Saturday, September 22, 2007

Curricula Related Activities (Sept 17-21)

The following indicate the curricula development activities for the third week of school by the Assistant to the Superintendent.

• Attended meeting at County Superintendent Office for QSAC
• Met with Mr. Bailey concerning technology in district
• Met with Dr. Cecilia Delia (child study team/Conners)

School Visits
• Visited Calabro School
Met with Gentile (science teacher); Boscia (library), Palumbo (principal); music teacher

• Visited Demarest High School
Met with administration; Derrick England, Carmen Ronga, Nick Calabrese, Helen DeRose, lunch staff, 4-5 students

• Visited Conner’s School (twice)
Met with full administration

Other Visits
• Stopped by Wallace to meet with Wiley Readers
• Stopped by HHS to visit and greet new teachers to the district

• Read “Supertest” by Jay Matthews/Ian Hill in preparation for IB meeting 9/25
• QSAC organization and preparation
• Issues of curriculum alignment and organization

Friday, September 14, 2007

Hoboken High School Visit

I visited the Hoboken High school today for about 3 hours. In that time I began with an informal meeting with the building principal. We exchange pleasantries and discussed loosely our educational philosophies and perspectives. I believe we are on the same page about many of the issues facing urban education in general and some specifics about Hoboken. We both agree that there is a tremendous opportunity in Hoboken for success with the relative size of the district, the community and the fact that we are essentially a 1 feeder system. We also spoke about Reading First Program and the need for a unified and general curriculum for the district and school. In all, we meet for about ½ hour.

I then proceeded through the counselor’s offices and met with Eileen Covallo and had a very nice conversation with her about some technology issues with the district as well as some certification issues.

I next stopped in to the Child Study area and ran into some people and said hello. One person spoke to me about a program that was soon ending that dealt with the community and bringing goods to them. Seemed like an excellent interaction between the school and the community. I also said hello to some other people on the team.

I then walked around in the math/Science wing to find a fair amount of activity going on in the classrooms but relegated to primarily pencil and paper. The wing has good/excellent lab facilities and I’d like to visit again when these are in use.

I had a  productive meeting with the school librarian and believe there are wonderful things going on in terms of a systemic, district wide plans for the school libraries. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Initial Visit to Connor's School

Some notes/observations of the Conner’s visit:

1) Conner’s is celebrating it’s 100 year anniversary this year and is in wonderful shape. I found the building to be clean, clear of debris, bright, full of student work on the walls and a place that felt warm. Security was obvious and present.

2) I was shown around by the principal to a majority of the classrooms. Of special note was the rooms and how they were decorated. Very alive and with many stimuli. Well kept and orderly and with instruction going on at many levels (centers seem to be a big part of early instruction).

3) Students and teachers wore red, white and blue today in honor of 9/11 and opening announcement had a moment of silence for those who were loss. A touching moment to be sure. One wonders what does 9/11 mean to these young students which raises some interesting curricula and instructional issues.

4) Primary grades seem to be especially strong.

5) Students seemed VERY well behaved, polite and respectful given they had never seen me before.

6) Technology is present throughout the building although need to explore more specifically how it is being utilized and maintained. There is both a computer room as well as computers in most rooms.

7) There seems to be some wonderful services at the school, including child study team, clinician, IB and G&T. Clearly, there are resources and expertise at Conner’s.

8) Wonderful and thoughtful conversation for ½ hour with Principal Erbe toward the end of my visit after she showed me around the building and introduced me to everyone. Some concerns or needs arouse which include:

a) there are presently 3 cafeteria workers, my sense is that there is a perception that there might be a need for additional people.

b) the need for a guidance person was discussed. The principal seems supportive of this notion.

c) There was agreement that we need some curricula alignment in the district

9) Had a nice end of the morning conversation with Ms. Dominique where we discussed IB plans and need for other people to join her in assuring commitment and investment in the IB program which now seems to be at a district wide implementation stage. Currently, things are too focused around 1 person for the success of a program that potentially impacts over 550 students. It is a testament to Ms. Dominique’s commitment but not a healthy situation for the district to have 1 person be so pivotal without additional committed staff and/or mentoring of others.

