Teaching and Learning System at E.O. Smith High School 2013-2016
In recent years, there has been a great deal of change in education on the federal, state and local levels.As a result, staff here at E.O. Smith are often asked about state and federal level mandates and how they align with the initiatives we are implementing here at E.O. Smith. What follows is a chronology of the different state and federal level initiatives and the school-wide goals we have developed over the past three years which have been drafted to apply these changes and meet the needs of our school. My intention is to provide details about where we have been, as well as our focus for the future.Specifically, I want to focus on the rationale for these goals which are designed to ensuring our students are college, career and citizenship ready.The video included in this newsletter is another method to communicate this vision.
Lou DeLoreto, Principal
Teaching and Learning System at E.O. Smith High School
Mastery learning was introduced to the faculty and parents as an approach to identify essential or "non-negotiable" skills and concepts that will be measured using academic standards.The concept of "mastery" is a way to ensure demonstration of a minimum proficiency level of the identified skills for each course.Mastery learning systems incorporate re-assessment strategies which offer students who have not met a minimum proficiency standard additional opportunities to demonstrate their learning. These discussions resulted in the realization that varying expectations and belief systems about teaching and learning exist among our staff.These healthy and productive conversations have shaped our school-wide goals moving forward.
The standardized testing program at E.O. Smith began to change as the SBAC replaced the CAPT (except for science) as the state mandated test. The E.O. Smith administration and board of education members requested an exemption from the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) allowing the ACT-Aspire program to replace the SBAC, but were denied. As a result, the SBAC was administered to 11th graders with few students actually sitting for the test. Even though the exemption was not granted, we decided implementing the ACT-Aspire program was necessary to establish baseline individual student scores beginning with the freshmen (class of 2017).At the time, there was a great deal of uncertainty around the SBAC and we felt it was important for students to obtain a standardized score early in their high school career.Over 90% of these students participated in the ACT-Aspire program.In addition, the PSAT was offered to sophomores (2016) and juniors and funded by Region #19 for the same purpose. Both are preparatory tests for the ACT and SAT, commonly used college admissions tests.
The Educator evaluation plan was implemented across Connecticut.This new evaluation and support system for educators was a major shift from the past as it requires more frequent classroom observations, thorough documentation on professional learning, and performance is now measured against a common rubric from the Common Core of Teaching (CCT).Challenges in 2013-14 included using a cumbersome and unclear rubric for observations and an unmanageable number of individual teacher meetings.
Three school-wide goals were introduced as the first phase of a multi-year process and were influenced by our discussions on mastery learning and the CSDEs expectation that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) be infused into the curriculum.The first goal was to establish content area and cross-curricular graduation standards.These standards provide a consistent measure of student performance on identified academic skills.All departments created a list of content area standards from the (CSSS) and subject specific academic standards. Cross-curricular graduation standards were approved as well, and are more general and identify skills assessed across departments.Both sets of standards serve as a replacement for the required school-wide academic expectations and rubrics mandated by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEAS&C).
The second goal focused on the creation of common performance assessments in all departments.Common assessments provide a consistent measure of student performance and will be linked with content area and graduation standards by the conclusion of the 2016-17 school year.Professional development training was provided by staff from the Center for Collaborative Education (CCE) to facilitate the process of creating, field testing and analyzing student performance tasks.A professional development committee created a system of for providing mini workshops for teachers during the five ½ professional development days.
The third goal was to establish equity and consistency in grading practices.This goes back to the differences in belief systems faculty members about grading. To accomplish this, each department created fixed percentages for formative and summative assessments in all courses.This ensures that equal value is placed in each category for courses with multiple teachers and provides a predictable and constant value for each type of assessment.All current Region #19 policies on student assessment were reviewed and determined to be in need of revision.Discussions on topics such as weighting assessments, re-assessment, extra credit, etc. took place throughout the year and continue in 2015-16. The formula for calculating the overall semester grade was changed from averaging the individual marking periods (Q1+Q2) to one continuous semester calculation (T1).This change will provide a more accurate reflection of the student's demonstrated progress over a full semester.Both grade configuration changes were applied to the 2015-16 school year.
