Curriculum Updates

January/February 2015

posted Mar 16, 2015, 8:18 AM by dryan@mansd.org


Smarter Balanced Assessment/ Curriculum Development/Instructional Coach Needed for Summer


January/February 2015



Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

As many of you know the Board of School Committee voted on February 9 to direct the school district to participate in the Spring 2015 Smarter Balanced Assessment. Since then principals have been meeting in teams to plan for the opening of the assessment window on March 16 and thus far drafts of the schedule are being developed. The IT staff has worked very hard to ensure that the technology required for the online, adaptive assessment is available in all schools and continues to work with principals and test coordinators so the process is smooth. As with anything new, we do expect there to be some hiccups when the window opens and will work through them with patience and purpose. The window is 12 weeks in its entirety (March 16 - June 5) and the schedule being constructed will allow for ample correction and make up time, so we are confident we will have a reasonably smooth testing experience.


One of the recommendations we have made is to take the SBAC practice test yourself. This will help you better understand the expectations for students and the demand on their test-taking skills. It will require some time on your part but we think it will be well spent.


We also recommend building into your upcoming lesson plans SBAC activities in language arts and mathematics. This should not be something in addition to your normal instructional routine,  but rather a change in some of the activities you would use to assess your students’ learning. There are many exemplars available to you so that it is easy to plan. Click either ELA or Mathematics to see what would be helpful to you. These activities are also found through the portal located on the front page of our school district website.


Check with your building principal for more information about SBAC as they all have direct access to the shared Smarter Balanced Assessment folder. The folder contains several resources and pieces of information that have been collected and sorted according to relevance and usefulness.


Curriculum Development

The arduous but exhilarating process of curriculum unit design is ongoing at the elementary and middle school levels. Since late August when the Manchester Academic Standards were approved by the Board of School Committee, teams of teachers, curriculum specialists and content area coaches have worked together in several different capacities to build rigorous units of study. It is completely understood that the frequent search for teaching materials, specifically in math at the elementary level, is very time consuming and frustrating. It is also understood that some of the materials being retrieved are not the best available but with such a tight window of time, they are the presently the best that can be retrieved.


We need to make clear that there is no one set program available to Manchester that will help our students achieve mastery of all standards. It is therefore our belief that we need to move forward with a locally developed standards-based curriculum that guides the learning in each classroom and leads to student success on local and statewide assessments. The curriculum development teams have been working towards this in their production of pacing guides and units of study, some of which is being made available on the website while much of it is still in draft form. Elementary and middle school principals are becoming deeply engaged in the process through their support and leadership in implementation in the schools. And even with the amount of work these folks have completed to this point, we realize there is so much more that needs to be done.


We will get there, but it will not be done over ten days in the summer, or once a month for full days with small writing teams, or using Pinterest to accumulate math worksheets. Curriculum writing is an ongoing process and it has to start somewhere, namely the places where all of you have been talking about and working within. The organization of the work is slow going and it is intended to be slow until we are able to go fast. The present dearth of curriculum materials for classrooms is not something that is intended or purposeful, rather it is a reality that exists temporarily while a new curriculum alignment to a new set of standards takes place. There is no shortage of hard working teachers trying to do the best they can in classrooms and meeting spaces, so just know that we understand and appreciate how hard this is right now, and we are working just as hard to make sure we continue to support you in your work now and in the near future.


Local Common Assessment Program

By now everyone is well aware of the common assessment programs in math and ELA at the elementary and middle schools and the collaborative work being done with the data culled from the results. One of the key points we want to make amid all of the clamor about the new program is that we are solely focused on process right now and not the results.


That is not to say that we are not looking at data and measuring progress toward learning targets, because we certainly are! But we are more focused on how we are administering assessments, the impact the type and frequency of assessments have on instruction, how data are being used to generate productive discussions between teachers, and how leadership is using the information to provide relevant professional learning opportunities and more effective PLCs.


One area we are not interested in is using the assessments for evaluation of performance. As a matter of fact, that is the furthest purpose from our minds. We truly are trying to develop a culture that requires the use of rich information to make decisions about what students are to know and be able to do, how we are going to deliver it effectively, and how we will know when they get there. Clearly teachers play a monumentally critical role in this endeavor and we are very excited to continue on this path of growth and shift for the district.


Instructional Coach Needed

Breakthrough Manchester has one position open for an Instructional Coach to mentor and support the college undergraduate pre-professionals who teach in Breakthrough Manchester. The ideal candidate has background and experience teaching middle school or high school science, but will consider top quality candidates in other subjects. The stipend for this position is $4,000 for 9 weeks with a Monday through Thursday schedule, 8:30-2:00. There are no weekend or evenings.


For more information or to apply by March 12, teachers can visit: http://www.breakthroughmanchester.org/teachers/instructional-coaching/


www.edutopia.org/blog/5-fast-formative-assessment-tools-vicki-davis?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=blog-5-fast-formative-assessment-tools-image


URead of the Week

Davis, Vicki (2015). “5 Fantastic, Fast, Formative Assessment Tools.” Edutopia, retrieved online - URL contained in article title.



