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Monday, December 22, 2014

Next Generation Testing Forums

On Wednesday, January 21st at 6:30pm at the Batchelder School cafeteria and on Thursday, January 22nd, at 6:30pm in the Distance Learning Lab at the North Reading High School we will present an informational forum for parents about next generation testing.   In 2015-16 Massachusetts districts had the choice to preview the PARCC assessment or to remain with MCAS for one more year.  In 2016 and beyond the state will either adopt PARCC or create a next-generation MCAS to replace the current system.

As you are aware, North Reading is among the more than 50% of districts who are test-driving the PARCC assessment in the Spring of 2015.  This test will be computer-based at the Batchelder School for grades 3, 4, and 5 and paper-based at those grades at the Little and Hood schools for both English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics.  The Middle School will utilize the PARCC assessment in grades 6-8 for ELA and Mathematics.

At the high school, the 9th grade students taking Algebra I will be taking the PARCC assessment this spring as well.

During this “test drive” year 10th grade students will continue to take MCAS, as will students taking the 5th and 8th grade Science assessment.  Biology students will also take the MCAS exam for that subject area as well.  Students who traditionally take the alternative MCAS test will continue to take that exam in the spring of 2015.

North Reading has aligned it’s curriculum and courses with the 2011 Massachusetts frameworks and we are looking forward to this “test drive” of PARCC as we look to see if this new assessment truly measures the standards in a way that provides meaningful feedback to our students and educators. 
We look forward to answering questions and exploring the next generation assessments together!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Digital Learning Update

If you’ve been in or around the schools in North Reading lately you’ve likely seen many new and emerging technologies in the classrooms.  Through investments from the school department,large capital requests, the new building project, and the generous contributions from parent organizations we have increased the opportunities for digital learning in all of our buildings for the 2014-15 school year.

At our elementary schools students continue to receive a technology-infused instructional
approach from our educators who strive to engage students at the highest level.  Our Digital
Learning Specialists collaborate with all educators on using iPads, Chromebooks,
SMARTboards, and many other digital tools to enhance instruction.  One area of focus this year has been in developing a research project that utilizes age-appropriate databases for students in Kindergarten, first, and second grade to allow the students to explore topics in greater depth.


The outcome of this project is often also a digital publication, allowing students to demonstrate
mastery of the skills that they will need to succeed in college and careers. Although North Reading Middle School will not see a new facility until next year, staff and students in the building have had the opportunity to explore new devices this year with students.

Throughout the summer and early fall the facility was updated with interactive whiteboards and
wireless solutions that have allowed teachers to begin using iPads and Chromebooks with
students in classroom spaces as well as the library and cafeteria.  Middle school teachers
continue to use apps with students in many curriculum areas, from Mathematics to Social
Studies to Physical Education.  Science and English Language Arts educators have utilized
Chromebooks with students for research and collaborative projects.  Our Arts programs are
exploring ways of using software to help students increase their understanding and improve
their performance.  Students in the video production club are already accessing equipment at
the new building and in the fall all of the students will be able to experience the resources
available at the new middle/high school.

North Reading High School students entered the year with many new digital learning tools to
enhance instruction.  Throughout the building there are kiosks with the ability to project
messages for students and provide important information throughout the day.  Wireless access
is available to all students and teachers throughout the building, with plans to allow students to
learn more about acceptable use and digital citizenship in order to begin using  their own
devices on the network in the near future.

The performing arts center and distance learning lab contain technology that will provide
students with many opportunities to enhance their learning.  Each classroom includes an
interactive whiteboard, speaker system, and software that allows students to share screens
from individual devices with the entire classroom.  The MediaCAST system will allow students
and teachers to access thousands of digital videos as well as locally produced content to view
on demand.  This could include morning announcements, sporting events, theater performances, and lectures in the distance learning lab.  These tools, functioning together, will greatly enhance concepts like the “flipped” model of education, where students will be able toaccess videos and information on personal devices and watch and rewatch them as much as the individual student needs.  And with many carts of mobile devices, including iPads and Chromebooks, students are able to work throughout the building on projects, internet research, or accessing the MediaCAST library to view the latest uploads.

The Digital Learning Team in the North Reading Public Schools has worked tremendously hard
through a period of great change and have enthusiastically learned new technologies in order to
share these tools with educators and students.  As we look to next year, many of the updated
and reimaged devices from the middle school will be repurposed to the elementary schools and
additional devices will be supported throughout the district.  This is truly an exciting time to be a

student in North Reading!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Welcome Back from the Assistant Superintendent

Welcome Back from the Assistant Superintendent

After having served the students and educators for these past five years I am honored to have been named the Assistant Superintendent of the North Reading Public Schools.   Although there are several aspects of my position that will remain the same there are also new areas of responsibility that I will be supporting for the 2014-15 school year.  

