Parent Messages

 

January 24, 2021

To the Parents/Guardians of students attending Scotland Elementary School:

In this, my third newsletter of the 2020-2021 academic year, I will be focusing on the area of English Language Arts (ELA). In order to appreciate the breadth and depth of the ELA common core standards, I think it is appropriate to begin with a definition of the concept of literacy. The American Heritage College Dictionary, Third Edition, 1997 defines literacy as “the ability to read and write.” The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, in directing the development of the English Language Arts standards, communicated that fostering the ability to simply read and write is not rigorous enough for preparing students to compete and succeed in the twenty-first century. Therefore, the ELA common core standards were designed to prepare all students for success in college, career, and life by the time they graduate from high school. The standards establish guidelines for ELA as well as for literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Because people competing in the twenty-first century and beyond must be able to read, write, speak, listen, and use language effectively in a variety of content areas, the ELA standards promote the literacy skills and concepts required for college and career readiness in multiple disciplines.

The ELA standards are organized from the general domains to the specific college and career ready (CCR) anchor standards. Each domain is organized into various clusters, and each cluster is organized into the CCR or anchor standards. In kindergarten to grade 5 there are six domains: reading literature, reading informational text, reading: foundational skills, writing, speaking/listening and language standards. In grade six there are five domains: reading literature, reading informational text, writing, speaking/listening, and language standards.

 The ELA standards include critical-thinking skills and the ability to closely and attentively read texts in a way that will help students understand and enjoy complex works of literature and to interpret complex informational text. The ELA standards are designed to foster the use of convincing reasoning and evidence collecting skills.

I offer one example here of the progression from kindergarten to grade 6: Under the domain Reading for Information Cluster 1: Key Ideas and Details, the CCR anchor Standard for Reading 1 is the same in each grade: “Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.” Please note that as students progress through the grades, they should acquire greater proficiency in Reading for Information.

Kindergarten: With prompting and support, ask and answer questions             about key details in a text.

Grade 1: Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

Grade 2: Ask and answer questions such as who, what, where, when, why,

and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.

Grade 3: Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

Grade 4: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing references from the text.

 

Grade 5: Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

 

Grade 6: Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

 

            A final component of each domain is the range, quality and complexity of texts used to accomplish the skills in each domain.

 

I have included below tables indicating linear progress for students on the SBAC ELA assessment, presently in grade 7 at Parish Hill Middle High School (PHMHS) and grades 6 and 5 at SES. Please keep in mind the CSDE did not administer the SBAC assessment in the 2019-2020 school year.

 

 

 

English Language Arts SBAC Scores

Present Grade 7 students

Year

Grade

# of students

% at 3 or above*

% + or – from the previous year

2016-17

3

16

31

 

2017-18

4

16

44

+13

2018-19

5

14

64

+20

Present Grade 6 students

Year

Grade

# of students

% at 3 or above*

% + or – from the previous year

2017-18

3

11

82

 

2018-19

4

12

50

-32

Present Grade 5 students

Year

Grade

# of students

% at 3 or above*

% + or – from the previous year

2018-19

3

12

75

NA

*A level 3 or proficient designation indicates that a student has met the achievement standards.

In the February newsletter, I will focus on the science curriculum. Once again, I encourage all parents and guardians to email me at fbaran@scotlandes.org with your comments and questions related to each newsletter and additional topics that future newsletters may address.

 

 

 

 December 9, 2020

To the Parents/Guardians of students attending Scotland Elementary School:

            In last month’s newsletter, I focused on the origin of the common core curriculum standards under the sponsorship of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. In this month’s newsletter, I will briefly touch upon how and when students are assessed on their progress toward achieving mastery of those common core standards, and then I will directly address the mathematics common core standards, how Scotland Elementary School addresses those standards, and how our students have performed on the mathematics common core assessments.

            Originally, states were offered the opportunity to join one of two consortia; states could participate in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), or they could choose to participate in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). With education in the United States being primarily a function of state and local control, states have chosen to go in a variety of directions concerning student assessment. Today, fifteen states and the District of Columbia use either the PARCC or SBAC assessment, thirty-two states use state-designed or commercially purchased assessments, and three states administer a hybrid assessment. Beginning with the 2014 – 2015 school year, Connecticut has administered the SBAC assessment. The SBAC assessment is administered in the subject areas of English Language Arts and mathematics to students in grades 3 through 8 on a yearly basis. Beginning in the 2015 – 2016 school year, Connecticut transitioned to the Connecticut Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) school day assessment for students in grade 11. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) assessment is administered in Connecticut, in grades 5, 8, and 11, also on a yearly basis. Due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the SBAC assessment for the 2019 – 2020 school year was suspended. As of this date, the Connecticut State Department of Education intends to administer the SBAC assessment beginning sometime in March of 2021.

The standards which are at the core of the mathematics curriculum at Scotland Elementary School are divided into four domains in grades pre-kindergarten, grade1, grade 2, grade 3, grade 4, and grade 5. In grades kindergarten and grade 6 there are five domains.

