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.
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. This was developed based upon previous programming which has produced excellent results. Working in PLC's has strengthened culture, created a vehicle for common language, strategies and accountability. The work aligns with the RI Quality PD Standards: Quality teaching is informed by individual, school and district goals to deepen educators content knowledge, provide them with researched based instructional strategies to assist all students in meeting rigorous academic standards.
This summer, the North Smithfield Middle School PLC is comprised of 5 math teachers, working on a review of math content and standards for grades 6, 7, and 8 and refinement of instructional strategies and assessments in order to increase student achievement in mathematics. I am grateful for the time, energy and efforts of Christine Lopes, Cassie Jalbert, Carol Charest, Margaret Gallo, and Amy Wright.
Grade 6 Focus: After a careful review of math content and standards, the team is developing materials that utilize interleaving as a method for learning and review. Interleaving - providing practice problems that are arranged so that skills are intermixed - has been shown to increase student achievement.
"In an alternative approach that served as the intervention in the present study, practice problems are merely rearranged so that a portion of each assignment includes a set of different kinds of problems presented in an intermixed order—a technique known as interleaved mathematics practice" (e.g., Higgins & Ross, 2011; Richland, Bjork, Finley, & Linn, 2005; Richland, Linn, & Bjork, 2007; Rohrer & Taylor, 2007; Schmidt & Bjork, 1992).
Grade 7 and Grade 8 Focus: After analysis of math content and standards, the team is developing performance tasks that align with grade 7 units of study curriculum, as well as reviewing and refining grade 7 and grade 8 unit assessments and corresponding study guides in order to ensure high-quality assessments. In order to achieve a deep level of learning as described in the Common Core State Standards, students need to be able to apply integrated skills in order to solve real-world problems. Performance tasks assess a student's higher-order thinking and ability to transfer knowledge to new contexts. In addition, summative assessments (unit assessments) provide information integral to the continual review and refinement of curriculum and instruction.
"If schools are to enable the kind of transferable learning described in the Common Core State Standards and required of young people in contemporary society, assessments will need to support curriculum and teaching focused on such learning, along with traditional basic skills."
Criteria for High-Quality Assessment By Linda Darling-Hammond, Joan Herman, James Pellegrino, Jamal Abedi, J. Lawrence Aber, Eva Baker, Randy Bennett, Edmund Gordon, Edward Haertel, Kenji Hakuta, Andrew Ho, Robert Lee Linn, P. David Pearson, James Popham, Lauren Resnick, Alan H. Schoenfeld, Richard Shavelson, Lorrie A. Shepard, Lee Shulman, Claude M. Steele
North Smithfield Schools has recently submitted a plan to the Rhode Island Department of Education to conduct virtual instruction when schools have been closed due to inclement weather.
If approved, Virtual Instructional Days will be used to sustain the momentum of learning, reducing the disruption typically caused by snow days. Providing opportunities for virtual instruction also supports the district’s goal of integrating technology into instruction.
The North Smithfield Schools' “Virtual Instruction” application/plan aligns with the guidance provided by the department of education which allows up to three days to be used for virtual instruction. We look forward to receiving feedback from the department of education, fine-tuning our plan and sharing with all stakeholders.
Below are some details from the draft plan:
Who will participate in Virtual Instructional Day?
All K-12 students. On Virtual Instructional days, AM and PM Preschool will be closed.
What is a Virtual Instructional Day?
Students will not report to school due to inclement weather or other emergency, but will engage in learning activities using digital resources.
How and when will students and parents know if a Virtual Instructional Day will take place?
Inclement weather cancellations and announcement of a Virtual Instructional Day will be relayed through the school’s notification phone & email system, district website, Facebook , and local TV/radio stations.
How will students be informed about assignments during a Virtual Instructional Day?
Students will be able to access instruction via the School Website. Google Classroom/Google Suite will be the platform used in grades K-12 to post student assignments, facilitate discussions, and submit work. Students regularly access Google Classroom on typical school days. All teachers will post assignments on Google Classroom by 8:00 a.m. and will be available for online communication 8:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
How will students obtain assistance from teachers on Virtual Instructional Days?
Teachers will be available via their northsmithfieldschools.com email directly from Google Classroom or any other email product. Google Classroom will be the platform used in grades K-12 to post student assignments, facilitate discussions, and submit work. If students need technical assistance or have general technical questions and/or concerns, they may call the school Virtual Instruction Information Line: 401-597-6100 x4220 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If needed, the message will be relayed to the teacher.
When will class assignments be due?
Three school days after we return to school.
What if a student does not have access to the internet?
According to a recent survey, 98% of North Smithfield families have home internet access. Teachers are aware that not all students have internet access at home and will provide accommodations when necessary for students without home internet access. Coursework assigned on a Virtual Instructional day will not be due until three school days after we return to school. If the Virtual Instructional Day is announced or acknowledged to be likely before students leave school, students can open the files they need while in school, work on them offline at home, and the changes will sync when they return to school. Students without internet connection have the opportunity to complete work over the three days following return to school, allowing for students to make arrangements to use the after-school open computer labs. Some “paper-based” options will also be available to early elementary students, when appropriate.
Do students with identified special learning needs have an alternative means to
access their education on Virtual Instructional Days?
Yes, individual supports, services, and accommodations for students with an Individual Education Program (IEP), Individual Learning Plan (ILP), or a Section 504 Plan are reviewed, discussed, and agreed upon at the student’s annual meeting, a Section 504 meeting, or general education plan meeting.
How does North Smithfield School Department safeguard my child while online?
North Smithfield School Department takes student privacy very seriously. We meet all FERPA, COPPA, and CIPA requirements, and we filter student internet activity via ContentKeeper when students are logged in with their northsmithfieldschools.com username and password.
What training is available for how to access and use online services and resources?
North Smithfield Schools is a GSuite district. This means that North Smithfield students and faculty use Google’s suite of education tools: Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Drawings district-wide. Every employee and student is given a gmail address and login and has access to the education tools and some core organizational tools such as individual Google Drive space, email, calendar, and others. Teachers and students interact on a platform called Google Classroom where teachers can distribute announcements , assignments, and email students. Students can see all of their work, access all related files, turn in their work, and email their teacher(s) directly.
Because use of the GSuite of tools is embedded in our daily routines, teachers and students have frequent and ongoing opportunities to use the GSuite tools and to engage in learning opportunities to enhance their skills.
Clare Arnold, Assistant Superintendent