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District : Lawrence Public Schools

State : Kansas

Level : P-12

District Enrollment : 10,001-40,000 students

Community Type : Urban

Related Tags : #GoOpen, Digital content, Openly Licensed Educational Resources

Lawrence Public Schools: Team Approach to #GoOpen

With a focus on its Excellence, Equity and Engagement goals, Lawrence USD 497 has earned a reputation for offering students an exceptional educational experience. The district serves roughly 11,000 students among fourteen elementary schools, four middle schools, two high schools, and two virtual schools. Keys to success in Lawrence include high-quality staff, bright and talented students, actively involved parents, supportive business/community partners and a resource-rich university community, where education is valued.

Allocation of resources is a large portion of the decision making for district administrators – whether financial, time, or human resources, it’s critical that all of these meet the needs of students and staff. When the call went out for the first cohort districts to join the #GoOpen movement, Lawrence’s administrators jumped at the chance to maximize the tremendous potential of increasing our district’s access to high-quality education opportunities through openly-licensed educational resources (OER).

Assistant superintendents specifically selected the area of 7th grade English language arts as the first content and grade level focus area because of past experiences in curating text and resources for students while running into copyright concerns during the implementation of blended learning. District staff should be able to adapt and customize learning materials to meet the needs of students without breaking copyright laws. In addition, because traditional textbooks are consistently outdated, administration has been forced to re-invest significant portions of the budget on replacement costs.

From the teacher perspective, the use of OERs is not incredibly new. Since the advent of the Internet, teachers have gone online to find resources they can remix to meet the needs of their students. When Lawrence began implementing the blended classroom model in 2012, teachers gained access to a selection of course masters through our learning management system. These course masters are built by teachers, for teachers, and are meant to offer all classroom teachers a buffet from which to select content. All content in these course masters have been vetted through a rubric for alignment with standards, clear outcomes, cultural relevancy, and student engagement. Moving to openly licensed materials opens up a wealth of high quality resources to teachers. No longer will teachers be tied to a textbook with limited and outdated resources. Instead, robust course masters will offer increased teacher and student agency.

Our district has faced several challenges along our #GoOpen journey including equity, time for collaboration, and communication. We have found that in addressing these issues collaboration is always key.

Lawrence’s #GoOpen team consists of a middle school ELA teacher, a middle school librarian, a social studies Teacher on Special Assignment, a middle school principal, the Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, and the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Programs and Technology. This mix of educators collaborates frequently to build their knowledge base, ask questions, and create units of focus for the 7th grade ELA class. These full day collaborations are the key to the team’s progress. Going forward, they will continue to meet as needed throughout the school year and over the summer to locate, create, and organize resources with a goal of starting the coming school year ready to launch!

Our advice to other districts starting their #GoOpen journey would be to create a team of growth-minded and supportive staff members who are committed to the initiative. It is also essential to focus on personalized learning for students when developing curriculum goals and finding resources.

Additional Resources

From Lawrence Public Schools:

From the U.S. Department of Education:

Point of Contact

Lawrence’s #GoOpen Team


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