In pre-kindergarten students’ learning experiences are designed to help students understand cardinality (the concept of the number of elements in a set), counting, relationships between numbers, properties of objects, such as length, height, etc., and shapes and spatial relationships.

Beginning in kindergarten and running through and including grade six, the four major domains in mathematics are: Operations and Algebraic Thinking, Number and Operation in Base Ten, Measurement and Data, and Geometry. In addition to these four domains, kindergarten continues with counting and cardinality. In grade six, in addition to Geometry, the domains are: Ratio and Proportional Relationships, the Number System, Statistics and Probability and Expressions and Equations.

In developing the common core standards, mathematics educators focused on communicating that mathematics is not a collection of disconnected topics; rather, it is a coherent body of knowledge composed of interconnected concepts. The standards are designed around coherent progressions from grade to grade so that students can build new understandings onto foundations built in previous years. For example, in fourth grade students must “apply and extend previous understandings of multiplication to multiply a fraction by a whole number.” (Standard 4.NF.4) In the fifth grade this skill is extended when students are expected to “apply and extend previous understandings of multiplication to multiply a fraction or whole number by a fraction.” (Standard 5.NF.4).

The mathematics standards are designed to narrow and deepen the focus of each grade level. Basically the focus of each grade level is as follows:

  • Grade Kindergarten – Grade 2: concepts, skills and problem solving related to addition and subtraction
  • Grade 3 – Grade 5: concepts, skills, and problem solving related to multiplication and division of whole numbers and fractions
  • Grade 6: Ratios and proportional relationships, and arithmetic of rational numbers.

In order to support the delivery of the mathematics curriculum at Scotland Elementary School, we use the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt series: Go Math! Hybrid Student Resource Package Multi-Volume SE Grades K-6.

I have included below tables indicating linear progress for students on the SBAC mathematics assessment, presently in grade 7 at Parish Hill Middle High School (PHMHS) and grades 6 and 5 at SES. Please keep in mind the CSDE did not administer the SBAC assessment in the 2019-2020 school year.

Math SBAC Scores

Present Grade 7 students

Year

Grade

# of students

% at 3 or above*

% + or – from the previous year

2016-17

3

16

31

 

2017-18

4

16

50

+19

2018-19

5

14

71

+21

Present Grade 6 students

Year

Grade

# of students

% at 3 or above*

% + or – from the previous year

2017-18

3

11

55

 

2018-19

4

12

75

+20

Present Grade 5 students

Year

Grade

# of students

% at 3 or above*

% + or – from the previous year

2018-19

3

12

67

NA

*A level 3 or proficient designation indicates that a student has met the achievement standards.

In the January newsletter I will focus on the English Language Arts curriculum. Once again I encourage all parents and guardians to email me at fbaran@scotlandes.org with your comments and questions related to each newsletter and additional topics that future newsletters may address.

 

November 1, 2020

To the Parents/Guardians of students attending Scotland elementary School:

            This is the first of what I intend to be a monthly newsletter to parents/guardians and community members of the Town of Scotland. The purpose of these newsletters is to provide insights on a variety of subjects including academics, budgetary considerations, Connecticut State Department of Education mandates, daily school procedures, policies, state wide testing, and other topics. In addition to being emailed to all parents and guardians of Scotland elementary School students, the newsletters will be posted on the school webpage.

            Last spring when Scotland Elementary School went to distance instruction due to COVID-19, many parents, for the first time, had a bird’s eye view of instruction and curriculum. As a consequence of that experience, some parents have expressed curiosity about what is taught at each grade level and how educators determine the amount of time devoted to each subject. In response to those questions, I thought I would provide some big-picture answers in this first newsletter.

            In 2009 during the Obama administration, under the sponsorship of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, a national conversation was conducted about the need to better prepare students for the global economy. At the national level, common core curriculum standards were drafted, and governors weighed in on which standards to adopt.

            A standard is merely a statement of what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade in each subject. When the Connecticut State Board of Education adopted the English language arts standards in 2010, they came with recommendations for how much time should be allocated in the elementary schools in that subject. In 2008, the Connecticut State Board of Education recommended that one-hundred twenty minutes of each school day be spent on reading and English language arts as recommended by the Report of the national Reading Panel (2008). In 2016 the commissioner’s council on mathematics recommended that sixty minutes, per day, should be spent on mathematics instruction. These two subjects are foundational to all others; therefore, we allocate the most minutes of every day to these two. Other subjects, such as science, social studies, technology, art, music, health, and physical education have their own standards but no stipulated time-allocations. In the fifth grade, students are assessed on the smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test in science; therefore, in the upper elementary school grades more time is allocated to science than in the lower grades. Finally, subjects that tap into students’ creativity and promote healthy living – art, music, technology, physical education, and health – are taught to provide students with outlets for their interests and talents that complement their academic learning.

            In future monthly newsletters, I will focus specifically on the curriculum of each subject area, beginning next month with mathematics. I encourage all parents and guardians to email me at fbaran@scotlandes.org with your comments and questions related to each newsletter and additional topics that the newsletter might address.