Curriculum Update for November 2014

posted Dec 10, 2014, 8:59 AM by dryan@mansd.org   [ updated Dec 10, 2014, 8:59 AM ]


Using Data for Instruction/ Professional Learning


November 2014



Using Data for Instruction

The common assessments at the elementary schools comprise the first set of assessments in the school district to produce some pretty impressive data - ever. It is clear from the aggregate that math fluency is on the rise among our young ones and each month more students are tackling computation goals with gusto and increased precision. While assessment remains a topic for public discussion among faculty  (it has been received by the public as a good or not so good thing depending upon how it has been presented) student achievement results are quite promising. The gains our students have made to date and, more importantly, the information the results have provided our classroom teachers, are indicative of a correct and useful process for improving student achievement.


What has not been helpful is the lack of communication that should have accompanied the implementation of the program. Mea culpa, and we are sorry. This is an area where we feel we can make great strides, especially now that we have some data to report on. And no, the data that has come pouring out of teachers’ classrooms are not being shelved to collect dust. The information is being used by teachers to inform students of their strengths and opportunities, intervention strategies are being differentiated based on where students are in their learning, and direct instruction is being streamlined with the consistent feedback from student assessment. Teachers are finding their instruction is being tailored by this influx of specific information and becoming more efficient.


As Scholastic’s CAO Rose Else-Mitchell (2014) stated recently “rigor is about putting learners into an uncomfortable position in his/her learning and providing the supports and resources for them as they move into new comfort zones.” Our assessments are boosting levels of rigor in our classrooms and requiring students to wrestle with concepts they may have not yet learned through your direct instruction. But, as all highly effective educators do, you continue to support your students in their struggle and coach them to a level of comfort and confidence in their “not knowing.” This is especially evident with the computation assessment, a 20-minute exercise measuring a student’s proficiency level with end of year computation goals. You assure your students that it is okay to not know something, to help them explore what they do not know, and to embrace the opportunity to learn by doing. This puts the power of learning and the motivation to embrace challenges into the hands of the learner. To not do this is to underwhelm them with low expectations and enable them with false learning already mastered. To not do this continues the focus on the teaching when we all know it must be on learning.


We also recognize that our Title 1 elementary schools have an abundance of assessments beyond the common program that may appear to be redundant and/or overlap in purpose, however each instrument is measuring levels of performance in different areas no matter how slight. These additional assessments help teachers develop a deeper understanding of where their students are in their learning and assist in forming more specific interventions.


We are raising the level of expectations for our students -- all of our students. Yes, we agree that our communication in rolling out the assessments was poor and we accept that, but as a district we cannot accept not doing it at all and poor communication cannot be the excuse. We will work to improve communicating with you about this program, and we will include professional learning opportunities for you to learn more about how to take the information from your students’ assessment and employ it in your classroom. You can whet your appetite for this at our Professional Learning webpage on the school district website.


Speaking of Your Own Professional Learning…..

District Learning Network - The DLN is an online connection tool that gives all teachers the power to share and learn with each other. Our schools are filled with many talented teachers who have a whole lot of expertise to share. We also have schools with inquisitive teachers who want to learn more about their craft. In most cases, every teacher feels both ways and desires a way to share what they know and learn what they don’t. That is exactly what the DLN is for - sharing and learning together. We spent September testing a few workshops to work out the bugs and we are now ready to roll the program out to you. Feel like offering a workshop to others? Great! Use the DLN Workshop Proposal form located on the DLN site. Want to attend a workshop locally for free? Great! Use the DLN site to find something that is right for you and sign up. While linked above, the DLN is located on our school district website under Professional Development contained with the Departments tab. Upon attending a workshop and completing a workshop evaluation you are sent your participation certificate electronically and your hours are sent right to the PD office.


Aspiring leaders Program with Southern New Hampshire University - We have formed quite a strong partnership with SNHU to offer a discounted master’s degree program to employees of the Manchester School District. All courses will be taught in a district school on a schedule that meets the needs of each cohort. Staff have the opportunity to earn the M.Ed. in education administration, curriculum and instruction, or education technology integration. The cost for each course is $675 (as opposed to the $1880 on campus) and the curriculum is being tailored to meet the needs of the Manchester educator. All courses are taught by full-time professors and adjunct faculty and appeal directly to the work you are doing everyday with students. There were 106 teachers who attended the information session and presently two cohorts are meeting for their first course on Wednesday nights at West High School. A third cohort will begin in February, so contact Nancy.Miller@snhu.edu for more information.


Collaborative M.Ed. for Teachers - Three institutions within the University System of New Hampshire: Granite State College, Plymouth State University, and the University of New Hampshire-Manchester, are pleased to announce a new collaborative master's degree program developed to support teachers in the Manchester School District. Through this innovative partnership, the institutions have designed a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction for less than $10,000. This affordable opportunity will advance content specific learning through a technology rich approach leading to school transformation. The importance of this program and curriculum:

  • Provides focused, advanced content curriculum in English, Mathematics, History, Science, or Computer Science

  • Centered on collaborative, inquiry-based teaching and learning for rich and diverse populations

  • Models systemic use of technology to enhance teaching and learning for 21st century environments


Contact Mary Ford, Associate Dean of Education at Granite State College, for more information.



URead of the Week

Darling-Hammond, Linda and Falk, Beverly (1997). Using Standards and Assessments to Support Student Learning. The Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 79, No. 3, pp. 190-199.








Curriculum Update for September 2014

posted Oct 30, 2014, 5:54 AM by dryan@mansd.org


Teacher Mini-Grants/District Assessment Program /Professional Learning


September 2014







MSD’s Local Assessment Program - Why?

