Deputy School Superintendent

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Beverly Nelson

Beverly G. Nelson, M.A., M.Ed., C.A.G.S
Deputy Superintendent of Schools
781-393-2364
bnelson@medford.k12.ma.us

Curriculum in the Medford Public Schools

The Medford Public Schools is committed to providing all students with the academic and problem solving skills essential for personal development, responsible citizenship and life-long learning. The curriculum of the Medford Public Schools is aligned with the current versions of all Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.

Specific curriculum goals are as follows:

– To ensure that all students leaving high school are college and career ready

-To develop high standards and expectations for all students

-To incorporate a balanced core of critical, essential learning that reflect national standards and state curriculum frameworks for each discipline

-To develop competency in 21st century skills such as communication, thinking, problem solving, research and other critical skills

-To connect learning to relevant situations and experiences outside the school setting

-To integrate the curriculum, where possible, across subjects and grade levels

-To promote the use of powerful instructional strategies that actively involve the learner

-To purchase and use instructional materials that go beyond a textbook based approach to instruction

-To effectively integrate technology into the curriculum and instructional practice

-To recognize and respect the different needs, interests and talents of all students

-To emphasize reading and writing across the disciplines.

Central Administration has produced curriculum brochures that outline the essential learnings for each subject area and grade level. Curriculum brochures are written for each grade level k-8 and contain the essential learnings for mathematics, science, English language arts, social studies, foreign language, fine arts, health and physical education and technology. For grades 9-12 curriculum brochures are available by subject area. Brochures are currently being revised and should soon be available. The brochures are available through individual building principals and are online.

In addition to providing you with a snapshot of the curriculum the brochures also contain to help parents support at home what their child is learning in school. Your child’s success in school is based on a partnership. The school district is committed to providing your child with a rigorous challenging curriculum, the materials to support the curriculum and a professional development program for teachers that enables them to meet the needs of our diverse student population. We look to parents to support what is taking place in the classroom at home. We encourage any feedback concerning ways we can further this partnership.

History of Curriculum Development in Medford 1993-2013

The word Curriculum is from the Latin, word “Currere” which means to run/to proceed in little steps referring to the course of deeds and experiences through which children grow to become mature adults. While many may incorrectly limit the meaning of curriculum to content or a list of courses, Medford has adopted a broader definition which is more prevalent in educational circles these days. Our district definition of curriculum includes not only content, but also the materials, resources, modes of instruction and assessments that support curriculum implementation.

Medford has had curriculum directors K-12 for most content areas since the 1980’s. These individuals put curriculum in place for their own departments mostly focusing on a list of topics to cover each year. All documents looked different and little collaboration among disciplines took place until the 1990’s.

Until the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks were developed as a result of the Education Reform Act of 1993 districts were free to develop their own curricula according to what the school and district desired. The curriculum frameworks now required that districts follow their guidelines since the MCAS test would be based on the frameworks.

Groups of educators were selected across the state to work on the development of these new frameworks. Several Medford educators were involved in writing both the frameworks and the early versions of MCAS exams.

The original curriculum frameworks were developed in a staggered fashion and adopted by the Board of Education one by one from 1996-1999 with mathematics being the first. An attempt was made to write these documents with the endorsement of some of the informal national organizations that were in existence. While there was one National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and one National Council of Teachers of ELA, the field of social studies had many organizations- historians, geographers, economics, and civics- all vying to influence the writing of the social studies document. Therefore there was a lot of controversy over the writing of this document with several versions written only to be scrapped and rewritten. The historians prevailed and the first version of the History/Social Science document focused on history. The original versions of frameworks were written in grade bands prek-4, 5-8, and 9-12. It was up to the district to decide which standards were taught in individual grade levels. The expectation was only that by the end of the grade span students would have mastered the several years of standards.

The Department of Education’s plan was to revisit and edit the frameworks every five years in a staggered fashion so that any changes would impact districts in only one content area at a time. This did not happen and some frameworks have been revised 4 times; others only once.

