April 13, 2012

Curriculum improvement a long process

Curriculum improvement a long process
By Jerry W. Kram

The No Child Left Behind law has made it difficult for schools to meet federal standards for test scores and New Town Public School is no exception. Superintendent Marc Bluestone told the New Town School Board that almost half of all the schools in North Dakota had failed to reach what the law calls Adequate Yearly Progress, including schools in Fargo and Minot.
Bluestone said New Town faces added challenges because many of its students start school one or even two years behind other children of the same age. He also isn’t sure if the tests truly measure New Town students mastery of language and math. He doesn’t think the scores reflect what is being learned in the classroom.
“The testing required by No Child Left Behind doesn’t measure what we do well,” Bluestone said. “Every year we take a hit, a hit to our students, staff and administrators. We know our students are mastering the things the should at their grade level, but they are not good test takers. We need to tell parents that we are making progress but we have to work on doing better on the tests.”
Tricia Wheeling, the school’s professional development coordinator, presented information to the board on the status of the New Town School District’s long term curriculum development program, called Project 2015. This is the third year of the six year project. The goal of Project 2015 is to provide a coordinated curriculum from preschool to seniors that will provide students a path to mastering the academic requirements set by NCLB. That means that teachers will be analyzing what they have been teaching and comparing that to what they are teaching.
“I asked a group of elementary teachers who taught about dinosaurs and they all raised their hands,” Wheeling said. “That’s because dinosaurs are fun and it gets the kids involved. But if you look at the standards, most of the classes shouldn’t be learning about dinosaurs. So maybe only the second grade teacher will be teaching a unit on dinosaurs from now on.”

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