Certainly all areas of education are important, but curriculum and instruction is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. It’s all about delivering core educational content to students, a prime directive of schools.
So Hacienda La Puente Unified School District counts itself fortunate to have the services of Sue Kaiser, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, and ACSA’s 2012 Curriculum and Instruction Administrator of the Year.
Kaiser said she was drawn to the world of curriculum and instruction when she first began her teaching career.
“The delivery of lessons to bring about student learning is what thrills me most,” she said. “This has motivated me tremendously for the past 30 years.”
In 1985, Kaiser was given her first opportunity to teach a reading methods course for the elementary credential at California State University, Los Angeles, and fell in love with how curriculum and instruction work together in theory and in practice.
“I have been fortunate in my career to work as an adjunct professor, teaching our new teachers methods in what we want to see in the classrooms,” she said. “This experience has also helped to keep me current in my field as I prepare lessons for my university students.”
Kaiser has found success for her district. As director, she has developed models of instruction that have averaged an increase of 10 percent each year in English language arts and mathematics test scores. Before moving into her position as director, she was a principal at an elementary and a middle school, which each saw dramatic increases in API scores under her leadership and attained such recognitions as California Distinguished School and Title 1 Achieving School.
As California educators are all too aware, public education has suffered horrendous budget cuts the past few years, yet the demands of accountability have not slackened. California has some of the most rigorous education standards in the nation.
“Districts have been cutting back in all areas,” Kaiser said. “The curriculum and instruction departments have taken huge cuts among many districts. Our department is smaller now than it was during healthy budget times. I am thankful that I work for a district and a superintendent that place great value on curriculum and instruction.
“This is the department that drives improvement for our students and helps teachers to close any practice gaps in their instruction. All of us are on a trajectory of lifelong learning. Without curriculum and instruction departments, the professional development for teachers diminishes.”
One of the reasons Kaiser is receiving this recognition from ACSA is her success in raising student test scores in her district and the schools she’s served. But Kaiser deflects the credit for this success to the people with whom she has worked.
“The schools where I was privileged to serve had hard-working teachers, and together we put into place systems and structures whereby we were able to attain replication of promising practices,” Kaiser said. “We selected a few strategies at each school site to focus on each year and in working through shared decision making processes and professional learning communities, we worked with fidelity on selected items school wide. Because we worked toward agreement on the selection of each strategy, a great enthusiasm grew for implementation.”
Kaiser has found that at the district level it is important to keep the system focused on a few great strategies for improvement. These then are communicated to the principals, lead teachers, grade levels at school sites and then monitored regularly.
“I am a great believer in the process of walking through schools to check on practices to help inform our practice,” she said. “The school visits that we conduct from my office help me to see what the next need is for our teachers. The work of teaching is difficult. We must work toward systems and structures that make the strategies and practice easily understood.”
In addition to student achievement success, Kaiser is currently president of ACSA’s Curriculum, Instruction and Accountability Council. She presented at last year’s Leadership Summit on how to raise student reading comprehension scores. Now comes statewide recognition as one of the top school leaders in California.
“I feel completely honored, humbled and amazed,” Kaiser said. “There are so many talented people in the field and I find it a pleasure beyond belief to be in the company of my peers.
Kaiser will be formally honored, together with all Administrators of the Year, during ACSA’s Leadership Summit, Nov. 8-10 in San Diego. To register, visit www.acsa.org/leadershipsummit. Access photos of the award recipient at www.flickr.com/photos/acsaevents.