Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

October 4, 2012

Summertime focus on curriculum improvement

Schools on the Schools
Nancy A. Duclos

---- — Editor’s note: School leaders have asked to periodically submit columns they say will inform people about what is going on in the public schools. The Townsman includes columns from the community and its officials as space is available.

Summer might be a time for teachers to be away from the classroom, but it’s also a time when they pursue individual and group projects that strengthen the instructional program for all of Andover’s students. While many of us were out biking, boating, and going to the beach, over 100 Andover Public School teachers used the quiet summer months to complete curriculum projects proposed early in the spring. Administrative teams are now in the process of reviewing this curriculum work, which represents over 1,500 hours of dedicated time.

Each spring, teachers, program advisors and administrators identify curriculum projects that will move the district’s teaching and learning plan forward. Teachers at every level then write proposals for this work and block out part of their summer to complete it. High school teachers representing all departments completed course curriculum documents as part of the NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) accreditation self-study. These documents align expected course outcomes with state standards, and provide teachers with a blueprint for instruction. Middle school teachers developed enhanced math investigations and problems that will provide students with more opportunities to apply math skills to problem-solving situations. Elementary teachers, working collaboratively across grade levels and schools, studied ways in which the phonics program (Fundations©) can be integrated into the daily literacy block. They also identified where and how that program is aligned to the new English Language Arts State Frameworks.

In addition to writing curriculum, teachers in the district made use of the summer break to pursue further coursework or training. The district sent many high school teachers to the Advanced Placement Summer Institutes for math, science, and English. Over sixty elementary instructional aides and specialists attended a one-day training to learn the language and methods of Open Circle (our social/emotional skills program at the elementary level). A team of elementary teachers took part in a multi-district collaborative and developed writing prompts and rubrics designed to give teachers additional resources to track student growth. More than 30 teachers in the district attended or presented at a three-day technology Ed-camp where they shared best practices in the integration of technology in the classroom.

Summer professional development is not only for teachers. Our school leaders also participate in professional development opportunities. This past summer assistant principals, principals, the assistant superintendent and the superintendent attended conferences and participated in webinars offered by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Teachers 21, Wellesley College, NEASC, National Association of Elementary School Principals, Merrimack College, The Learning and Brain Society on topics which included: school leadership, school safety, learning and brain research, how technology transforms brains, teaching and learning, global ethics, reading, new teacher evaluation model, investigating complaints of harassment and bullying, technology integration, and school culture and change. Within the district, the Leadership Team participated in two multi-day “retreats” to review the district’s strategic plan, discuss the 2012-2013 curriculum and staff development initiatives and FY 13 goals.

So, while most people think of summer as a time when schools are closed, the reality is that our teachers, administrators and school leaders spend many of their days doing work that enhances the curriculum, culture and classrooms throughout the school system. We applaud this work that will move our district forward.

Nancy A. Duclos is the Andover Public Schools assistant superintendent for learning and teaching. People can contact her by e-mail at nduclos@aps1.net.