In 1998 Beverly Nelson was appointed Director of Curriculum and began the process of coordinating all the curriculum areas and directors. Monthly meetings began with all curriculum directors with the purpose of designing a common template for curriculum design for all content areas. Teachers in each content area met across the grade spans to ensure that there were no gaps and repetitions in each curriculum area. This was really the first time that elementary, middle and high school teachers worked together collaboratively; in the past they usually met with their grade spans in isolation. District curricula was designed and curriculum binders were developed K-12. The template common to all areas included student outcomes, framework alignment, assessments and suggested resources. Documents were distributed to all staff. Curriculum brochures for parents were developed from these documents, were available in schools, the parent center and online. All curricula were in place in Medford based on the curriculum frameworks well before MCAS arrived. The district also made the decision to adopt the Backward Design model (ASCD- Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins) for the writing of curriculum units. Professional development around the Backward Design model has been ongoing in the district for several years.

The MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) was developed by the Department of Education. The original intent of the DOE was to develop a SYSTEM of tests, i.e. a collection of different tests some of which would be pencil and paper and others performance based. Each area for which there was a framework was to have an MCAS. Teams of teachers from across the state were involved in designing questions for the original tests. As it emerged the MCAS changed its original intended format and become a single paper and pencil test. The original company “Advanced Systems” that designed the test is now the same company that is designing the test although renamed – “Measured Progress” Testing companies must bid for the contract and although we started with and now have the original company there was a time period when other outside vendors were involved. Over time teachers had a lesser role in writing the questions. This role is now being done primarily by the testing company that has the contract with the state.

The MCAS was first administered in 1998. It became a graduation requirement (mathematics and ELA) beginning with the class of 2003. Students had to achieve a score of 220 to meet the graduation requirement. Beginning with the class of 2010 this requirement was elevated to a score of 240. Additionally at this time a new science competency determination was added requiring a passing score of 220. While the intent was to have an MCAS for each content area this did not happen. The only MCAS exams since the beginning of the test have been for ELA. Mathematics, science and social studies. MCAS was originally a test for grades 4, 8 and 10. With the NCLB mandate that all students by 2014 be proficient in mathematics and ELA the MCAS testing was added for the other grade levels 3,5,6,7.

As each framework has been rewritten Medford has brought the existing district curriculum in alignment with the new version of the framework with teams of teachers working with curriculum directors to accomplish this task. Because we have been proactive in the process and have a structure that supports articulated curriculum development across the grade levels our curricula has often been used as a model for other districts.

We continue to be proactive as we develop the new curricula for mathematics and ELA which is based on the newest frameworks and we are attentive to the new science framework that is on the horizon. This is the first time in the history of frameworks development that we have had two major curriculum frameworks revised and adopted at the same time. This is a tremendous task for districts both in volume of work and financial support for new materials to support the curriculum. In 2013 a new elementary literacy program (Journeys) was adopted to support the implementation of the new ELA frameworks.

Currently elementary mathematics programs are being piloted (Envisions and Go Math) with the goal of selecting a program by the end of this school year. The district has further strengthened the administrative curriculum infrastructure by adding two new administrative positions in 2013 Director of Curriculum and Instruction and Coordinator of Science.

Curriculum Directors meet monthly with the Deputy and Assistant Superintendents and curriculum issues are part of our agenda on a monthly basis.

Curriculum Frameworks

Curriculum Frameworks are curriculum guidelines for each subject area. The Education Reform Law of 1993 mandated the development of the Curriculum Frameworks. Frameworks were developed by the Department of Education and approved by the Board of Education. The first frameworks to be developed (mathematics and science) were available to school districts in 1996. Since that time several of the frameworks have undergone revision. In 2011 the Mathematics and English Language Arts frameworks were rewritten to incorporate the Common Core frameworks that are followed in many states.

Instruction

Support for teachers both new and veteran translates into better instruction for all students. The Medford Public Schools has a professional development program that includes in house workshops and courses through local colleges that assists teachers in increasing their repertoire of new effective teaching strategies as well as the depth and breadth of subject knowledge in their field.

Assessment

The Medford Public Schools has in place an assessment system that is composed of individual teacher assessment including portfolios, nationally normed tests and the state mandated MCAS exam.  In addition, students are encouraged to participate in Advanced Placement courses and exams.

Medford Public Schools District Improvement Plan
School Year 2013-2014

The district has in place a District Improvement plan (PDF) to improve the education of our students and guide the development of school improvement plans each year.