Connor's is a clean, well light, open and bright atmosphere. It really is a beautiful building and much work has gone into making the place an exciting school.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Initial Hopkins Program Meeting

- CTY shares with its parent organization, the Johns Hopkins University, a three-part mission of teaching, research, and service. More specifically, CTY: Seeks students of the highest academic ability through its talent search and offers them challenging educational opportunities that develop the intellect, encourage achievement, and nurture social development.
Conducts research and evaluation studies that advance knowledge about gifted education; develops best practices in educating highly able children; and disseminates its findings to parents, the education community, and policymakers.
Supports educators in their efforts to meet the needs of highly able students, assists parents in advocating for their gifted children, and participates actively in community service.

- This seems to be an outsourcing model where the district pays a fee to have it’s students take on line courses in advanced subject matters. We need to examine whether we have the expertise within district to administer such courses and if not, why not.

- It appears as if there are approximately 50 students in the district identified as Gifted and Talented but it not quite clear what is the criteria for such a designation. IQ tests are not given in the district and standardized test scores are not a reliable measure of IQ. Current students take a test administered by John Hopkins. We will need to find out some additional psychometric properties of this measure. Of the students identified, 45 seem to be identified for mathematics and 5 for verbal. None for science.

- There as additional discussion about the possibility of introducing a series of courses at Conners school. These would possibly include: economics, politics, music (violin) and chineese. There’s been varying degrees of success with these courses and we’ll need to examine this more closely. It was noted that these classes would be available for all students at Conners and not just the Gifted and Talented.

- There was discussion about a Preparing for College course which would help students and parents think about college.

- There was some discussion about a program with the NJ Symp. Centered around music for the students.

- There appears to be little coordination with the IB program to date. IB identifies themselves as being NOT exclusively for Gifted and Talented students. While not identical there seems to be at least some overlap of public perception with these two programs. If not for the same students than certainly in advocates for a more rigorous curriculum for the majority of Hoboken students.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Initial Literacy Meeting

Literacy Meeting
Brandt School
Sept 6, 2007 9am-11:30AM

Reading is an active skill-based process of constructing meaning and/or gaining knowledge from oral, visual, and written text (including Braille). It is a means of language acquisition, of communication, and of sharing information and ideas. Effective readers activate prior knowledge (schemata theory), use comprehension, decoding skills (using morpheme, semantics, and syntax cues), and demonstrate fluency during reading. Other types of reading may not be text-based, such as music notation or pictograms. By analogy, in computer science, reading is acquiring of data from some sort of computer storage.

The traditional definition of literacy is considered to be the ability to read and write, or the ability to use language to read, write, listen, and speak. In modern contexts, the word refers to reading and writing at a level adequate for communication, or at a level that lets one understand and communicate ideas in a literate society, so as to take part in that society. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has drafted the following definition: "Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society."

A number of issues came up during the meeting. Included was:

- The need for a District Level Literacy Team. This might include a Reading Supervisor and or a Curriculum Supervisor. The apparent need for such a position(s) seems to arise from a perception that there is not a way or effectively coordinating the full scope of activities related to implementing Reading/Literacy at the district level. That is exactly the point we had hoped to convey.

- The Reading First grant supplies mostly funds to purchase materials for use in K-3 setting. Some of the funds are used for salary but it seems as if a majority of the funds go toward materials. We would add professional development materials and activities.

