Monday, December 9, 2013

Seeing change, part 2

The district English Language Arts K-12 Vertical Team met last week and was as positive as the math team meeting the day before.  Teachers shared their successes as well as challenges and roadblocks to implementing the Common Core ELA standards so far this year.

Some challenges include:

  • there are SO many standards
  • time is always a factor---there's never enough!
  • teachers are clear on what standards to teach, but questions arise on how to teach them most effectively

The successes they shared:

  • the excitement about more non-fiction (by the kids and the teachers!)
  • students understand WHY they are learning what they are learning
  • students are talking about their learning
  • teachers are able to use the language of the standards and the kids get it!
  • more and more flexible grouping is happening in our elementary schools
  • students' are able to see where they are truly succeeding and struggling, and it's very motivating to them
  • more and more teachers are wanting to adopt workshop models for reading and writing
  • students are able to have (and are loving) more choice

The next meeting of the ELA Vertical Team is January 23, 2014.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Seeing change already

Yesterday afternoon the MSAD #6 Math Vertical Team met.  This team is made up of teachers from all levels (K-12) and represent all eight of our school buildings.  We took some time to share around the table the positives and the struggles so far in working to implement the Common Core math standards this year.

Certainly, there were struggles and challenges shared, such as the need to create common assessments, figuring out which standards (of the many!) carry the most leverage for our students, and how to help students that aren't finding success in mastering a certain standard.  More importantly, though, were the things our teachers shared that clearly exhibited we are off to a FANTASTIC start.

  • Teachers said that by unpacking standards (talking through and clarifying) with the students, the kids were learning and using math vocabulary more successfully.  
  • Kids clearly know what they need to learn and why they need to learn it, and what's most powerful is that they can verbalize it.
  • Teachers are seeing that they can tailor their instruction more deliberately.
  • Kindergarten kids are physically tracking their progress toward mastering standards---they can see where they are and where they need to go.  
  • For students that need interventions to catch up, those teachers are able to pinpoint exactly what the specific need is and focus right in.  
  • Teachers know their kids, academically, even better.  Doing progress reports was actually LESS time consuming for one teacher since she had so much clear evidence from her kids right in front of her.
  • Students who meet standards have a more specific path for more challenge---a teacher can move a student within the same topic area but at a higher, deeper level.

This team is more than ready to roll up their sleeves and tackle some of the issues and challenges.  Our next meeting is Wednesday, January 22, 2014.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Stakeholders #2

The second Stakeholders Group meeting was held on November 5th.  Participants took a look at video clips of kids in standards-based classrooms, talking about their learning.  Topics of discussion included Maine Public Law 669 (proficiency-based diplomas, a requirement for students in the class of 2018), some clarity around the difference between standards-referenced and standards-based educational systems, where "the standards" come from, and how a standards-based system would breed success for our kids and MSAD #6.

Questions that have surfaced so far...

What does it LOOK like?  Click to see kids in Maine schools.

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, December 9th at 5:00 pm.  We meet at the MSAD #6 Central Office building on Main Street in Buxton.  Please join us!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Curriculum Work

We have had teams of teachers in grades K-12 doing curriculum work in math, English/language arts, science, and social studies this past month.  Teachers have had after school meetings in the areas of math and ELA, discussing the Common Core State Standards implementation.  Questions are surfacing and brainstorming is being done, which we expected.  The teachers are finding that they have a better and clearer focus for their instruction.  Each level---elementary, middle, and high school---have articulated what their specific next steps will be.  We're off and running.

In the area of science, teachers met for a full day to discuss the Next Generation Science Standards. Our middle school has done a large amount of work already, as has our high school.  The elementary teachers enjoyed meeting with the middle and high school science teachers and have started discussions about building better foundations for our kids in early years.  The focus isn't just science content, but thinking strategies and problem solving, and readying kids to be science thinkers.

We also held a full day meeting in the area of social studies, where the teachers looked at several resources and sets of standards.  The state hasn't given any definitive direction as to where to go in this subject area, but has given suggestions.  The social studies team looked at the National Center for History in the Schools standards, the National Council for Social Studies standards, and more specifically at the College Career and Civic Life (C3) Framework to guide the work.  The purpose of the framework is "for states to upgrade their state social studies standards and for practitioners — local school districts, schools, teachers and curriculum writers — to strengthen their social studies programs." 