Now that the Manchester Academic Standards (MAS) work is complete teams of teachers have been working with data coaches from the New Hampshire Department of Education since the end of August to develop math and ELA assessments for students in grades K - 8. The curriculum units of study that were developed in 2013 are being revisited and aligned to the MAS which are then being assessed periodically throughout each month. The assessments serve two primary purposes that are diagnostic and programmatic, respectively. Data that are generated will be used to help teachers identify areas for improvement in their instruction relative to the achievement of their students, and this process of understanding and discussing the data will be collaborative within schools and across the district.


Dufour and Eaker’s model for professional discourse and intervention action is the model we will be replicating. The process is very simple: teach, assess, compare, discuss, plan, re-teach/interventions, assess, discuss, plan, re-teach/interventions and so forth. While there are specific steps we take as professionals to keep consistent the operations of a PLC, there is a greater need to identify the data we will be using. Data must be derived from common sources of inquiry designed to measure levels of mastery of the same standards. This allows a grade 3 teacher at Green Acres and a grade 3 teacher at Wilson to compare student results from the same unit assessment measuring achievement towards the same standards measured. This comparison should prompt questions from both teachers that are exploratory in nature, not judgmental. The conversations are designed so that teachers learn from each other what worked best in their classroom.


The program has been rolled out slowly and not without some hiccups. There have been some errors in the documents as well as some frustration with Performance Plu, the online data warehouse tool we use to organize data and generate reports. Teachers and principals at the K-5 levels have been amazing in their feedback and patience with the problems. As issues have arisen they have been quick to alert us and the problems have been remedied. We will continue to work together to solve the issues and minimize the feelings of frustration.


Our development teams are working as quickly as they can with as much attention to detail as possible. The local assessment calendar for the whole year is almost finalized and when it is complete it will be sent to you for easy reference. Special kudos to Melissa Gray, Elisabeth Hood, Michele Golden, Ruth Broderick, Philomena Landrigan, and Katie Labranche for their work early on, and additional thanks to the scores of teachers who’ve joined the development ranks since then.


Bean Foundation Educational Fund Mini-Grants for You

The Norwin S. and Elizabeth N. Bean Foundation offers Bean Education Enhancement Fund (BEEF) grants to educators.  The mini-grants, generally up to $750, support creative projects that build upon or expand classroom curriculum, offer new opportunities to students through co-curricular activities, or address issues of health and wellness in the school setting.  The grants are intended to enhance curriculum and support enrichment programs designed by faculty and staff.


Details and the application cover sheet are available at www.beanfoundation.org under Educational Enhancement Mini-Grants.  Applications should take the form of a short narrative (1 to 3 pages) and a completed Bean Foundation Educational Enhancement Fund Application Cover Sheet. Applications must be signed by the school's principal. They are accepted year-round for projects to be completed during the school year.  After visiting the website, questions may be addressed to our good friend Kathy Cook at KCook@BeanFoundation.org.


Your Own Professional Learning

There have been announcements recently about professional learning opportunities for all staff in the district so let’s see if we can sort them out here.


District Learning Network - The DLN is an online connection tool that gives all teachers the power to share and learn with each other. Our schools are filled with many talented teachers who have a whole lot of expertise to share. We also have schools with inquisitive teachers who want to learn more about their craft. In most cases, every teacher feels both ways and desires a way to share what they know and learn what they don’t. That is exactly what the DLN is for - sharing and learning together. We spent September testing a few workshops to work out the bugs and we are now ready to roll the program out to you. Feel like offering a workshop to others? Great! Use the DLN Workshop Proposal form located on the DLN site. Want to attend a workshop locally for free? Great! Use the DLN site to find something that is right for you and sign up. While linked above, the DLN is located on our school district website under Professional Development contained with the Departments tab. Upon attending a workshop and completing a workshop evaluation you are sent your participation certificate electronically and your hours are sent right to the PD office.


Aspiring leaders Program with Southern New Hampshire University - We have formed quite a strong partnership with SNHU to offer a discounted master’s degree program to employees of the Manchester School District. All courses will be taught in a district school on a schedule that meets the needs of each cohort. Staff have the opportunity to earn the M.Ed. in education administration, curriculum and instruction, or education technology integration. The cost for each course is $675 (as opposed to the $1880 on campus) and the curriculum is being tailored to meet the needs of the Manchester educator. All courses are taught by full-time professors and adjunct faculty and appeal directly to the work you are doing everyday with students. There were 106 teachers who attended the information session and the first cohort will begin next term in November.


Collaborative M.Ed. for Teachers - Three institutions within the University System of New Hampshire: Granite State College, Plymouth State University, and the University of New Hampshire-Manchester, are pleased to announce a new collaborative master's degree program developed to support teachers in the Manchester School District. Through this innovative partnership, the institutions have designed a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction for less than $10,000. This affordable opportunity will advance content specific learning through a technology rich approach leading to school transformation. The importance of this program and curriculum:

  • Provides focused, advanced content curriculum in English, Mathematics, History, Science, or Computer Science

  • Centered on collaborative, inquiry-based teaching and learning for rich and diverse populations

  • Models systemic use of technology to enhance teaching and learning for 21st century environments


GSC, PSU and UNHM are set to host an Information Session at Manchester High School West on Wednesday, October 22 from 3:00-5:00 pm.  College representatives will be presenting information about the program and can meet with individual teachers as needed.  Refreshments will be provided.


