Medford considers changes to curricula

The Medford School District is considering potential changes to curricula in four subjects to align with updated state standards: science, health and physical education in all grades and math in high school.

Medford follows the Oregon Department of Education's schedule for updating materials, which operates on a seven-year cycle. The decision as to which textbooks wind up in Medford classrooms for the next seven years takes a multi-step process that spans a year and a half.

The state first examines its own standards for instructional materials by pulling together not only teachers and administrators from across the state, but also experts in subject areas who may not directly be employed in K-12 education.

Chief Academic Officer Michelle Zundel said these experts help ensure that information in health materials, for example, is all medically accurate.

Jeremy Wartz, instructional material coordinator for ODE, said evaluation committees then examine instructional materials provided by publishers, using a scoring system to determine whether the materials meet state standards.

Zundel and a few Medford teachers and administrators were members of the state's curriculum review committee this year and helped create its list of recommended materials from publishers based on those scores.

The final decision about whether Medford will update its curricula and with what materials falls to the School Board, guided by the recommendation of the district-level curriculum committee. Before that, however, Medford will gather input from teachers, students and parents.

One such opportunity is the ODE's Instructional Materials Caravan, which Medford will host in December. It gives teachers and the publishers of state-approved curricula a chance to connect face to face.

From there, the district chooses materials to test out in classrooms. This helps the district gauge student approval of the material. Zundel said the tests can go unnoticed by students.

"You probably don't remember it because it was seamless to you," she said.

Parents also will get an opportunity to examine materials and weigh in early next year. The recommendation is anticipated to be made before the School Board approves a budget sometime in March or April.

Math and science were up for state review in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Zundel said the district deferred action because curriculum publishers hadn't updated in sync with Oregon's standards and the district ran out of time.

Health and physical education often draw parents' attention because of the more personal subject matter, which includes sexual health and gender identity. In 2014, the Legislature approved SB 856, its version of what is commonly called "Erin's Law," pertaining to education on sexual abuse prevention in K-12. ODE's Sexual Health and School Health Specialist Ely Sanders attended a School Board work session on Nov. 6 to discuss the changes to standards as a result of the law.

Zundel said the district is seeking parent input on not only the health curriculum but in every subject.

"We want there always to be a home connection," she said. "We want parents to be partners in their children’s educations in all areas of curriculum."

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at 541-776-4497 or Follow her on Twitter at

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