The second half of the school year often becomes a frenzied journey to May 30, the last day of school for students.

January is a month that inspires reflection in many people's personal and professional lives, and the New Albany-Plain Local School District is no exception.

The expectation to improve continuously to enhance outcomes for students is grounded daily in the school district's purpose: to create a culture of accountability that achieves the best academic and developmental outcomes for each student.

Curriculum, or the combination of standards, instructional practices, learning experiences and students' performance assessments that are designed to bring out and evaluate the target learning outcomes of a particular subject, is fundamental to teaching and learning in schools daily.

Curriculum defines "what" we expect students to know and to be able to do across every subject and grade level. The mid-point of the 2018-19 school year provides the opportunity to "press pause" and reflect on the progress and effectiveness of curriculum initiatives and programs.

A few mid-school year curriculum highlights include:

* A formal five-year curriculum-framework audit process continues to ensure that all students have access to the required standards in each subject area, regardless of the classroom teacher assigned. When audited, content standards, pacing and assessments also are confirmed or revised. Mathematics and world-language curriculum were verified during the past school year, and English language arts, music and drama curriculum are being audited this school year.

* College Preparatory Mathematics was launched this past fall as the new math curriculum in grades 6 to 12. CPM curriculum reinforces strong mathematical practices, including problem-based learning, collaboration within the mathematics classroom on a daily basis and mixed, spaced practice to provide a spiraling review of content covered. CPM is grounded in the research and teaching methods of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and is being used by several of the highest achieving school districts across the nation. A CPM classroom values mathematical understanding, skill proficiency, problem solving, communication, justification, content mastery, critical thinking and effective teamwork, all of which can be viewed at www.napls.us/teaching. For more information on CPM, go to www.napls.us/cpm.

* For mathematics in grades K to 5, a curriculum called Bridges in Mathematics was launched last year and continues to be implemented this school year through teacher instruction. This research-based curriculum requires students to demonstrate critical thinking and math computation and application during oral, written and hands-on math experiences daily. Bridges in Mathematics is standardized in all classrooms for grades K to 5. For more information on Bridges in Mathematics, go to www.napls.us/teaching.

* Based upon gaps identified in student data, the district has partnered with Columbia University faculty members to implement a Units of Study program in writing consistently for all students in grades K to 6. In addition, all elementary students are accessing Lexia Core5 software to strengthen literacy outcomes.

* A one-to-one iPad initiative to assign tablet computers to students is being piloted at New Albany Intermediate School.

* Energy, engineering and the environment come to life daily for students in grades K to 12 in the Easton E3 Learning Lab. Thanks to our partnership with the PAST Foundation, IGS, JadeTrack and Air Force One, 42 teachers have developed problem-based learning activities that include state standards to emphasize inquiry and hands-on science lessons for students.

* An online learning platform that allows students to work at their own pace, both in the classroom and outside of the school day, is underway for identified students at New Albany High School. Students' daily participation in Noble Academy permits an alternative learning setting for students to earn high school credit in academic subjects and work-study opportunities via internships and/or employment.

District leaders are committed to achieving the best academic and developmental outcomes for each student. To ensure this is possible, the "what" of teaching, the curriculum, must be guaranteed and viable for every student. Engaging our teachers in professional dialogue and learning regarding curriculum allows us to focus, benchmark, evaluate and define the most effective resources and practices for student learning.

Questions or more information regarding curriculum in the district may be obtained from Scott Emery, director of elementary education, at emery.1@napls.us, or Shirley Hamilton, director of secondary education, at hamilton.23@napls.us.

Michael Sawyers is superintendent of the New Albany-Plain Local School District.