At the Aug. 20 Wetzel County Board of Education meeting, Shane Highley, Wetzel County's Pre K-6 Director, spoke to the board concerning Wetzel County's transition from the current Content Standards and Objectives, which are standards taught with the intent to achieve mastery on WesTest 2, to the Next Generation (NxG) Standards, which are based on common core standards. The NxG will be evaluated in the Smarter Balanced Assessment that will take the place of WesTest 2 during the 2014-15 school year.
The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center), along with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), are coordinating the state-led Common Core State Standards Initiative. The standards were developed with input and feedback from teachers, school administrators, and experts. According to the NGA Center and CCSSO, these new standards help to provide a "clear and consistent" framework to prepare students for college and future careers.
Wetzel County's NxG standards were already implemented for kindergarten students this past school year. This year, the new standards will be implemented for students in grades one, four, five, and nine. In 2013-2014, NxG standards will be implemented for grades two, three, seven, eight, and 10. By 2014-2015, it is suggested that the standards will be fully implemented for all students. Although this timeline exists for NxG implementation, Wetzel County schools are encouraging all teachers to begin implementing the new standards in their curriculum for this new school year.
Wetzel County Schools' personal goals include improving math skills across all grade levels, improving vocabulary and comprehension, and improving special education and low socioeconomic status scores across grades.
Highley stated in order to improve math scores, Wetzel County schools will give teachers time to explore and collaborate NxG standards through PLC's and grade level team meetings. He also wished to stress the importance of diversifying teaching strategies so students can transfer what they learn to real life problems.
As for vocabulary, teachers are encouraged to utilize more informational text and building an understanding of text complexity. Teachers will be trained on new ways to teach vocabulary and to improve special education and low socioeconomic status scores, informational text will also be used, as well as utilizing Support for Personalized Learning (SPL) to support struggling learners. Teachers will also be provided the resources to collaborate with each other on strategies that are successful. These resources could possibly include online blogs.
Tammy Wells, director of grades seven through 12, followed up Highley's presentation with a report on Wetzel County's teacher leaders introducing the new common core instruction.
Wells reported that during July, teacher leaders from Wetzel County attended one of three statewide Teacher Leadership Institutes and the Science, Arts, and Social Studies (SASS) Institute. Wells stated that the purpose of these institutes was to give the designated teachers a week of intensive work in the common core as it relates to Grade 9 Math, Grade 9 English/Language Arts, Grade 1, Grade 4, Grade 5, and the integration of the Common Core Standards (Next Generation Standards - NxG - in WV) for Math and Language Arts into the Science, Arts, and Social Studies Curriculum.
While at the TLI and SASS, teachers were asked to begin thinking about how they would present this material to teachers in their county. Their plan included an introductory session to occur at the beginning of the school year. Wells stated that the high school TLI group and the SASS participants met the week following their institutes to refine these sessions. These teachers hoped to make the training sessions a safe place for teachers to collaborate, seek help, and learn about the new NxG standards. This meeting was held Aug. 13.
Wells reminded the board that it is time for teachers to explore and collaborate using NxG standards in Professional Learning Communities (PLC) and grade level meetings, so math scores may be improved. She reported that TLI and SASS Institute teacher leaders are developing a year-long plan to give teachers this time to collaborate and address strategies. The plan includes monthly trainings of all teachers in these subject areas with emphasis on using informational text.
In addition to TLI and SASS year-long plans, Wells reported that she is working with Shawn Coen, the assistant principal at New Martinsville School, to do vertical alignment with Social Studies teachers, grades 6-12. Wells reported that one session has already been held on the matter and she looks to have two more sessions this year. At the first meeting on Aug. 7, teachers collaborated on infusion of literacy strands from NxG, discussed concerns about the new standards, and worked with the school in their respective area to work on transitional alignment between schools. Wells reports that the goal is to roll out the vertical alignment opportunity to all subject areas within the next three years.