URead of the Week



Curriculum Update for April/May 2014

posted May 26, 2014, 8:39 AM by dryan@mansd.org



Manchester Academic Standards/Manchester New Teacher Project/UNH Teacher ESOL Certification


April/May 2014



Manchester Academic Standards Ready for Next Step

The final development session for the Manchester Academic Standards was held on May 14, 2014 and from the team of teachers that developed the body of work a small team has been organized to plan the presentation for the Board of School Committee on June 9. This small team has met a few times to prepare what will be an insightful glimpse into the massive undertaking taken by the district to prepare the document we will use to raise expectations for all students. Many on the development team will be continuing their work as members of the curriculum or assessment work teams and it is assumed that many other teachers would like to join the work. All are welcome! Aside from developing the very best set of standards personalized for Manchester students, teachers who worked on the team experienced tremendous learning and growth in their professional practice. All have found this experience to be some of the best professional development they have had in a very long time.


As for next steps, the teachers are reviewing the curriculum unit planning template that was used last summer when units were developed under the consultation of PCG. A second template has been introduced and the teachers were asked to provide their feedback on it in relation to the original. As a revised template emerges, we will be engaging teachers in a crosswalk activity to see where revisions to the units need to made in terms of alignment, where new units need to be developed, and what new resources will need to be made available to address the revised standards. Our professional development days at the end of the school year have been identified as prime opportunities for the unpacking and crosswalk work to take place. If anything else it will be protected time for teachers to review, understand and unpack the revised standards.


In terms of assessment, the team will begin to develop district-wide benchmark assessments that measure student growth toward achievement of the revised standards. The assessments will also provide a measurement tool to help improve the fidelity with which we align and deliver the intended curriculum. The assessments will be developed using released items and newly-developed items that help students demonstrate mastery of the standards while at the same time informing teacher teams of how they can adjust their instructional strategies to best prepare students.


The timing of this work is still unknown. It is important work and teams of teachers have made it clear that they are anxious to begin it, so planning is in process. Our primary speedbump is the projection of no funding for the summer work, however the professional development experience and credit could be worthwhile for teachers who wish to engage in it. As this comes on the heels of a vote for a bargaining agreement I admit this is not the best time to put out this specific detail, but it is important to have it known.


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Introducing the Manchester New Teacher Project (MNTP)

Given that close to one third of new teachers nationwide leave their position after the first three years (http://www.nea.org/home/12630.htm) it is imperative that the school district build and strengthen an induction program that will ultimately extend to high quality professional development for all staff.This summer brings great promise in the shape of the Manchester New Teacher Project, SAU #37’s own version of new teacher orientation. Thanks to MSD teachers Steve Organek, Kim Larkin, Vickie Fournier, and Michelle Miller, ably assisted by PD Director Polly Golden and Exec. Dir. of the Innovation Zone Pat Snow, this team of professionals has been working very hard to develop an orientation program that seeks to answer the question “what tools and knowledge lead one to succeed as a first-year teacher in Manchester?”


The initial work session with the new teacher cohort will be held over a day and a half in August with a day-long district sponsored agenda that provides general information on technology, district culture, human resources, academic standards, etc. The remaining half-day will be spent in new teachers’ respective schools with their administration and teacher leaders providing more local, building-specific information such as classroom keys, IDs, tour, protocols, etc. The idea is to help the new teacher become acquainted with their immediate surroundings more quickly and comfortably so that they can focus more on their instruction in the early weeks.


Teachers in the new teacher cohort will also attend monthly, thematic cohort sessions promoting reflection and discussion among new teachers as well as professional development in special education, English Learners, guidance, use of data, etc. The conversation time taken for these meetings is when new teachers grow the most, and it is included because it is the most powerful form of learning for these adults.


The MNTP is also a great place for veteran teachers to take on a leadership role. We will be seeking one peer mentor per five (5) new teachers in each school to help with the school-based orientation in August, facilitate the monthly cohort sessions, and provide the necessary peer-to-peer support regarding culture and climate issues, among others. There will be minimal compensation for the mentors in the early stages with an eye toward growing stipends for the work.


The MNTP team will be issuing a call for peer mentors in the coming weeks through building principals. Essentially the commitment would be the day and a half in August with the new teachers (some of that time is breakout with the mentors only), attendance at monthly cohort meetings (again with breakout time), and general one-on-one guidance with assigned new teachers.


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Preparing the Mainstream Teacher for ESOL Instruction through Certification

The University of New Hampshire - Manchester is once again looking to host a cohort of teachers interested in becoming certified in ESOL. The program is open to all certified teachers in the Manchester School District teaching at any grade level and in any grade content. The tuition for the certification is grant-funded and will be at no cost to the students, and the program lasts for three terms (fall, spring and summer). There is much more information available by contacting Judy Sharkey, Ph.D., Associate Director of Teacher Education at UNHM, by phone at (603) 641-4121 or email at Judy.sharkey@unh.edu. Click here to access an informational brochure with more information.


UReads of the Week

Making Standards Serve the Student. Education Leadership. February 2012 | Volume 69 | Number 5.


Mentoring and Coaching Models in Education. This information is based on the Connected University course: Using Peer Coaching to Improve Instruction, Classroom Connect, Inc. http://www.classroom.com/.