Approximately 70% of E.O. Smith 11th graders did not sit for the SBAC. This low participation rate was also evident in 2013, therefore, the decision to continue with the ACT-Aspire program in the spring of 2016 was made in order to secure a standardized assessment opportunity on the ACT.We continued to wait for an announcement about the future of the SBAC and whether or not it would be replaced by the SAT or ACT.Adding to the uncertainty of the standardized testing scenario for the future, the SAT was under revision and scheduled to be introduced in March, 2016.
Changes to the educator evaluation process produced a streamlined rubric that resulted in fewer meetings and allowed for successful implementation of the process.However, concerns about the consistency of implementing the plan and the lack of effectiveness of the feedback received were expressed by faculty members.
The school-wide goals were created as a continuation of the 2014-15 goals.Teaching staff began the process of linking common summative assessments with their content area and cross-curricular graduation standards. This information is being compiled on a spreadsheet that is designed to identify patterns, redundancies and gaps in measuring progress toward the standards. Staff training on incorporating cognitive rigor into assessments and in classroom discussions was provided by the CCE and E.O. Smith administrators.As stated above, linking assessments to standards and assigning cognitive rigor levels to assessment items is a two-year process and is planned to be completed at the conclusion of the 2016-17 school year.
Discussions on assessment and grading practices continue and will lead to revised student assessment policy will be drafted and submitted to the Region #19 board of education in 2016-17.Specific topics such as re-assessment, grade configuration, late assignment procedures, etc. will be addressed in the new policy.Cathy Vatterott's Rethinking Grading was provided to all staff as a source for continued discussion.
In response to feedback from school climate surveys given to staff, students and parents, the administration added a fourth goal addressing identified communication issues.A school climate committee was created and charged with recommending strategies to improve the clarity, frequency, and means of disseminating information to faculty, staff, students and parents.Additional information will be collected and analyzed throughout the school year to further the committee's understanding of the climate issues facing E.O. Smith.This group is also focused on improving predictability and clarity in our school-to-home communication.Changes to the school's website will be made along with a communication protocol that easily understood by students and parents.This protocol will make clear how E.O. Smith will communicate information and the responsibilities of the identified E.O. Smith personnel, the parent and the student.
More changes to the standardized testing program were received in the fall of 2016.The Connecticut State Board of Education (CSDE), pursuant to Section 10-14n of the Connecticut General Statutes, amended Sections 2 and 3 of Public Act No. 15-238, approving the SAT as the "mastery examination" or state mandated assessment test to be administered to Grade 11 public school students in lieu of the SBAC.Once again, E.O. Smith issued a request to use the ACT, lieu of the SAT this time, as we were going into our third year of implementation of the ACT-Aspire program.The CSDE denied the Region #19 request to have the ACT considered as the state test.However, the administration decided to administer the ACT to all 11th graders (2017) to complete the full cycle of the ACT-Aspire program.As a result, current juniors (2017) will be offered a school-day SAT and ACT in March, 2016. Director of guidance Doug Melody presented the changes to the redesigned SAT at the November faculty meeting and also made a presentation to parents on Thursday, November 12th.
In addressing the concerns raised by teachers about inconsistencies in the implementation of the educator evaluation plan, administrators created a protocol to follow for all goals and observation of practice meetings.The superintendent built in routine calibration sessions for administrators provided by our consultants, ReVision Learning.Teachers volunteered to have administrators observe their classes.Each administrator submitted a written report of the classroom observations to be scored by ReVision Learning and shared with the administrative team in a series of calibration exercises.
This multi-year process will result in the following:
1.)The development of a shared understanding of the best practices for facilitating and measuring student learning.
2.)In-depth collaboration within and across departments in establishing a shared vision of student learning.
3.)A belief that we can overcome perceived obstacles and limitations.
4.)Establish and publicize college, career and citizenship readiness levels.
•To develop cross curricular and content area standards.
2015-16 and 2016-17
•To align cross curricular and content area standards with common summative assessments.
•To include Depth of Knowledge levels in common summative assessments.
•To develop common summative assessments using content area rubrics to measure proficiency on content area standards.
•To use common summative assessments to inform individual student proficiency levels on content area standards.
•To build reliability in scoring through calibration and the collection of student anchor sets.
•To ensure equity and consistency in grading practices and policies, maximizing student opportunity and performance.
•To propose a revised comprehensive Student Assessment Policy.
2015-16 To develop and implement a strategic communication plan that addresses needs of staff, students and parents.