High School Curriculum

Leraning for the Real World

As DDHS prepares students for the 21st century, there are three focused initiatives that the school’s leadership and faculty will dedicate themselves to over the next several years: developing a curriculum that is fully connected to the world around us; using teaching strategies that engage all students in success and high levels of learning; and fostering a culture of respect for self and others. An explanation of these three initiatives is below.

Initiative What Does it Look Like?
Developing a curriculum that has value beyond schoolAs Joseph Allen and Claudia Allen write, “Modern brain research increasingly confirms what those who work with teenagers have long known: Adolescents are primed for action, stimulation, and relevance.” What does this mean for DDHS? Essentially, that the high school curriculum will increasingly be connected to the world in which students live. Rather than relying only on a textbook and worksheets, students will utilize primary documents, technology and people to learn about history, mathematics, science and more. This shift from a traditional curriculum to one that is centered on authentic real world experiences in based on the research of Fred Neumann from the Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools at the University of Wisconsin. This vision of student learning equips students to address the complex challenges and problems of the real world.
Using effective teaching strategies that engage all learnersDue to the brain research of the last 20 years, as well as well-documented studies of how high school students learn best, DDHS is moving to a learning environment that provides all students with a rigorous curriculum discussed above. In order for this to happen, every student cannot be taught the same way. For example, some students (but not all) thrive in a lecture-based course that relies on multiple choice tests to assess learning. Others need interaction with others, or hands-on learning, or learning that builds on what they already know. Clearly, having only some students succeed is not good enough. Every classroom needs dynamic, highly skilled teachers that possess “many tools in their toolbox” to effectively engage students. Therefore, all students will be in classes together – but not all students will be taught exactly the same way. Instead, classroom instruction will be different for different kinds of learners – in other words, it will be “differentiated” based on students’ needs. As Carol Ann Tomlinson, researcher and teacher, writes: “…the issue is providing teachers with the kind of intelligent, classroom-focused, sustained professional development to move away from one-size-fits-all thinking and toward addressing varied students needs thoughtfully and smoothly…” This can occur by frequently assessing student learning to see the patterns needed, by planning for instruction with those patterns in mind, and by guiding a classroom where more than one thing is taking place at a time [Education Update, March, 2010, p. 3]. One of the results of this initiative will be the elimination of low-level courses that in the past have tracked students into an academic program that was not challenging or engaging. Courses that have traditionally challenged students – such as Advanced Placement – will continue to be offered and grow as more students are prepared for the rigor of AP courses. Students that need extra support will be offered that support in a variety of formats.
Fostering a culture of respect, order and responsibilityDDHS has implemented a process called Positive Behavior Intervention Support [PBIS] at the start of the 2010-2011 school year.

What is it? PBIS is a “process for creating safe and more effective schools.” According to the Wisconsin PBIS Network, PBIS provides a “data-based decision making framework that guides the selection, integration, and implementation of the best evidence-based academic and behavioral practices for improving students outcomes for all students – including those with challenging behavior problems – through a continuum of support.” In March 2010, the DDHS faculty voted to move to the PBIS model. A team of ten administrators, teachers and staff is trained in the framework and those staff members will pass their knowledge along to their peers. Further information regarding PBIS can be found at the following websites: