Curriculum presented to board

Supervisors discuss what students are working on

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  • Dr. Melissa Varley introduces the school district curriculum supervisors. photo by jennifer jean miller

By Jennifer Jean Miller

— Supervisors of curriculum from throughout the Sparta cchool district presented to the board of education and public how they are working with students and teachers in their department at the Aug. 25 meeting.

Dr. Melissa Varley, the assistant superintendent of curriculum and staff development for the Sparta schools, introduced the supervisors.

Curriculum supervisors who presented included Leala Baxter, Marybeth Kopacz, Mary Hassenplug, Jennifer Chintala, Katie Arbolino, Marisa Wilson, and Steve Schels.

The supervisors perform over 700 observations within the district per year, according to Chintala.

“Our number one goal has always been to help the students,” Chintala said, reminding the audience that earlier in their careers, they had been teachers.

Baxter explained part of her direction has been aligning the common core curriculum with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers Assessment.

Another focus, Baxter said, has been on the implementation of early intervention focus because of the three dyslexia bills, including the definition of dyslexia, the staff mandates in working with children with dyslexia, and the assessment screenings.

“Teachers are engaged and wanting to learn more,” said Baxter, who added that professionals in the field understand dyslexia, such as Dr. James Campbell and Dr. Jane Petrozzino, have provided guidance.

This year, teachers will also participate in a webinar series in September and October regarding dyslexia and the assessment tools used.

Kopacz focused on the effectiveness of the readers and writers’ workshop, and the importance of teaching writing that engages students.

“The single most important structure in education is the reading and writing workshops,” Kopacz said.

Facets in effective learning, she said, include phonemics, phonics, fluency, word study and comprehension.

Hassenplug discussed the importance of having a clear purpose of direction and aligning curriculum. One of the goals, she said, has been to create a more independent senior year for students.

Seniors have a selective rather than elective, a choice of one of seven classes, which are college-geared.

Chintala said a focus has been on aligning the common core and redefining curriculum assessments.

“We need kids to be able to transfer knowledge,” she said.

One example is in the math studies area.

“Math teaches kids how to think,” Chintala said. “Math helps to solve all the problems of life.”

Arbolino, who is new to the district, said she spent most of the summer getting her feet wet.

“It’s a fantastic district and department, and I look forward to leading,” she said.

Wilson said the creation of a library literary strategy, combined with the implementation of the common core, has been a goal.

Next Generation Science Standards, which she said is synonymous with STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, drives the standards. One addition to the science curriculum is engineering.

Schels presented the overview of three critical areas including curriculum instruction and professional development. He said overall teachers are making a shift of working together, whereas before there existed a culture of isolation.

“There are seismic shifts in the work of public education,” he said. “Change happens incrementally. It’s a process.”

Professional development, he said, includes quarterly workshops at Sparta Middle School and Sparta High School, with some eminent experts in the field of education.

A question and answer session followed the presentation, with members of the board complimentary about the supervisors’ presentation, and some have said they have seen the results of the principles implemented into practice through the students.

Board member Kelly McEvoy said she has walked away from meeting students and has been impressed.

“I’ve walked away as a parent and board member as thankful,” she said.

She said the efforts of the teaching staff continues to solidify a very high standard in Sparta.

What a number of board members asked the curriculum supervisors is how they can support them.

Board member Kim Yeomans asked how a common assessment could be applied at different levels that students may be classified in.

The reply was that each student will be college and career ready.

Chintala said with the PARCC standards, the college and career readiness process could begin as early as Kindergarten.

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