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Atlas Rubicon the Thorn in Teachers' Sides

Author: Mark Page-Botelho Posted: 2015-09-09

Gareth Jacobson, “Why are things the way they are?” This is a quote I often refer back to when I think about teachers and workloads. It is inevitable that every school is inundated with initiatives handed down by administrators in order to make learning better. From clinical observations, knee-jerk purchases of technology gadgets, and implementation of initiatives there’s always something eating away at a teachers planning time.

Atlas Rubicon for many schools is a solution used to analyze, store, and align curriculum. Inevitably what it ends up doing is only whittling away a teachers planning time. True, Atlas is a very powerful planning and analysis tool when used properly. However in every school I’ve witnessed it being implemented, it is not used by the leadership team, curriculum coordinators, nor the teachers once its use has been mandated. In my cynical view, it is used solely for checking the box on accreditation reports.

What administrators need to understand is that schools have always operated in the past, before Rubicon Atlas just fine. Professional teachers already have curriculum from a source, transcribing it into Atlas to make it fit the bespoke format of administrators is doing nothing to better teacher practice. If anything it has a negative effect on student learning as it takes time away from teacher planning time. Spending funds, time, and effort along with a large dose of coercion and top-down directives will not make any tool useful if it’s not necessary. The only way in which to get teachers to use such a tool is to gain buy-in, or sell it to the point where teachers willing use it. With a successful sale job, Rubicon Atlas can be implemented and instilled in the culture of a school, although it still may not be the best option.

Not only have schools operated just fine in the past, but they also hire professional teachers who know their curriculum. This point can be argued against if a new hire teacher is just starting out their career.  Also, some teachers who are weak in their planning could also find a tool such as Atlas useful. However a more important push for those teachers should be with their administrators and mentor teachers, and should not rely on one tool alone. Professional teachers already know and have tools available for creating curriculum. They should be trusted to use the tools they are used to using thereby instilling a sense of trust and saving them time in which to create authentic curriculum.

As for the argument that teachers may not have a written curriculum to follow when a new teacher transitions into a new post, they can always refer back to their past school, otherwise known as suitcase curriculum. In addition, teachers can use textbooks as a guide or adopted curriculum from IB or AP curriculums. Finally each state has its own standards, scope, and sequences which can be used as a guide. Looking back at a detailed unit plan, even if noted in Atlas, may have little use to a new or returning teacher. Teachers almost always refine and modify what they did in the past.

If a leadership team and curriculum coordinators do not themselves model the use of Rubicon Atlas, then they should not require their teachers to use it. The administration team also needs to provide dedicated time that is not added to their workload in order to work on curriculum regardless if it is Rubicon Atlas or some other program. If a school desires that its teachers use Atlas Rubicon, then they should promote its use and sell it to teachers. If coercion and mandates are used, the teachers will only use it superficially and in a shallow way to  comply with the mandate. They won’t get the benefits of its full potential. A successful long term implementation of using a tool such as Rubicon Atlas, can only happen if teachers are drawn towards its use on their own free will. It can only truly be helpful to a school if it becomes part of the culture of curriculum planning. Before implementing any new initiative such as Atlas Rubicon, every member of the leadership team should ask themselves, “Why are things the way they are?” The decision should also be data driven, where teachers are asked about what tools they currently use. Perhaps there are better options. If an implemented initiative is working, or not, then perhaps it needs to be reexamined to determine its viability and usefulness with the benefit of saving teachers a whole lot of grief. 

[ Atlas Rubicon Site ]

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