- A reoccurring theme throughout the meet was the relative lack of room/space for one of the important components of the grant, The Parent/Teacher Reading First Resource Room. It seems as if in some schools this is regulated to a closet. Clearly, there appears to be a lack of professional level space. This also compromises the possibility of effective interaction with the public including parents and the community at large. To address the lack of space there was discussion as to whether the Parent/Teacher Reading First Resource Room should be at each school or a central district level facility. No clear consensus seemed to emerge from the conversation. The discussion continued later on in the meeting and the idea of a central location was dismissed. It is more likely that parents will respond favorably to outreach from the schools their children attend. The coaches will incorporate parent outreach activities into their schedules and will notify parents of times when they may visit the Resource Center for discussions and/or borrowing materials to work with at home. Perhaps when the building administrators see the program in action they will be more open to developing more appropriate space for that component of the program.

- A discussion on community involvement included the present participation of Wiley in a volunteer reading program at Hoboken area schools and the possibility (not realized at this time) of including local book stores like Barnes and Noble (Superintendent’s Reading List? Participation in a reading program?) The key point here is the need to reach out to the full community (business, academic, social, etc…) and not simply the parental community. Again, we are in agreement. This is an example of the kind of activity that a District Literacy Team might develop. It goes beyond the Reading First K-3 component – but is certainly something in which Reading First should and wants to participate.

- There seems to be a need for a central testing/data center. The grant requires a great deal of data collection, synthesis, analysis, reporting, etc… Without ease of access to electronic data, it appears there is the potential for a great amount of wasted staff capital. My sense is that this is a district wide issue but with so many reporting requirements for this grant (quarterly, bi-annually, annually), the impact is really felt strongly. Yes, on all points- particularly the “wasted staff capital”. We might point out that the demand for data and data analysis is not exclusive to Reading First. It is also needed for NCLB, and the other grants programs the district supports. In addition, each school could benefit from the data analysis in developing its overarching literacy program.

-The Reading First initiative provided an organizational format, an instructional design, and an assessment schema for a segment of the elementary population in the district when the only other Language Arts Literacy resource available to staff and students were the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards (NJ CCCS).

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Curriculum Audit

On July 25, 2007 the final results of the Curriculum and Professional Development Audit was presented to the Hoboken Superintendent of Schools by Jim McBee- Director of Abbott Services. This report was completed in collaboration with Willa Spicer, Executive Director of the New Jersey Performance Assessment Allicance as well as the Deputy Commissioner of Education for the State of New Jersey.

The focus of the report was to document evidence pertaining to the following questions:

1) Is there a Board approved curriculum that is alligned to NJQSAC elements in exisitence for all of the subject content areas?

2) To what degree is the District's curriculum being implemented in the classroom?

3) Is the academic program supported by staff development?

4) What staff development has the district had since September 2005 and what has it cost?

(note: The report has already been requested under the Open Public Records Act, so it is available as a public document)

The general findings of the curriculum audit, questions 1 and 2 above, and the steps the district is taking to remediate the audit, is the focus of this blog.

An accurate summary of the audit was that "student success in the achievement of the NJCCCS (New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards) is the existence and everyday use of curriculum documents that guide teachers in the scope and sequence of the subject matter. The curriculum should show direct and detailed correlation tot he NJCCCS, include interdisciplinary activities and references, and contain technology references that help guide teachers to appropriate technoogy learning and use across all content areas, and assessment information with benchmarks for student success".

The audit continues, "This does not currently appear to be the case in Hoboken; however there is a timeline in place for curriculum revision taking in all subjects through 2009". The summary of the audit conludes with, "teachers in the schools seem to have done a good job of using the NJCCCS, Curriculum Frameworks, texts, and old undtated course outlines to implement a program that helps students achieve the NJCCCS. They (teachers) need the direction of a well constructed curricula that meet NJCCCS standards to help students achieve their full potential.

On July 26, 2007, the Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Jack Raslowsky, submitted and the Board of Education approved the appointment of Dr. Anthony Petrosino ( as Assistant to the Superintendent. Dr. Petrosino has been working with the district to assist in addressing the findings of the audit.