Welcome Back to School and Happy New Year! I am very excited to be back at school with more freedom to be out about, in schools, with your students and learning more and more about ways I can support students, educators, leaders, and families to feel accepted like they belong, like they are part of a community, have multi-layers of support, all in service of equitable outcomes. That is hard work, but it is good to work and I am grateful that I am being trusted to do it!
WHAT NEWS BITES WAS: Last year, news bites was born to be as a form of communication about all of the changes we were making on what seemed to be a day-to-day basis. We were working to make sure that everyone was up to date on all things safety as well as how we were shifting the ways we would engage and motivate children. While it was born out of this need, the purpose will shift this year.
WHAT NEWS BITES IS NOW: Newsbites will now be a way for me to communicate about curriculum, instruction, and assessment in ways that I hope will be helpful to form partnerships with families toward the success of all our learners in Groton-Dunstable. This two-page edition will introduce you to the format of where we were, where we are, and where we are going. It will also give you a peek into our district initiatives that you will see show up throughout the year.
WHAT NEWS BITES CAN BECOME: It is my hope that Newsbites will become a form of two-way communication. The more we are able to be thought partners in our work, the more common understandings we will have of what we are working toward in our district. I imagine this taking shape through input on topics that we can demystify for families as well as workshop sessions we might be able to run through a Parent University! We will go slow to go fast, but I see this growing into a strong partnership.
The themes of the district that you will hear about quite frequently are as follows:
Acceptance + Belonging + Community + Multi-Tiered Systems of Support = Equitable Outcomes for Students
Dr. Chesson introduced this theme during our first back-to-school School Committee meeting and our Back to School launch with educators and staff. We are using this lens for all of our work in the district. It is our belief that as we define what helps our learners feel accepted and like they belong to their communities with the support they need, that we are creating learning environments where they can learn to be their best selves socially, emotionally, academically, and behaviorally.
In order to be successful at creating these learning environments, we need to get curious about what our students are bringing with them to the environment. How are they showing up? What makes them tick? What are their experiences? What does the data tell us, both in numbers and in words? In order to know how to inform the environments we build and the academic opportunities we provide, we need to be CURIOUS about what they should look, feel and sound like to meet the needs of all learners. We are encouraging all students, staff, educators, leaders, and families to get curious about what is showing up for them as teachers and learners.
Multi-Tiered Systems of Support
A multi-tiered system of support simply stated means that students receive the support they need in order to succeed. That may mean that there are some barriers that need to be removed for students. We work to provide what we call tier I. Think of it as step 1. This is what we think will work for most students. Then we would move to tier II. Think of this as step 2. Remember that you would not skip over step 1. You would use steps 1 and 2. The same for tier III. If I and II are not enough, there is III. Again, we do not take away tiers I and II. We may need all of these layers to support a learner.
Power of Our Words:
We believe that working with the way we say what we say is directly related to equitable outcomes because our words have power. Our words can be engaging and motivating, or they can do the opposite. Our district is committed to getting curious about our language as educators and as leaders. We are using the text Power of Our Words by Paula Denton. We look forward to this work and sharing ways with you that you can get curious about your use of language at home.
On September 8th, I presented to the school committee about where we were, where we are, and where we are going in the areas of curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Here is a summary of this presentation:
Three Things Mrs. DeFrancisco is Excited About
District meetings where we are having time to collaborate across buildings and make meaning of our district themes.
A visit to Swallow Union where I saw students engaged in getting to know you activities at all grade levels.
Developing a common understanding of the work we are doing together and talking about how they will show up in all buildings
Where We Were: Over the summer we spent time reminding ourselves that the first six weeks of school is about:
Building strong relationships
Getting curious about what learning was like for our students last year
Where We Are: Now that the year has started we are launching the first six weeks by:
What I Need (WIN) blocks
Getting to Know You Activities
Revisiting Growth Mindset
Collaborating When Setting Classroom Norms
Where We Are Going: We will be using content areas more and more to expand our relationships with one another as students and educators as we get to know each other as Mathematicians, Readers, Writers, Scientists, Artists, Musicians, AND MORE!
Where We Were: We provided copies of The Power of Our Words by Paula Denton so that educators would have the opportunity to read about this instructional tool over the summer. We:
Discussed the text as administrators
We ran three book talks that were recorded for educators and parents
We started to create a tool kit so that we could support teachers with this strategy throughout the year.
Where We Are: Now that educators are back in school, we are:
Thinking about what we will need to add to our tool kits based on level
Getting curious about the language we already use and what changes we might make
Setting small goals to address the way we use language to engage and motivate students
Making meaning of the text as leaders so that we can support work in buildings.
Where We Are Going:
Recording additional book talks sessions
Launching a Power of Our Words think tank for educators to learn together
Finding entry points to give educators feedback about their language in classrooms.
Where We Were: We have data from last year’s screening assessments in several areas. We:
Talked about data as a narrative
We shared data throughout the year
We planned a specific time for educators to talk about data
Where We Are:
Administering screeners in reading, math, and writing
Looking at MCAS data and getting curious about what we can really use it for this year
Gather data on where our students are socially, emotionally, and behaviorally
Designing data meetings to discuss data
Where We Are Going:
Getting curious about how to make changes in our classrooms based on data narratives
Talking about what interventions students might need based on data
Continue to discuss how to have effective data meetings.