Education

Randolph Board of Education Meeting: District Math, and Kindergarten Report Card

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RANDOLPH, NJ - Math programs for grades K-12 and the new full-day kindergarten report topped the list of items covered when the Randolph High School Library hosted the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 20.

Acting Superintendent Jennifer Fano invited K-12 supervisors, Katie Spencer (elementary), Anne Vital (middle school Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and Michael Casione (high school STEM) to update the board on the math instruction across the district.

In 2010, the state adopted the Common Core standards, which were implemented in September 2013. This represented a fairly significant shift in the knowledge of what students are suppose to learn. As a result, many of the math instructional strategies were modified to conform to the common core.

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Part of what was needed was to assure that a student assessment was formed to make sure that they are reaching the milestones needed in order to succeed with Common Core.

Casione went over the details of the shift to Common Core. The major shifts were focus, coherence and rigor. Focus and coherence apply more to the middle school and rigor is applied to all three levels.

The first is focus. The Common Core is much more focused then the prior standards. Now in each grade leading to the high school, there are fewer standards, giving the teachers the opportunity to spend more time so that the students understand all of the concepts rather than rushing through many concepts with little understanding.

The second item is coherence. In the old standards, there was no continuity and connections that there are now with the Common Core. In the past, teachers would teach topics that appeared disconnected. Students were not able to make those connections on their own but now the way instruction is taught is to make those connections for the students.

The third and largest is rigor. Before the Common Core, the focus was primarily on getting the answer. There was an emphasis on procedure so students were taught how to solve a type of problem and they were expected to remember and memorize that procedure.

"Those students that are very good at memorizing of course did very well. Those who are not so good at memorizing did not do well," said Casione.

Rigor has three components: pursuing conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency and application with equal intensity. The conceptual understanding again focuses on how to get to an answer, understand how to approach the problem and solve it. Procedural skill and fluency assures that kids apply the right procedure and get the right answer. The last, application focuses on application to real world problems.

The expectation in Common Core is that students be able to take what they learned, their understanding and the procedural skills and apply them to problems they have not seen before. The depth of understanding has to be sufficient enough for a student to be able to look at a new problem, think about it, understand what needs to be done, be able to outline a solution and communicate what that is.

Common Core has teachers teaching math differently and exploring different mindsets through their own assessments. It has caused the teachers to grow as educators by exploring other teaching methods then just the traditional way.

"If we are doing the work with our teachers then our students are going to come along with us," said Vitale.

Spencer continued with another presentation regarding the kindergarten report card. When kindergarten was being considered as a full-day program they started thinking about how to assess the kindergarten students and what the program would entail. 

The kindergarten report card is more of a developmental progress report than an average report card. They have been using a standard based report card by comparing a child's performance to a clear standard. Parents, students and teacher all know precisely what is expected. Every time the student performs a task the performance is compared to the standard rather than being compared to another student.

The content of what is being taught is not changing but the depth has changed due to the additional time. This report card is being called a progress report because the teachers will be measuring a students progress.

An added section is the developmental growth, which are behaviors that promote learning and perfect the personal and social growth of a child. Speaking and listening is now a standard and was also added to the progress report.

The skill set areas on the progress report include literacy and math. In marking periods one through three, under language arts literacy there are specific skills and there will be specific numbers that will go into that section. Math will have the same thing.

"That was so that we can show parents progress over time and that it wouldn't just say, 'your child is meeting grade level curriculum standards.' You'll actually know what those specific numbers are so that you will be able to see the progress," said Spencer.

Teachers felt this would be more informative for themselves and the parents. It also helps guide teacher's instruction accordingly.

"This report card was created by our teachers. They invested so much time and energy and did a fantastic job. The process in getting there has helped developed them as teachers. I can see so much growth and it's meaningful to them," said Spencer.

The report card will go into Genesis next week and now has the boards approval.

"From a parent's perspective, when I look at this it is so comprehensive. I think this is fantastic," said board member Christine Aulenbach.

During the last item, the Finance, Facility and Transportation Committee President Alfredo Matos mentioned that mass media booster club, CAMERAS, donated $800 for the purchase of a 55 inch television monitor for the television studio control room. That same organization donated another $600  to build the cable trays for the studio.

A Special Board of Education Meeting regarding the Superintendent of Schools is being held on Monday Oct. 26 in the RHS Librray , a 7 p.m. closed session and 8 p.m. open to the public. 

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