School Committee Reviews Science Presentation

The School Committee received a detailed presentation regarding the implementation of the new science curriculum at its meeting on May 22. Implementation of the changes that are being made on all three levels of the district were addressed. Assistant Superintendent Craig Martin began by providing an overview of how the state’s curriculum frameworks have changed as of 2016. Martin discussed how the standards now place greater emphasis on applying, creating, analyzing, and evaluating information instead of simply retaining information. Because of new technologies, information is readily available to students, so the emphasis on rote memorization is decreased. Martin also pointed out that the standards set goals and point out which content is to be mastered, but it is up to each district to implement a curriculum that meets the challenges presented.

Heather Leonard presented what is happening at the elementary level. Grades 3-5 transitioned this year to the new Know Atom curriculum. The new curriculum is organized around the new standards, building skills rather than repeating learned information over and over. The Know Atom curriculum includes many “touch and do” activities helping students to ask not just “What?” but “Why?” Another advantage to the new curriculum is that materials arrive organized and ready to use in the classroom, meaning that teacher time is spent on lesson preparation, not scrounging for materials. The principles and ideas from the Know Atom curriculum will be expanded to grades K-2 next year.

Kim Peterson presented for the middle school level. There is a four-year implementation plan at that level and began last year with teachers “unpacking” the changes. Sixth grade students have been taught using the new principles this year, with seventh being included next year and eighth the following. One major change is the use of a “spiral” track as opposed to a “pancake” track. Instead of teaching earth science one year, life science another and space during a third, now all the disciplines are woven together throughout the three years. This will help with the new MCAS-2 exam which tests on all disciplines at the end of eighth grade. As with the elementary level the curriculum is application-based. “Science is learned through experience.” Peterson remarked. Middle school teachers and students are able to access the iGizmos website for enhanced content as well.

The high school will be offering more science, technology, and engineering courses than ever next year. Each course uses an inquiry-based approach to learning with the goal to “prepare [students] to make key decisions in their lives that are related to science and prepare them for college and beyond.” explained Mary-Anne Lynde, RMHS Science Department Head. There also will be five AP courses offered in the science department next year. Strategies such as partnering with local companies and residents working in the sciences are being used to help motivate students’ interest in pursuing the sciences as careers.

“I’m thrilled that you have a whole district view of this.” commented Committee member Linda Snow Dockser. Member Nick Boivin asked Superintendent John Doherty to explain where the additional $150,000 given by Town Meeting for the implementation of the new curriculum was spent. Doherty explained that it has been used in the purchase consumable and non-consumable materials, professional development for teachers and in technology such as the licenses needed for the iGizmos software in middle school. The funds were distributed as part of each school’s per pupil budget lines.

The committee also heard a presentation from the school nutrition director, who is shared with Wakefield. Sales are down about 15% since the implementation of the Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010. The change in required menus and portion sizes have caused more students to bring lunch from home. Each school’s food service managers have used many creative methods to make school cafeterias fun and inviting places in which to come. The committee voted 4-0 to continue the district’s relationship with Wakefield.

The televised meeting can be seen on RCTV’s Youtube page. The School Committee concluded at 10:35 p.m.

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