Curriculum Update 2013

posted Oct 25, 2013, 9:55 AM by   [ 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 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