2015 - 16
In school year 2015-16, DCPS launched the Cornerstones initiative in order to provide rigorous, joyful, and engaging curricula for students across the city. This work built on DCPS' previous investment in its people by providing clear examples of high-quality content and the tools and resources to implement the lessons. DCPS partnered with LearnZillion, Inc. to structure a curriculum writing institute for DCPS educators. Over 100 top DCPS teachers were selected to write Cornerstones, and 204 Cornerstones were created across 52 courses in all subject areas K-12. That year, nearly all professional development involved collaborative preparation to teach Cornerstones and analysis of Cornerstones student work.
2016 - 17
Following the first year of Cornerstones implementation, DCPS repeated the strategic process to refine and build on successes. Responding to stakeholder feedback, DCPS held a summer curriculum writing institute, where more than 150 DCPS teachers representing more than 80 schools edited, revised, and expanded Cornerstones, with the goals of incorporating the principles of Universal Design for Learning and better supporting excellence in student work products. In the fall of 2016, DCPS partnered with LearnZillion Inc. to establish the Cornerstones Network, a group of 18 other districts nationwide interested in implementing the Cornerstones model.
For year 3 of the Cornerstones initiative, DCPS is focusing on continued refinement and robust implementation of Cornerstones, with a specific emphasis on improving authenticity and excellence across tasks. To increase the impact of each Cornerstone, DCPS is building in more opportunities for students to use the content they are learning in the same way adults do, interacting with adult content users, and having their work used or enjoyed by the same sorts of beneficiaries in the same context. Cornerstones are also helping to build a culture of excellence, informed by EL Education’s work with excellence. Lessons and rubrics help students and teachers continually evaluate and improve their work. In the end, each student's final product should have a clear message communicated in a unique and appropriate voice, content-driven sophistication, and polished craft.