South Orangetown Central School District

Throughout the fall, the District’s K-12 content area leadership teams reconvened to resume curriculum review, alignment K-12, and to share information about how the year is going and any learning issues that needed to be addressed from a systemic level.

“Getting our K-12 leadership teams together again was of utmost importance as we entered this school year. For more than a decade, these teams have been instrumental in keeping our District at the forefront of teaching and learning across all content areas. Unfortunately, the pandemic forced us to pause this work and refocus our attention on addressing related learning gaps. It has been amazing to see our teams back together clicking on all cylinders as if no time had passed. At the forefront of these sessions has been what teachers are noticing with student learning and retention across the grades with particular skills and content and developing strategies and methodologies to address students’ academic and social emotional needs. Our teams also spent time planning for after school Learning Institutes and developing performance-based assessments to better gauge where students are and where they need to go. And before the December Recess, our Social Studies Leadership Team visited the Holocaust Museum & Center for Tolerance and Education at Rockland Community College to learn about this valuable community resource and to plan for future field trips and curriculum connections,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Brian Culot, Ed.D.

The content area teams are led by the District’s instructional coaches and are composed of teachers who have expressed interest and/or for their leadership within their grade level or department. Culot and Director of Data, Assessment and Accountability Jeanne Corcoran work closely with coaches to plan team goals and teacher members and coaches turnkey information with colleagues in their schools. School administrators participate, as well.

Phonological awareness, sight words and word study instruction were the topics of discussion at the recent ELA Leadership Team meeting, which also included a review of Heggerty and STAR Literacy assessment data. Heggerty assessments are used for all students in grades K-2 and those reading below grade level in grades 3-5. STAR Literacy assessments are conducted in grades K-10.

“The Heggerty data showed that over 92 percent of first- and second-graders do not need further intervention or instruction in phonemic awareness,” Instructional Literacy Coach (K-5) Kristy Nadler reported. K-5 team members are in the process of collecting and analyzing data on the five pillars of reading (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension) to inform continued targeted instruction based on each students’ identified needs.

While secondary team members also look at reading levels, their focus is on comprehension and extension: What does this information mean? How does it fit into our understanding of a text or concept? How can we look at a variety of texts to construct our view of the world? The objective is to help students become critical readers and critical thinkers who develop their own opinions only after looking at multiple perspectives.

Corcoran presented to the high school English department on tracking grade cohort STAR scores and tracking results over time and using data to identify intervention needs and reading performance trends. “STAR and other assessment data was also shared with the social studies department, as being able to examine students’ reading progress over time is crucial in subjects which require high volume and high level reading on a regular basis,” noted Instructional Literacy Coach (6-12) Mark Stanford.

The Math Leadership Team met to reestablish its goals with a focus on the development of K-12 learning objectives and teaching strategies. The session began with identification of student learning gaps and common themes district-wide, followed by brainstorming strategies to address these issues as teachers and students readjust to full-time, in-person learning.

Some gaps that we were seeing across the board were in routine areas, such as taking notes and preparing for and taking exams,” Instructional Math Coach (K-5) Shannon Bogart said.

“One strategy that was discussed was spiraling in review and covering the skills needed to be successful in students’ current classes,” added Instructional Math Coach (6-12) Marisa Premus.

In addition, school-based teams are developing instructional strategies and targeted, after school programming (enrichment and institutes) to meet identified needs.

At its recent meeting, the Science Leadership Team focused on the assessment of pandemic-related learning gaps. Teacher members shared observations that although students demonstrate solid content knowledge, their technical, communication and collaboration skills were more directly impacted by hybrid/remote learning. To address these gaps, elementary teachers are providing additional opportunities to practice hands-on measurement skills, science vocabulary and group work involving cooperation and compromise. At the secondary level, teachers are targeting math, graphing, and collaborative group work skills.

In addition, elementary teachers discussed the Science 21 program being piloted in grades K-3 this year. “The new program is aligned with New York State Science Learning Standards and emphasizes relevant, real world, student-directed investigations which incorporate hands-on science tasks that integrate ELA, math and social studies,” said Instructional Science Coach (K-8) Samantha Levine.

Meanwhile, Instructional Science Coach (9-12) Brian Newburger reported that secondary teachers reviewed their curriculum scope and sequences, previewed upcoming units and mapped out curriculum map additions.

Social Studies
The Social Studies Leadership Team has been busy preparing for the upcoming Tri-State Consortium follow-up visit in February. The team reviewed the March 2019 Consortium’s Consultancy Report and discussed commendations and recommendations.

Team members began working on creating a common K-12 language to define terms such as “problem-based learning” and “metacognition,” as well as strategies that allow students to reflect on both what–and how successfully–they have learned.

K-5 team members are also working on identifying exemplars through a calibration protocol to ensure that student work is evaluated consistently and in alignment with scoring rubrics. “Not only does this bring about greater accuracy and reliability in scoring, but it also helps to deepen educators’ understanding of expectations for student work expressed in the rubric,” noted Nadler.

The 6-12 focus continues to be on the transition to full implementation of the New York State Social Studies Learning Standards, the accompanying changes to existing Regents Exams, and the NYS Civic Readiness Initiative. Team members intend to use feedback from the Consortium visit to further refine the District’s K-12 curriculum with the goal of helping students to look at history as historians and empowering them to make informed decisions as members of a diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.

To learn more about teaching and learning in SOCSD, view our curriculum maps and participate in upcoming curriculum-related events in our schools.