Enjoy the holiday weekend!

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Curriculum Update for March 31, 2014

posted Apr 4, 2014, 6:16 AM by dryan@mansd.org

Professional Development/ Manchester Academic Standards



March 31, 2014



Why Build a Professional Development Network in Manchester?

“Whatever the term, the purpose is the same — to improve learning for educators and students” (Mizell, 2010). Teachers, staff and principals must engage in professional learning to keep skills sharp, learn new methods, expand on innovative ideas, and deepen the robust experience of reflection. It is no different in Manchester where it appears professional development can be hard to come by, especially if one reviews the recent report within the Curriculum Audit of the Manchester School District (International Curriculum Management Audit Center, 2013). If the school district is to move forward, and it is widely agreed that it must, then a professional development network is essential and the need is immediate.


To fully embrace the value of professional learning the learning organization must first delineate between the meanings of professional learning and certification. For educators, specifically teachers and principals, professional learning is the intentional act of improving and expanding one’s own knowledge base and skill set to effectively improve student learning. Certification, or licensure, is the legal standard that must be obtained and retained in order to engage in professional teaching. For many districts, Manchester included, one has gone hand in hand with the other resulting in professionals counting the number of hours they have spent in formal workshops or conferences with the hopes of amassing the required number of hours for licensure. Other than individual instances, the quality of the professional learning experiences, the change in instructional or leadership practice, and its affect on the improvement of student achievement is often forgotten or ignored.


So, let’s propose a district-wide network of professional sharing instead. What if we placed a higher value on the learning experiences and their subsequent effect on student learning? What of we spent our valuable time sharing our own best practices with each other, implementing them within our classrooms and schools, and then gather again to discuss the results we have seen? What if the evidence of the quality of your professional learning was given more attention than the quantity of your hours spent in learning? We will have the opportunity to talk about this and much more in the coming months as we will be assembling the Professional Development Master Plan committee to help write and submit a new plan by 2016. We will be seeking innovative and creative thinkers with a passion for professional development to help staff this team and Polly Golden will be reaching out shortly.


In the meantime, our goal is to build a district-wide sharing network to provide professional learning for all staff. We have very talented people in our school district who wish to share their work and just as many talented people who wish to learn about it. We have opportunities for workshops, data dives, book studies, lectures, peer classroom visits, and coming this August, New Teacher Orientation and peer mentors. Everything listed comes at no cost to our educators other than time and interest. We are committed to helping build this learning network and look forward to opening it in early September.


Manchester Academic Standards

Dr. Sandra Stotsky visited our high school ELA standards developers on March 21 and provided some healthy and well-received feedback for our teacher development team. She framed the work of the teachers as “elegant” and believes we are working along the right path to high standards for all students. This Friday two senior associates from The National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment located in Dover, NH will be briefed on our work to date and provide their feedback on our math standards K-12. They have volunteered to be a part of this work from a coaching perspective and see the benefits of a school district undertaking such a task.


We would like to hear from you about our standards development. If you have not been able to share your feedback, please go to http://curriculum.mansd.org/resource-documents/standards-development and scroll down to find grade level subject areas. Please send your feedback and we will be certain it reaches the appropriate grade level teams.


URead of the Week



Curriculum Update for February 26, 2014

posted Mar 5, 2014, 5:36 AM by dryan@mansd.org   [ updated Mar 5, 2014, 5:39 AM ]

WIDA ACCESS Just As Critical as NECAP, SAT - What You Need to Know

English Learners (EL) take a yearly test equivalent to the NECAP called the ACCESS for ELLs test (Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners).  It is developed by the Center of Applied Linguistics, EL and content teachers, and World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA). The test is standards-based, just like the NECAP, and it is meant to be a formative assessment for students to demonstrate progress in English language acquisition.


Students are tested from grades 1 to 12 in a tiered fashion, with Tier A for beginners, Tier B for intermediate students, and Tier C for advanced students. There are four parts to this test: speaking, listening, reading, writing. The speaking portion must be administered individually to each student, a time-consuming but critically important aspect of the assessment, and is accompanied by a rigorous set of guidelines and rubric. The listening, reading, and writing portions can be administered in groups of 22 or less.


According to WIDA, the listening and reading portions can be scheduled together in one 75-minute session or scheduled separately; and the writing portion should be scheduled in a 75-minute session.   While reading, listening, and writing can be scheduled for different days, each portion cannot be divided on that particular day in order to maintain the validity of this standardized test.


There is also a kindergarten test which must be administered individually.  It, too, is comprised of speaking, listening, reading, and writing portions.  Kindergartners are tested for fiction and nonfiction vocabulary.


Access does not affect AYP since the state of New Hampshire filed for a waiver. However, there is state adequacy and there is federal accountability. For state adequacy, the performance based system uses the overall composite score to determine if a student who is eligible for EL services uses their ACCESS score or their NECAP score for determination. If a student scores an overall composite of 4.0 or better, their next NECAP score will be used. If it is less than a 4.0, the ACCESS score is used. The reason is that it has been determined that the 4.0 is a good predictor that the student is actually being assessed on content for the NECAP instead of lack of language understanding.


ACCESS is also used as part of the Title III reporting. Title III looks at a the number of students proficient on the ACCESS which is a 5.0 and a 4.0 on all subtests, and Title III looks at students who were not proficient the previous year and their growth on the ACCESS.


