Curriculum Update for November 2014

posted Dec 10, 2014, 8:59 AM by   [ 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 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.