As you may know, RI made significant changes to the State Assessment system. PARCC was replaced by "RICAS" which was purchased from Massachusetts, who uses the MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) to measure student achievement in English Language Arts and mathematics. Massachusetts has been implementing the MCAS assessment for over twenty years. In late November, districts received assessment results from the first RICAS administration, and North Smithfield students scored well above the state average in both ELA and mathematics. However, there is significant room for improvement.
We are in the process of analyzing data and making adjustments to curriculum and instruction based on the results. One particular area of note is that North Smithfield ranked #1 in average student growth in both ELA and mathematics compared to all other districts. We are making progress at a faster rate due to the emphasis on standards-based instruction, using assessment data to inform instruction, and building a system and structure of intervention. This work is possible due to the commitment of our teachers that are in the trenches doing the everyday work that engages students in rigorous learning activities grounded in clearly defined standards.
District Ongoing Professional Development is provided in many different, easily accessible ways to accommodate diverse learning styles and needs. Examples of ongoing professional development activities include:
A professional learning community (PLC) is a group of educators that meets regularly to share expertise and work collaboratively to improve teaching skills and the academic performance of students. Our district continues to implement grant funded PLCs focusing on standards-based instruction, embedding technology to engage students and assessment literacy.
Halliwell School has implemented a PLC comprised of eight teachers and one administrator participating in a book club featuring “Math Workshop” by Jennifer Lempp. This book details the steps to implement the math workshop model including: Guided Math, Learning Stations, Reflections, and Number Routines. Teachers read the assigned chapters and meet regularly to discuss and organize ideas to implement the math workshop model. We are grateful for the time, energy and efforts of: Deana Cook, Mary Jannetta, Victoria Costa, Lauren Galoski, Jennifer Albrecht, Jennifer Fraioli, Andrea Lafleur and Rachael Salvatore.
In addition to in-district PD, our faculty frequently attends and participates in a wide variety of out-of-district professional development opportunities. Here are a few examples:
The Common Core State Standards were adopted in August of 2010. NS curriculum teams have worked over the years to understand the standards and the impact of the standards on teaching and learning. As part of the next steps we are going to begin a Reading Program adoption for English Language Arts.
When the CC ELA standards were first adopted, the curriculum companies were way behind in providing materials that were high quality and they were loosely aligned at best. As time has passed, curricular materials are now available that are tightly aligned to the standards and best practices in instruction.
Quality Instructional Materials are incredibly important. High-quality instructional materials are designed to help build a teacher’s content knowledge, provide guidance to inform lesson planning and offer structures to support collaboration with other teachers. Research shows that students gain months of learning when teachers use high-quality instructional materials. The average middle school student using aligned math textbooks gains about 8 months of additional learning compared with a student using unaligned materials (Kane & Owens, 2016). A 2013 quasi-experimental study from Mathematica conducted in five high-poverty Expeditionary Learning schools in Washington, D.C. and New York City found positive academic effects in both reading and math – and the positive impacts increased the longer the school used the materials (Expeditionary Learning is a highly standards-aligned curriculum).
The general process that we will follow to evaluate reading programs is:
The NS Teacher Mentor Program fosters an intellectual environment by providing opportunities for dialogue and ultimately increasing student achievement. The Program not only focuses on improving the skills and knowledge of new to district teachers, but also aids in retention of teachers. All new teachers are assigned a mentor that will promote the growth and development of the beginning teacher. Mentor teachers that are selected for new teachers typically have five years of teaching experience, and demonstrate mastery of pedagogy, content and show a commitment to professional learning. The mentor meets with the teacher throughout the year and also provides multiple opportunities for the new teacher to observe veteran teachers during scheduled Community of Practice days. This initiative has supported student success as state assessment data shows increased student achievement in the areas of English Language Arts and mathematics. Data is analyzed to pin-point academic areas of strengths and weaknesses within the district and subsequent professional development is provided. New teachers to the district have multiple opportunities to participate in observations of veteran teachers that are strategically coordinated to share standards based practices. According to The New Teacher Center, research shows evidence that students taught by teachers who receive support demonstrate higher learning gains. Effective mentorship programs connect new teachers with positive, pro-social, professional mentors in the same teaching area. The work of the Mentor Coordinators, Kim Rawson and Brittany Robichaud is appreciated as they extend and refine the program.
The purpose of this multifaceted project is to support the articulated curriculum aligned to the ELA Common Core Standards. To propel the implementation of the writing curriculum and standards, all grades 1-8 English Language Arts teachers will administer an On Demand/End-of-Year Writing Assessment. All academic assessments are used to gain accurate information about what students know and can do. The On Demand/End-of-Year Writing Assessment will support the calibration of scoring and standards. Calibration is used to ensure that a group of educators evaluates student work consistently and in alignment with the scoring rubric. This increases the reliability of the assessment data. When scoring is calibrated, a piece of student work receives the same score regardless of who scores it because all scorers interpret and apply the rubric in the same way. Teachers of the next school year will conference with each student on their On Demand/End-of-Year sample of work (from the previous year) in September/October. We are well aware that students experience a wide range of writing abilities, this activity will serve as a baseline and solidify the skills that the student begins the next school grade with and offers the “new” teacher an opportunity to provide feedback. Student/Teacher conferences are taking place this month. The process can promote positive attitudes about writing, increased motivation and deepen the student/teacher relationship.
The Freshman Math Academy for the Class of 2022 was a great success. Students participated in transition activities, as well as, learned math concepts and skills that will be taught in their first unit of study as freshman. Each day guest speakers from the private/business sector shared their experience and expertise focing on real world application of mathematics and careers. We greatly appreciate the time and effort of our guest speakers:
Katy Shannon, Operations Vice President, Assistant Client Service Manager of FM Global shared her experiences as a consultant engineer in the Los Angeles operations. She held several positions throughout the San Francisco operations including a position as an account engineer in Seattle; underwriter in Seattle; and senior account manager in the San Francisco office.
Curtis Carlson shared his career experiences as General Manager of the Residence Inn in Coventry. He graduated from Johnson and Wales with a Bachelor of Science in Hotel Management and has been in the hospitality industry for over 25 years. He has worked as a district manager and as a human resource manager with various companies in the hospitality field.
Ed Yazback, a North Smithfield business owner shared his education and career path as a CPA. He started his career with Christiansen & Co. based in Woonsocket, RI, which at the time was the largest independent CPA firm in New England. C & Co merged with Ernst & Ernst in 1983, E & E was fourth largest CPA firm in the world at the date of the merger.
Formed Yazbak & Company in 1985 specializing in accounting and tax services to privately owned business and their owners. Currently, Yazbak & Company serves over 225 businesses & 950 individual clients from their office location in Branch Village, North Smithfield, RI.
Clare Arnold, Assistant Superintendent