Manchester Academic Standards Moving Along Nicely

The first draft of the standards are now on the Curriculum website: http://curriculum.mansd.org/resource-documents/standards-development. Please feel free to leaf through them and offer feedback. The vertical discussion is our next step and will be taking place later this month. The drafts are available to the public and we have contacted outside education professional and leaders to help us with their feedback as well.


URead of the Week

“Evidence suggests that schools can improve student learning by encouraging teachers and students to set their sights high.”  Lumsden, Linda (1997). Expectations for Students ERIC Digest, (116), pp 1-5.



Welcome Back - Bring on Spring


Curriculum Update for January 17, 2014

posted Jan 22, 2014, 10:14 AM by dryan@mansd.org   [ updated Mar 5, 2014, 5:40 AM ]

Why do we assess?

The widely accepted role of assessment is that it measures student progress in learning, when “in reality it plays an important role in focusing [student] attention and actually drives their learning”(Sainsbury & Walker, 2007). So how we assess student learning is critically important, and in many cases it can outweigh the importance of what is actually being assessed. That is not to say that content should be ignored; it is the contrary. Content should be explored more deeply through innovative classroom assessment activities such as performance tasks, inquiry-based activities, multi-stage developmental projects and exhibitions. Traditional forms of classroom assessment such as tests and quizzes still hold their place in the assessment arena, however their construction and purpose tend to solicit formative information at the first and second levels of Webb’s Depth of Knowledge scale.


All students need to be provided multiple opportunities to demonstrate their depth of learning by participating in different forms of classroom assessment. Each assessment must demand higher levels of expectation as triggered by Webb’s wheel, specifically levels 3 and 4, in order to be classified as “rigorous.”. All students deserve rigorous assessment activities - to not provide rigor for all students is to shortchange them of their aspirations. Naturally rigorous assessment activities are girded by high expectations for learning and quality instruction for all.


Traditional test questions should be aligned to a specific learning standard and be presented in a manner that best elicits the “demonstration of knowing deeply,” and the data from the assessments should be used to measure your effectiveness in instructing to the standards as well as the student’s progress toward mastery.


There is a wealth of research on assessment available to any action researcher, and understanding the role of it in our school district is the first step toward building a better experience for the students in your classrooms today.


Items from the IT Desktop

Save the Date: February 5, 2014 is Digital Learning Day!  Digital Learning Day is about engaging students and recognizing great teachers who use digital tools to enhance student learning.  Plan big or start small - beginners and experts alike are encouraged to participate. Look for more info at http://trc.mansd.org/digital-learning-day-2014


Call for Participation: The Technology Resource Center will roll out a Teaching for the 21st Century (T21) program. Up to 25 teachers will have an opportunity to participate in this 2 year-long cohort. The program will focus on web-based tools for communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking (4Cs) with a predominant focus on Google Apps for Education and Google Chromebooks. A major cohort goal will be for teachers to develop projects that will help students learn key academic content while practicing 21st century skills. Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks.


Digital Portfolio Survey: Are students in your classroom saving digital or digitized artifacts to an online portfolio? Please take this one-minute survey to let us know: trc.mansd.org/portfoliosurvey.


Curriculum Audit Progress

The District Standards and Curriculum Committee (DSCC) has been hard at work tackling the recommendations made in the Manchester School District Audit Report, specifically recommendations 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7. The policies that the audit has recommended are being drawn and five of them are on the agenda for the January 27 meeting of the BOSC Curriculum and Instruction Committee. These policies are pertinent to classroom teachers and their work around assessment, so I wanted to be sure that everyone had the news ahead of the meeting in the event there was some interest in watching. Naturally the minutes will be available from the meeting as well so don’t feel you need to change plans to make viewing happen.


A timeline is being assembled by the DSCC to outline the priorities of the audit with respect to the recommendations. These priorities will be mapped out by severity of need, primary/tertiary impact on learning, intensity, duration of implementation, and cost, in that order. Our hope is we will be able to report progress to the Board of School Committee on February 6, 2014.


URead of the Week:

O’Connor, K. and McTighe, J. (2005). “Seven Practices for Effective Learning” - Assessment to Promote Learning. Educational Leadership, Volume 63 (3), pp. 10-17.


Curriculum Update for December 20, 2013

posted Jan 14, 2014, 8:23 AM by dryan@mansd.org   [ updated Mar 5, 2014, 5:40 AM ]

English Learner Coordination Team Now Leading the EL Charge

The complexity of our student population continues to increase in that more and more students who are enrolling in the Manchester School District are native speakers of a language other than English. English Learner (EL) students comprise a goodly portion of our population and contribute to the pool of 70 languages spoken in our great city. Our job as educators is to embrace all student differences in our district and meet the needs of the individual. Whether it is cognitive, cultural, linguistic, physical, emotional or social, our role is to ensure that each and every child realizes their aspirations with whatever it takes to do it.


One of the approaches we are using this year is a District EL Coordination Team that represents all three organizational levels. In years past we have benefitted from the services of a district EL coordinator and a pair of co-coordinators, and after much discussion with the EL improvement plan writing team this fall it was decided that a team representing high school, middle school and pull-out and magnet programs in elementary would best serve our students’ needs at this time.

