The Brownsburg Way, Part One: A Narrow Teaching and Learning Focus

Guest post by Amber Schroering and Jim Snapp

The Brownsburg Community School Corporation (BCSC) in Central Indiana has a long history of academic excellence. For many years, BCSC has topped the state rankings for academic excellence in all of the areas of the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP). Dozens of schools and school corporations visit our district each year to learn how “The Brownsburg Way” results in exemplary student achievement. They always ask what we do to get consistently high results.

One of the reasons we are successful is because our teaching and learning focus is narrow … very narrow. We do not throw a program at a problem, but rely on professionals in the classroom to respond to student learning needs and then make adjustments to the well-written and clearly articulated, guaranteed, and viable curriculum—an engaging curriculum each student learns—to specifically address the learning needs of the student.

Our successful academic approach centers on two key concepts:

Tight-Loose-Tight Curriculum Structure

The Brownsburg curriculum model is focused on a tight-loose-tight structure. The curriculum is tight, based on Indiana Academic Standards. Planning and professional development revolve around this important content. We work diligently to maintain the fidelity of the curriculum. Experienced educators are allowed tremendous flexibility in selecting various teaching strategies to deliver the curriculum to students. This loose approach allows teachers to differentiate the curricular delivery model to optimize student learning. Student performance expectations for demonstrating the understanding and application of what has been learned are tight. Clearly defined student performance outcomes provide a well-articulated teaching target for the teacher and relevant performance expectations for the student.

Consistency of Instructional Programing

There are key components of the BCSC instructional program that frequently distinguish it from many other schools. Brownsburg schools are similar to identical in their approaches. For example, all six elementary schools follow the same academic schedule, teach students the same content focused on clear performance outcomes, learn from the same professional development experiences, all aligned to school corporation goals. This method allows ongoing professional dialogue about what is taught and how students are to demonstrate learning.

Schools or teachers do not have the flexibility to adopt a program or instructional material that varies from what has already been identified by BCSC’s lead teachers, unless there is consensus that such adjustment would better support the learning experiences of students. This collaborative approach allows professionals to place educational components on the similar to identical continuum that has served us well over the years. It allows those closest to implementing the decision to have the greatest impact on the decision.

Our narrow teaching and learning focus with a tight-loose-tight curriculum structure and consistency of instructional programing have served our schools and students well. At BCSC, we are proud of our achievements and hope other schools can learn from our success. In next week’s post, we will share how our excellent teachers and professional learning communities contribute to The Brownsburg Way.

What are the key components to your school’s academic success?

Amber Schroering is an assistant principal at Brownsburg East Middle School and is the 2016 Indiana Assistant Principal of the Year. She presents regularly at state conferences and hosts site visits to teach others about The Brownsburg Way. Follow her on Twitter @AmberSchroering.

Jim Snapp, EdD, is superintendent of Brownsburg Community School Corporation which serves nearly 9,000 students in the growing Indianapolis suburb. He served as a teacher, assistant principal, middle school principal, K–12 curriculum director, and assistant superintendent before assuming his current position in July 2010. In 2000, he was one of 120 principals selected from across the country by former United States Secretary of Education Richard Riley to participate in the first National Principals’ Leadership Summit. Snapp currently teaches graduate courses in curriculum and principal leadership at the University of Indianapolis. Follow him on Twitter @BCSC_SnappChat.

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