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/


URead of the Week

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