Maplewood Schools / Kids South Orange

Maini: South Orange-Maplewood is Committed to STEM Realignment

The following is from Annemarie Maini, a member of the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education and chair of the Equity and Excellence Committee:

The effort to ensure that every child in the SOMSD experience a rigorous, equitable education is a high priority for our community. Our Board of Education’s Equity & Excellence (E&E) Committee is tasked with guiding and monitoring the district’s work in this area. As the chairperson of the E & E committee, I feel a responsibility to report to the community about our work.

At the March SOMSD BOE meeting I presented an update from the Equity and Excellence Committee. While the full minutes of the March committee meeting are available on the SOMSD website, I would like to provide a summary of the work underway in support of the implementation of the Access & Equity (A&E) Policy (5755.1).

Some background: The curricular work currently underway in STEM was outlined in the original A&E policy:

The District shall also engage in a Kindergarten through 12th grade curricular alignment, ensuring that all students develop the knowledge and skills fundamental to successful performance in Advanced Placement and advanced level courses by providing the highest levels of academic rigor in all Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle and High School courses.

The previous administration slated the implementation of this work in the Access and Equity Implementation Plan (presented to the public June 20, 2016.) The timeline proposed was to complete this work by November 2017. (This work was delayed due to the change in administration, but I think we have made up in quality what we lost in speed.) The BOE, in conjunction with Dr. Ficarra, solidified the direction of this work when we adopted the District Goals in January. One of those goals was:

Focus curricular realignment on Math and Science in 2017-18 for implementation in 2018-19.

Where we are now: Dr. Ficarra’s STEM Realignment recommendation was presented for approval at the February BOE meeting and it was approved. Good governance by any board requires that once a recommendation is approved, it is each Board member’s mandate to be committed to supporting the implementation of the will of the Board. Administration has a detailed implementation timeline and has also created tracking tools for compliance.

Here are a few of the implementation actions happening now:

Engaging Teachers

  • Supervisors are engaging teachers and building leaders to determine the supports needed for successful implementation (for students and teachers).
  • Supervisors are also asking teachers to help define/identify the technological needs, as well as other tools.
  • A tracking tool logs conversations and feedback to ensure all stakeholders are engaged.

Where we are going: Part of the upcoming work of the E&E committee is to work with Dr. Ficarra to monitor the details of the implementation plan. Here are some of the actions we will be expecting:

Curriculum Work

  • The critical next step is to create the new curricula for the new courses. The goal is not to choose one of the old curriculum and make that the new course but rather to transform the courses to raise the level of rigor at every level to a standards-based curriculum.
  • Administration is working with teachers to evaluate the former SOMSD course curricula to identify gaps between the old courses and the NJ Standards. They will then define the content necessary for the standards-based grade-level curriculum and the honors curriculum.
  • During this work, the next step is to define the content necessary and the timeline to teach current students in the old courses so that they will be successful in the new courses.
  • This work will be monitored for compliance using the new curriculum development template.

Several of the actions necessary for quality implementation of the STEM realignment fall under the additional District goals adopted in December: 

Strengthen guidance and advisory structures in 2017-18 to ensure that all students, especially unrepresented student groups, are encouraged to enroll in higher level courses and receive support to persist in rigorous coursework.

Research various data platforms in 2017-18 to provide systemic structures in 2018-19 that will:

  1. capture multiple measures of disaggregated student data;
  2. facilitate the longitudinal analysis of student performance; and

iii.   inform professional development, lesson planning, teaching practice, assessments, budgeting, and staffing.

Foster a positive school climate and ensure that instructional practices and school communities are culturally responsive and inclusive by providing ongoing professional development; by the start of the 2018-2019 school year, professional development and school climate initiatives shall be informed by multiple measures of student data.

Guidance and advisory supports

  • Guidance has implemented online course registration which will create immediate reports for building leader review of how students are registering.
  • Guidance has led parent information meetings during week nights, as well as on a Saturday.
  • Building leaders and guidance will be responsible for making sure that all students are selecting courses that will challenge them.
  • Ficarra will personally be monitoring this work and has already spent many hours working with guidance. 

Fostering a positive school climate and ensuring that all instructional practices and school communities are culturally responsive and inclusive

  • As reported during previous budget discussions, administration will be presenting their professional development plan, geared towards cultural responsiveness in April/May.
  • The code of conduct revision and the move toward restorative practices is scheduled for early Spring.

Thank you for bearing with me as I share these details about the work of the Board and specifically the Equity & Excellence Committee. It’s important to me that our entire community is aware of the work we are doing to turn our community’s values, ambitions and goals into concrete action. I have confidence in our District’s ability to provide a rigorous, equitable education to every child and I look forward to the work to come.

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