of the discipline—in short, about content: a curriculum is an answer to the question, What is English for?
- Who are our students? Memorizers of specialized terms? Consumers of important texts? Activity completers? Or apprenticing liberal artists whose learning trajectory requires coherent arcs of sophisticated experiences designed to introduce them to critical concepts, complex texts and essential tacit knowledge that can only acquired through practice, through experiences constantly and frequently ranging along a continuum of structured and ill-structured tasks?
- What is the role of the teacher?
- Assumption: a culture of inquiry promotes and provides the most robust and invigorating answers to these questions.
- Assumption: a culture of inquiry is designed and, in English language arts, that design is largely dictated by the sequences of texts and tasks that comprise a curriculum.
Implication (WHAT WE SELL): Supplementary and full courses of study aligned to the CCSS. PD services designed to ensure quality implementation are available.
- Full courses: “click together” multiple microcourses all at once (higher initial cost) or gradually build a course over time by adding microcourses over time (distributes cost).
- Supplementary: incorporate individual microcourses pitched at specific standards and “pain points” into already existing frameworks or instructional arcs.
Who for? Schools and districts looking for CCSS-aligned courses that can be purchased as full programs or gradually built up over time to account for budget realities)
Offering #3: Provide curriculum-anchored projects specifically designed to change students’ relationships to teachers and to content (the thing: microcourses + intensive PD—with classroom materials)
- Assumption: students are novice practitioners, apprenticing liberal artists.
- Assumption: any apprenticeship implies feedback loops and carefully structured relationships bw experts (teachers) and the work of the field/discipline (content).
- Assumption: The field of ELA, as it is largely interpreted in schools, has historically chosen content over kids. The two are not mutually exclusive, of course.
Implication: (WHAT WE SELL): Pilot projects marked by combinations of as learner PD, on-site coaching, classroom lab experiences and student work study sessions.
Who for? The school or school district interested in providing teachers with intensive, sustained PD experiences that marry curriculum and PD and expand professional development beyond the seminar room.
BY IMPLICATION, WHAT WE ARE NOT:
- A generic PD vendor:
- Why? Bc PD untethered from concrete texts and tasks generates activity and enthusiasm that is often and largely antithetical to improved school and student performance. There are plenty of vendors out there who’d be happy to provide you with these kinds of services. We aren’t one of them.
- A program peddler, a textbook seller:
- Why? While we’d love to think that workbooks, 14 lb anthologies or (something about online stuff) would ensure that all students get smarter; become adept and reading, writing, speaking and listening; and become sophisticated considerers of important, complex and humanizing ideas, we know this isn’t the case. Good curriculum that is poorly packaged and presented can cast the same spells of anxiety and “coverage” as the most dismal array of textbooks, the most overbuilt curriculum program. We choose a different approach: take care to deepen understanding, offer clients elegantly designed materials marked by design features that help teachers provide students with apprenticeship experiences marked by tightly woven permutations of highly supportive, language-based learning experiences. Lean things up, cut the distractions. Help teachers do more than fill time and weigh down backpacks.
 Define “ill-structured task”