Congratulations and thank you for taking on this role June Tumblin of Central High School, Jane Pollard of McLaughlin Middle School, and Meryl Shea (pull-out) of Hallsville and Smyth Road. We are currently advertising for our magnet elementary coordinator and once we return from break we expect to have the team fully in place.  


Manchester Academic Standards Progress

60 teachers gathered at Manchester Community College on December 17 and 18 to dive into the details of the Common Core State Standards and begin working on assembling the Manchester Academic Standards. Dr. Althea Sheaff, retired assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the Nashua School District and current instructor at the University of New Hampshire, facilitated the two day workshop and was very pleased with the hard work of everyone involved and the first steps our team took. All of the information from the workshop is being organized and includes action steps, needs, barriers, and strategies. Further, the team has chosen to remain as one workgroup instead of breaking off into separate grade level teams. The grade level work will be accomplished at the work sessions in breakout fashion, if necessary, but the whole group felt more confident about their vertical work if the entire team stayed together.  


Please Vote for Our New Logo!

Twenty-two Manchester School District students responded to our logo design challenge by submitting their logo ideas by November 22, 2013. On December 12 a draft selection team of community members comprised of students, parents, administrative assistants, directors,  technology personnel, and district administrators came together to whittle down the 19 submissions to two finalists. We are very happy to say our two final logos are now live on the

website and are waiting for you to vote for one of them.


Teachers - when you return, please use this as an example of displaying student work and exercising student voice. Display the logos and have students vote - paper and pencil, website, show of hands, however you want to do it. We want this to be an opportunity for students to make a choice, and if you are unable to submit the vote electronically, please send the results to me by interoffice mail. We will continue the voting until January 31, 2014.


URead of the Week

Scherer, Marge. (2013).  Perspectives/Mastery: The Game Changer. Education Leadership, Volume 71 (4), p. 7.



Have a wonderful Holiday break!


Curriculum Update for November 4, 2013

posted Nov 5, 2013, 2:01 PM by dryan@mansd.org   [ updated Nov 5, 2013, 2:09 PM ]




“The Manchester School District will be a dynamic system focused on the realization of student aspirations.”


“The mission of the Manchester School District, in partnership with the community, is to inspire and empower all learners with the knowledge, skills, and experiences essential for them to reach their greatest potential.”



Organization for the Development of the Manchester Academic Standards

The school district took its first step toward developing its next set of academic learning standards by releasing the logic model for standards and curriculum development last week. The logic model is a first draft and should be followed moving left to right. It is a simple illustration of the workflow involving inputs and outputs and over time will be updated with specific information such as resources, products, and links to the standards and curriculum documents. It will be made available to the public in the Resource Documents section of the curriculum website.


The District Standards and Curriculum Committee (DSCC) is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, November 6 from 8:30 - 10:00 AM and will begin their work by organizing the charge and building the standards writing teams. The DSCC will meet twice per month to start and oversee the process of selecting teachers to research and build the set of standards, revise and write curriculum, and develop an implementation plan. A few members of the DSCC will also be responsible for communicating all of the work to the public in an efficient and timely manner. Members of the DSCC include district level administrators, building level administrators, district directors and coordinators. All of the standards and curriculum writing teams will be comprised of classroom teachers from all grade levels, and the teams will be scheduled to work during and after school hours.


Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) and Teacher Evaluation

All schools in the district began the work of developing a school-based student learning objective in mathematics in September and that work continues to move forward. Many of you will be learning more about this work tomorrow during our November In Service day. Our seven Priority Schools have, as part of their work under the ESEA flexibility waiver, a requirement to implement a new teacher effectiveness model that incorporates SLOs and assessment data to determine student growth and therefore, teacher effectiveness. We believe it will not be too long after the Priority Schools implement the plan that the remainder of the schools across New Hampshire use the evaluation model as well, and a draft copy of the proposed model is here. It should be comforting to note that the Task Force on Effective Teaching, the group that developed the model, includes teachers and state-level NEA executives among its membership.


In support of your work with SLOs  is the section of the plan devoted to teacher evaluation through the assessment of student growth, encaptioned here from page 21 of the plan:


“Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) form the foundation of New Hampshire’s approach for documenting changes in student learning associated with a teacher or group of educators and, as such, all educators will have the results of SLOs incorporated into their evaluations. For educators in “tested” subjects and grades, those grades and subjects for which there is a state, standardized test as well as a state test in the same subject in the previous year, student learning will be evaluated using Student Growth Percentiles (SGP), and the results of SGP analyses, along with SLO results, will be used in the evaluations of educators in tested subjects and grades.

Both SGP and SLO approaches can be used to attribute the academic achievement and growth of students to individual educators or to appropriate aggregations of educators such as grade or content-level teams or even the whole school. Distributing student learning results to multiple educators is referred to as “shared attribution.” The tradeoffs associated with shared attribution

are also discussed below” (New Hampshire Model Educator Support and Evaluation System, p.21).  


Bravo! English Learner Improvement Plan Writing Team Completes Its Work

Eleven EL teachers from all grade levels came together in the early weeks of September to dive into the EL program in our school district and develop a two-year improvement plan that is being submitted to the NH Department of Education this week. Throughout the past two months this team met as frequently as once a week for full days to review EL data over the past three years, identify barriers and bridges to student achievement, develop strategies to overcome barriers and advance student learning, and justify strategies with supporting data and resources. All members of the team contributed a significant amount of work in the name of kids, and special thanks go to Margaret King, June Tumblin, Meryl Shea, Carey Hodges, Jane Pollard, Ginny Mahan, Donna Crook, Gigi Munoz, Sarah Dubois, Diane Stutsrim, and Douglas Leclerc for their incredible work.


