Monday, December 9, 2013

Shifting to the Common Core State Standards and Assessments

Shifting to the Common Core State Standards and Assessments

Many of us have heard about the Common Core State Standards and are curious about the changes that this will bring to our curriculum and assessments.  There are several key shifts in the new Massachusetts 2011 standards for both English Language Arts and Literacy and also Mathematics, and so the assessments used to measure these standards will also be evolving.

In Mathematics, there are four key shifts: Focus, Coherence, Clarity, and Rigor.

·         Key Shift #1:  Focus.  Students will focus on the most essential skills at each grade level.  Instead of covering topics in a mile-wide, inch-deep curriculum, our students will focus deeply on the key understandings at each grade level to build a strong conceptual foundation.

·         Key Shift #2: Coherence.  The standards are built with progression in mind.  Principals and teachers will carefully connect the learning across grades to build the foundational knowledge necessary for new understandings.  Teachers can begin to expect that students will enter the classroom with a deep conceptual understanding of core content in order to build on it.

·         Key Shift #3:  Clarity.  The new standards are more clear and organized for all stakeholders.

·         Key Shift #4:  Rigor.  The new standards include a deeper conceptual understanding of key concepts, increased expectations for procedural skill and fluency, and an increase in the opportunities to apply math in context.

In English Language Arts and Literacy, there are also many shifts.

·         Key Shift #1:  Balance of Literary and Informational Text.  Students will now see not only classic literature and narrative texts but also, in equal amounts, informational texts.  This includes more than just non-fiction and also incorporates deciphering graphs, charts, and diagrams and using technology to communicate.

·         Key Shift #2:  Complexity of Texts.  The level of difficulty of the texts that students are required to “grapple with” at each grade level has increased.  Students will be challenged to read and comprehend challenging texts at all levels.

·         Key Shift #3:  Text-Based Answers/Writing to Text.  The new standards require students to return to the texts to formulate answers to questions and to prepare written responses.  Student writing will need to always be supported by textual evidence.

·         Key Shift #4:  Academic Vocabulary.  The new standards extend to “literacy” in all subject areas, with specific guidance for domain specific vocabulary, reading, and writing in the Science and Social Studies areas.

How will the assessments, like MCAS, be affected by the changes to the standards?

The MCAS assessments in 2013-14 will be 100% aligned to the Common Core standards in grades 3-10 for ELA and 3-8 for Mathematics.  Grade 10 Mathematics will test on standards common to both the Common Core standards and previous MA standards.

The MCAS assessment will be changing in the coming years to better assess the Common Core State Standards. In addition, Massachusetts is also a part of a consortium of states developing the PARCC assessment, which could replace MCAS.  The PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessment is “innovative and engaging” and will provide timely data for student success.  More information for parents can be found here:

How has North Reading been preparing?

Since the Common Core State Standards and the corresponding 2011 Massachusetts Frameworks were introduced our educators have been unpacking the documents to understand what is most essential at each grade level for our students to know and be able to do.  The state has provided guiding documents to assist us in aligning our curriculum with the new documents and in being proactive in preparing our students for the future changes to assessments.  Our educators have also engaged in professional development and collaboration with educators from surrounding districts as we are all facing these changes and challenges together.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

North Reading Wellness Committee

We are all aware of the growing concerns around our children’s health and wellness.
This year a dedicated team of educators and community members came together as a part of the Wellness committee.  Included in the group were Lois Bisson, Anna McGovern, Claudia Brown, Lorraine McGee, Laurie Witts, Lynne Clemens, Amy Luckiewicz,  Patricia Bullard, and Patrick Daly.

For 2012-13 this group had many goals including re-writing the goals from the committee’s 2006 document and aligning with the 2010 Health and Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.  The committee worked to organize the goals into four categories: Nutrition Promotion, Nutrition Education, Health Education, and Physical Education.  The recommendations of this group will be passed along to the Superintendent for consideration.

Nutrition promotion goals are about positioning healthy choices for students to consider.  This is about more than choosing fruits and vegetables over sugary snacks.  It’s about understanding how many different types of fruits exist and the many ways to prepare them.  For example, our cafeteria may provide several varieties of apples so that students can develop a taste for which apple they prefer.  

Nutrition Education goals concern students learning the knowledge and skills related to nutritional wellness.  This would include learning about healthy choices, the dangers of obesity, and the benefits of proper nutrition.  Goals focused on both the curriculum that the students would experience in school as well as the extra-curricular education that they would receive through local community partnerships.  
Expanding and improving health education, offering healthier food choice options at local events, and creating guidelines for fundraisers are among the goals for this topic.

The final two topics focus on Health and Physical education goals and are connected to the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks as well as national standards.  The goals in these areas relate to the curriculum students will be taught as well as the continued vision for the importance of health and physical education for all students in North Reading.

As we look to 2013-14 the Wellness committee hopes to have many new initiatives that will involve the entire community.  Our goal is to create a community-wide effort to promote healthy choices, physical activity, and nutrition promotion.  The committee already involves members of the North Reading Public Schools, Parks and Recreation, Youth Services, parents, local health care providers, and more.  We hope to include other partners in the future.  If you’d like to be involved in the Wellness committee next year please contact Patrick Daly at