These curriculum teams will continue to meet throughout the year--there is much work still to be done, but we're off to a great start with enthusiastic and collaborative teachers!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Stakeholders Group Meeting #1

On October 10th, the first Stakeholders Group meeting was held at the MSAD #6 District Office. Facilitators are Paul Penna, principal of Bonny Eagle High School, and Krista Poulin, Assistant Curriculum Coordinator.  An invitation went out to all parents, and staff members working in MSAD #6. Students in our middle and high school were also asked to join.  There were approximately 45 folks in attendance at this first meeting!

The mission of this diverse group is to research, discuss, and come to a decision regarding the educational direction of MSAD #6---do we want to move forward in becoming a standards-referenced, standards-based, or proficiency-based school district?  The MSAD #6 school board will be looking for a recommendation in May 2014.

During this first meeting, the facilitators provided background information, showed short videos to elicit feedback and discussion, and gathered input and ideas from the participants.  Rich dialogue was had, openly and honestly, about our current system, student learning, and success for ALL students.

If you didn't attend this first meeting but are interested in joining the group, please email Krista Poulin at or call 929-2307.  The next meeting is November 5, 2013 from 5:00 to 6:30 at the MSAD #6 District Office.

 Slideshow Presentation, click here



Friday, October 4, 2013

Summer Work Photos

Some photos from our Performance-Based Education symposiums this past summer...

August 6-8, 2013
Symposium Level 2

August 13-15, 2013
Symposium Level 1

Students from RSU 57, answering questions from our participants 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Welcome Back!

"Hello" from the Curriculum Office at MSAD #6!  Welcome to the 2013-2014 school year!  We're always excited for our students to come back in the fall.

Our summer was busy with some fantastic professional development for teachers and educational technicians.  We had trainers from Scholastic come and teach folks how to use a few new reading and math programs at our elementary and middle schools.  We had author and consultant Jennifer Jacobson come and work with a group of about 30 teachers, from all content areas and all grade levels, on creating consistent writing scoring guides.  This will provide continuity among our grade levels, schools, and content areas in the instruction and assessment of student writing.  The work with writing will be an ongoing focus during this school year.

Two summer symposiums were held!  We had over 100 staff members attend our Level 1 training in Performance-based Education.  That training focuses on creating student-centered classrooms, learning tools to foster that kind of classroom, and having students more involved in the ownership of their learning.  We had about 75 folks from last summer's Level 1 attend the Level 2 training, which focused on working deeper with learning standards and unit planning.  The feedback from both symposiums was great, and we're so pleased to have had so many hardworking MSAD #6 staff members there! Pictures coming soon.

A group of teachers, spanning grades K-5, did curriculum work this summer looking at their elementary math program (Everyday Math) and the Common Core State Standards for Math.  They did a tremendous amount of work matching standards with program resources.  Once that work was done, we had about 80 teachers volunteer a couple of hours on a sunny August morning to come together at Buxton Center school to meet and talk and plan.  The work is allowing K-5 teachers to really jump right in this year.  We thank those teachers AGAIN for the work and the attendance by so many to get this off the ground!

Technology will be a big focus again this year.  Our kids are so fortunate!  We have iPads in all of our elementary classrooms, refurbished Mac Books for our 6th graders, and Mac Book Air laptops for all of our 7-12 grade students.  Professional development for our teachers around this technology will be a priority.

As a community of learners themselves, all teaching staff received a copy of the book Mindset, by Carol Dweck.  Library Journal wrote, "Highly essential read for parents, teachers [and] well as for those who would like to increase their own feelings of success and fulfillment." Publishers Weekly wrote, "A serious, practical book.  Dweck's overall assertion that rigid thinking benefits no one, least of all yourself, and that a change of mind is always possible, is welcome."  Book study sessions will be ongoing in all of our buildings throughout this school year.

Stay tuned for more news from the Curriculum Department!