Bravo! West High School Implements New Teacher Cohort

Principal Chris Motika announced last week that he is establishing a new teacher cohort in his school to help support first-year teachers and the work they do. Most of us remember how hard that first year was, especially without the proper support and guidance. According to Motika “the purpose of this cohort is multi-faceted. First, in order to properly support new teachers, they need consistent feedback, a chance to discuss strategies and problems, and the opportunity to brainstorm ideas. Second, from a cultural and building standpoint, new teachers need the forum to ask questions and raise concerns in a non-threatening, non-evaluative manner.” Congratulations West on formalizing a program for new teachers and demonstrating the importance of embedded professional development for all staff.


URead of the Week

Building Relationships with Students  -  By Nina Sears, NEA



Curriculum Update 2013

posted Oct 25, 2013, 9:55 AM by dryan@mansd.org   [ updated Oct 25, 2013, 9:56 AM ]

Academic Standards, Data and Student 
Learning Objectives – 
How Does This All Fit Together?




“The Manchester School District will be a dynamic system focused on the realization of student aspirations.”

“The mission of the Manchester School District, in partnership with the community, is to inspire and empower all learners with the knowledge, skills, and experiences essential for them to reach their greatest potential.”


The conversation about academic standards changing in Manchester continues and teachers and administrators are confronting the change to understand its impact and develop an implementation plan. Part of that implementation started with the development of curriculum guides this past summer and continues with the professional development on quality assessments, development of high depth of knowledge learning activities, data inquiry protocols, and student learning objectives. Since August Manchester educators from all levels have worked collaboratively to better understand the components of this change and make sense of “how does this affect instruction in my classroom?” This brief has been developed to help everyone see how this work is connected and how it serves our vision for student learning. We further hope it serves as an introduction to the work we all have before us.


Largest among the issues we face is the construction of the Manchester Academic Standards and the alignment of curriculum to them. The academic standards, or “things” that students should know and be able to do, are considered the blueprint for learning. Using bodies of work such as the Common Core State Standards, New Hampshire GLEs and GSEs, Massachusetts Frameworks, and other sources from around the nation, our professional educators will embark on a year-long journey of collaboration to design high level K-12 standards. These standards are universal across the school district and are grade-appropriate leading to the senior year of high school and planned backwards through the high school, middle school, and elementary years. Knowledge and experiences should build upon those mastered previously and allow the individual student to grow intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically throughout their public school careers. As we work through this process it is critical to remember that the instruction and relationships with students remain paramount in successful learning experiences. Without the impact of a strong teacher with effective instructional practice and a deep knowledge of the individual students in the classroom, standards can be developed and re-developed with no avail. It is the human connection between teacher and student that matters most, and we measure the effects of our learning relationship with students best through well-written assessments.


The assessment is used to see to what degree we have moved students toward achieving the academic standards, and the information we cull from these assessments is used in two ways: 1) measure our effectiveness in terms of the curriculum we deliver, and 2) measure cohort and individual progress toward school, classroom and student learning objectives. As I stated above, regardless of the standards the most important work we do is improving our teaching and building relationships with our kids.


There is an interconnectedness to all of this work to date. The draft documents that were designed this past summer by 54 of our classroom teachers and administrators symbolize the collaborative process we must undertake to fully realize our vision for student learning. Working together to learn how to efficiently analyze data, engage others in conversation about the data and ultimately generate action is a requirement for sharing the decision-making process across schools and across the district. This establishes conditions for an inquiry-based culture, and when a school district examines its own work as closely as we intend, it sees areas for great opportunity and utilizes the expertise within it to seize those opportunities for success.


Those opportunities are then written as student learning objectives. A student learning objective, or SLO, is an academic goal for an educator’s students at the start of a course and represents the most important learning that is aligned the academic standards as well as many other school or school district priorities (please see an example at http://education.ohio.gov/getattachment/Topics/Academic-Content-Standards/New-Learning-Standards/Student-Learning-Objective-Examples/Student-Learning-Objectives-English-Example/Grade-1-SLO.pdf.aspx). Using SLOs, teachers are able to measure the effectiveness and progress of their teaching as it relates to student learning and make the necessary adjustments to instruction along the way. Knowing students through the relationship-building that occurs on a daily basis provides the foundation for personalized learning. In combining the two acts a classroom teacher can best determine what each student requires in terms of instruction and intervention while staying abreast of progress for all students.


This is the big picture. This is the vision. We want to develop astute consumers of data who use the information that is available to them to better inform what their students need most and then work together providing it. This is the direction in which we want to move and believe the people in this school district are poised and ready to lead us in a sustainable effort with an end to the means. We will continue to provide support for opportunities for collaboration and learning such as those you have experienced or heard about since the start of school, and we are always available for suggestions on improvement and innovation.


Updates such as this will appear every three or four weeks. The goal of the Curriculum Update is to help keep all Manchester School District educators informed about current curriculum events, research-based practices and key dates and times. Feel free to submit articles of interest or short anecdotes about your practice in schools, and please let us know what you would like to see specifically in CU by commenting to dryan@mansd.org.



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