Curriculum

As a district we will continue to implement the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks, including the new Common Core aligned frameworks for Mathematics and English Language Arts.  This year we will continue to explore the Next Generation Science Standards as well as review our standards in all content areas.

Assessment

All educators in North Reading are implementing common formative and summative assessments to facilitate conversations about student growth and to improve opportunities for student learning throughout the district.

As North Reading prepares for next generation state assessments we will administer the PARCC assessment in 2014-15.  This assessment will be paper-based at the Little and Hood schools and on computers for students at the Batchelder school.  Our Middle School students will also take the PARCC assessment on paper.  At the high school level, students will continue to take MCAS for the 10th grade state assessment, however our 9th grade Algebra I students will take the PARCC assessment on paper for the first time this year. 

Students who traditionally take the MCAS-Alt and Science MCAS (5th grade, 8th grade, and Biology students) will continue to take these MCAS tests in 2014-15.

There will be several opportunities to learn more about these next generation assessments this year, including continued updates to the district website.

Title 1

Title I, Part A (Title I) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended (ESEA) provides financial assistance to districts and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.

In North Reading we provide targeted assistance to eligible students at the Little, Hood, and Middle schools.  As a district we have focused our efforts on mathematical support and professional development for educators across the district who are working to support our most challenging learning needs.

Professional Development and Educator Evaluation

In 2014-15 we will continue to offer high quality professional development for North Reading educators.  Offerings will include: literacy, close reading, writing in the content areas, mathematics, and other content area focused professional development.  Educators will also continue to receive support in the implementation of the new model educator evaluation system.

English Language Learners

A new area of responsibility for 2014-15 for the Assistant Superintendent will be English Language Learners (ELL) and the Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) program in North Reading.   The RETELL initiative (Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English Language Learners) as well as the SEI endorsement for educators will be the primary focus during the 2014-15 school year in this area.

Technology and Digital Learning

North Reading has made many strides in improving the digital learning throughout the district.  In 2014-15 we have added a new Digital Learning Coordinator to make an impact on our students and staff.   It is essential that technology and digital learning remain interwoven with curriculum and instruction and we will continue to work closely to improve the digital learning experience for all of our students. 

As always I invite anyone in the school community to contact me at any time with questions or information at pdaly@north-reading.k12.ma.us or 978-664-9557.  I look forward to this great opportunity to continue to serve the students and staff of North Reading.



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Data, Big Data Everywhere

I recently read a fascinating article that explored the data driven changes to the game of baseball. The convergence of the available cameras and technology and an increase in the amount of data that is collected on every play, every pitch, will forever change the sport.  This upcoming season, in some ballparks, 7 Terabytes of data will be collected every game that will allow both sabermetricians and fans at home to experience the game in a whole new way.  The data we’ve seen from the mound (speed, curve, and location of the pitch) on our television screens will now be extended to all areas of the field, leading to a very different experience for viewers of our national pastime.

In the world of education there is also a focus on the collection and analysis of data in order to improve student achievement.  We are not at a loss to find places for data for student learning: MCAS and other standardized tests, common assessments (think mid-terms and finals), authentic assessments, and teacher observation of abilities. Even writing assignments or projects scored with a rubric can be translated into measurements of student growth over time.

According to Victoria L. Bernhardt, there are Multiple Measures of Data that we look to in a school to begin our analysis.  This includes not only student learning but also school processes (processes and programs), demographics (attendance, enrollment, ethnicity, gender, grade level), and perceptions (values and beliefs, attitudes, observations). 

Every textbook and test publisher now includes not only built in assessments but also data collection tools and reporting functions.  The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has a new tool called EDWIN Analytics, available to all schools, that allows us to create reports and cull a vast database to gather data for analysis.  There are videos and tutorials available to help parents and educators better understand the student growth percentile on the state assessments.  Courses are being offered for educators in how to use excel to robustly collect and “go visual” with the data.  There is no shortage of available resources.

In fact, there is so much data out there that part of the process, for educators, is not only to learn how to collect and analyze data but also to learn how to navigate through this “superabundance” of digital information.

What does this mean for North Reading?  First, there is sustained professional development for all educators.  This includes the work that has been done in the past few years with our administrators and curriculum leaders about the importance of data for improving student learning.  Further professional development opportunities will include the technical and technological aspects of understanding how to work with data.  There is also a need for training in specific apps, programs, and software, including Edwin Analytics, to ensure that we are able to make the use of the tools that are available.


Our objective as a district is to continue to use data to help us make predictions, to intervene as early as possible and be proactive, and to enhance our processes for allocating resources in order to improve the overall quality of the education in North Reading for all students.  By using and sharing data appropriately with all members of the school community we have the opportunity to truly transform the educational experience.