Dear North Smithfield Faculty and Staff,
We are so fortunate as educators to have a work year that ends. We get to close out one year, have some time to relax, refresh and reflect and then can start anew with new energy and enthusiasm.
After the close of last year, I went to Florida with my best friend, which was fabulous! During that time I had a chance to reflect, really reflect and I came up with two things…
The first is how much we all have been able to accomplish in the last few years. We have transitioned to new standards, studied the standards, developed curriculum, rubrics, assessments, data systems, instructional initiatives. What I realized is- through blood, sweat, and tears we have build a strong foundation for our district. Although we will continue to develop curriculum and embrace new initiatives… we are at a point that we will no longer have to give blood. We will definitely continue to give our sweat and even an occasional tear… but the foundation is set and strong. And for that, I thank you all.
The second thing I realized is that Plan B is sometimes better than plan A. The reason I say this is because start of last year I had a set of initiatives and goals. There was one particular initiative that was going down hill fast… I thought it was going to be a crash and burn/epic fail. But teachers reached out to me, we met after school hours reworked the plan and changed direction. I was receiving phone calls, emails, and text messages and I could feel the energy, excitement and momentum of the new plan taking shape. Plan B far surpassed plan A. I tell you all this because I know for sure that this doesn't happen in all districts. The feeling of ‘we can do this and lets make it great… and have fun while doing it’ attitude is unique and priceless. North Smithfield teachers make it a pleasure for me come to work.
Looking ahead to the new year… When it comes to any academic initiatives - I believe and have believed for quite a long time that there are three main ingredients. They are standards, practices and relationships. Standards- we have to know what we should be teaching and what product we ultimately want the kids to produce. Practices- this is the art and craft of teaching, how we engage our learners. Relationships- relationships with students, parents, colleagues and administrators. And each is equally important. Although we regularly work on and discuss standards and practices, developing relationships is sometimes overlooked. I am going ask you to reflect at some point this year about how you build strong relationships. No protocol, no forced care and share, no rubrics…. just reflect. And if you have the chance please, when the time is right, share your reflections with a colleague in a genuine way, simply because strengthening relationships is worthy of conversation.
This year we will develop foreign Language curriculum, develop k-12 music curriculum, implement ELA and math curriculum refinement days, and begin to develop a project based learning initiative. We have re-worked the structure of PD days with the help of the PD advisory committee. I will be sending an email out with all the specifics on upcoming initiatives. The curriculum website is updated with dates and information. But for now, I just want to say welcome. I am looking forward to a wonderful year of learning and laughter.
The are many guiding documents, programs and committees that work in tandem for the purpose of improving instruction, professional development and student achievement. Programs and initiatives that we support are informed by many moving pieces. A couple examples of this is:
• Our math curriculum teams and task force built an assessment system aligned to ccss standards. Teachers implemented curriculum/assessments and scored unit assessments by standard. The results were uploaded into shared Google docs. The District Data Team analyzed data and made recommendations to the Professional Development Advisory Committee (PDAC.) The PDAC then built time into each PD day for grade levels/depts. to meet to review recommendations and inform instruction.
• Another example includes work from our District Evaluation Committee (DEC.) The DEC recommended that questioning techniques be an area of focus for the coming year based on evaluation data. On the September 9th PD day, all classroom teachers will participate in a Questioning Techniques session. This PD also supports the work we have done with McRel “Classroom Instruction that Works” and our Formative Assessment initiative.
• RI Basic Education Program (BEP)
• District Strategic Plan
• Curriculum Cycle
• Survey Results
• Professional Development Advisory Committee
• Curriculum Task Force Teams by Content Area
• Formative Assessment Resident Expert Team
• Argument Writing Resident Expert team
• District Data Use Team
The Curriculum/PD Components:
• Study of the Standards, Curriculum and Units
• Professional Development (teaching practices/implementation)
• Assessments (formative and summative)
• Materials for Implementation
The Professional Development Advisory Committee worked last year to refine the structure of PD days. This year, each of the four PD days (there will be a few exceptions) will be broken into three sessions. One session will focus on technology, one session will focus on instruction and one session will be reserved for grade level/department meetings. The first PD day scheduled for September 9th will follow this format. The technology session will dive deeper into Google Apps. The instruction session will focus on questioning techniques. This session was planned based on the recommendation from the District Evaluation Committee. During the third session teachers will work in department/grade level meetings.
This grant funded initiative is a multifaceted project supporting the launch of ELA and Mathematics Curriculum implementation aligned to the Common Core Standards. The North Smithfield School Department has completed the development of ELA and Mathematics curricula. The curriculum includes a curriculum guide, which ‘unpacks’ each standard, a curriculum map displaying the standards in order of instruction, units of study based on the Understanding by Design (UbD) format. To propel and support the implementation, all K-12 Mathematics/ELA teachers (by grade/department) will work in professional learning communities to refine and support instruction. Each grade level/department will meet for three full days. Teachers will share experiences with the new curriculum, identify successful strategies as well as barriers to implementation. In addition, we will develop a system and structure for teachers to visit classrooms throughout the district. By visiting other classrooms, it will give us a chance to share practices and ensure our instruction is aligned. I look forward to meeting with these awesome teacher teams! All dates are posted on the NS Curriculum website.