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Advancing Instruction

Every day at 3 p.m., first grade students in Karli Frederick’s class put their social studies books away and get ready for science. This month, they’re learning how animals eat.

“Animals need their teeth and brains to eat,” said Ka’Maya Daugherty-Watts, a student in Ms. Frederick’s class at Belvedere Elementary. “I love science; it’s my favorite subject.”

This lesson is just one piece of the elementary science materials and resources our district is field-testing. The purpose is to find more hands-on lessons for students using high-quality instructional materials.

“I think that it’s important to have engaging and interactive lessons for students because the more engaging the lessons are, the more the students want to learn,” said Frederick. “The materials have been wonderful to field test. My students are invested in what they are learning and can’t wait to learn more.”

Omaha Public Schools is advancing curriculum and instruction in the coming years at all levels, from kindergarten through high school. Curriculum updates don’t happen in one day or even in one school year. Deanna Moisset, executive director of secondary education for Omaha Public Schools, says the process takes several years.

“We are very thorough because the product we’re choosing will be in the hands of students for the next seven years,” said Moisset. “And that allows us to ensure that we are delivering on the Portrait of the Graduate while aligning with Nebraska state standards.”
First, our district selects options for materials after reviewing vendor proposals. Then, some teachers use the materials under consideration in their classrooms and provide feedback before a final adoption. Materials are available for community review, too, through public sessions that gather feedback.
Our district is implementing the new secondary science and K-12 social studies curriculum in our classrooms this year. Products for K-12 computer science as well as K-12 art are also under consideration for review this school year.
Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds have helped our district invest in high-quality instructional materials to upgrade and replace older resources at all grade levels. This includes elementary and high school science, secondary English language arts (ELA) and reading, and K-12 social studies. English Learning resources are also in the works alongside ELA.
“It’s critical for students’ learning that we have the highest quality instructional materials, so we're teaching with the best resources,” said Donna Dobson, executive director of elementary education for Omaha Public Schools.

To ensure that our district has a wide range of feedback on the materials, every school has at least one or two teachers actively participating in field testing in their classrooms.

“It’s important to highlight that our students and teachers are trying the materials out,” said Dobson. “We can do the initial analysis and know the materials meet state standards, but we won’t know if it’s engaging until students participate.”

Field testing for elementary science materials runs through December. Staff will present their recommendation to the Board of Education in May, and if approved, the updated materials will be ready for teachers to use in fall 2024.