Curriculum Matters

MTSD / Volume 2 / Issue 7 / April 2016

MTSD Office of Instructional Services

Deborah Sarmir—Assistant Superintendent Curriculum/Instruction

Damian Pappa—Director Assessment/Data/Accountability

Fiona Borland—Director Instructional Technology

Ron Zalika —Director Curriculum

Lucianne Smith—Executive Assistant

MTSD Content Area Supervisors

Jennifer Riddell—MHS Mathematics

Alma Reyes—World Languages & ESL

Melissa Hodgson—MHS Social Studies

Adam Warshafsky—Visual & Performing Arts

Jason Sullivan—MHS Science

Lisa Romano—LMS/UMS Language Arts & Social Studies

Karen Stalowski—MHS Language Arts

Christopher Herte—LMS/UMS Mathematics & Science

Amy Wish—OHES/VES Mathematics & Science

Amy Monaco—OHES/VES Language Arts & Social Studies

Naoma Green—MHS Physical Education & Health

From the Office of Instructional Services

MTSD has a never-ending commitment to creating and maintaining a guaranteed and viable curriculum that will ensure our students' academic success. This newsletter is a part of this equation, helping to communicate our curricular happenings and instructional activities across grade levels and content areas to district educators, parents and students. While all of our curriculum guides are available through an online database called Rubicon Atlas, this newsletter provides a closer look at the some of the learning experiences and outcomes that our students undertake. Please browse through the curriculum updates provided by our talented team of content-area supervisors.

Curriculum Matters: Live!

During the months of March and April, over 90 MTSD parents attended information sessions hosted by our Director of Curriculum, Mr. Ron Zalika. These talks revolved around an explanation of state standards and mandates, MTSD district curriculum structures and our curricular expectations moving forward. Parents and district administration engaged in many thought-provoking discussions throughout the sessions, ranging from the role of the federal and state departments of education, to performance task assessments embedded in our district curricula, to enrichment programming in our elementary schools. Thank you to all that participated in this meaningful and powerful dialogue! Please be on the lookout for future Curriculum Matters: Live events at our buildings.

A special thanks to the elementary, middle and high school PTA/PTO for co-sponsoring these events and for providing attendees with yummy refreshments!

MHS Mathematics

Congratulations to Thomas Draper, David Xue, Joseph Romagnoli and Luke Dai for qualifying for the AIME 1 after the American Mathematics Competition 10/12 last month. Thomas additionally scored so well to continue the competition at the national level – USAJMO (USA Junior Mathematical Olympiad).

AP courses are wrapping up content to prepare for the May AP exams. After that, some intense projects will start. AP Statistics will be doing experiments and observational studies to apply their proficiencies in data analysis, regression computations, and hypothesis testing. Technology competencies and presentation skills will be demonstrated. Some hot topics are: Why is it so hard to prove the Zika virus can cause birth defects; Does a yellow light mean that drivers stop or speed up – Does gender play a role in stopping or speeding up; What role do the Presidential debates play in Primary Delegate results? All are looking forward to the findings that will be presented in early June.

Lastly thank you to all teachers who welcomed little ones into their classes for Take Your Child to Work Day. Many children enjoyed making their Octagonal Symmetrical Paper Light Catchers.

MTSD World Language and ESL

Congratulations to our MHS Latin students from both Mr. Beyer’s and Mr. Dominick’s classes for their exceptional performance in the 2016 National Latin Exam!

42 MHS students took the National Latin Exam in March, and 27 earned an award for outstanding performance (64% earning an award, vs. 38% nationally!). This includes nine gold medal winners: Yesh Datar, Lisa Knucky, Vicki Lu, Palmer McNally, Colleen McConnell, Kylla Przekop, William Rarich , Robert Tidona, & Zachary Ward. Two students -- Palmer McNally and Zachary Ward -- earned the extremely rare Perfect Paper (last year, only 439 students out of the 50,567 test-takers at their level earned a perfect paper!).

The National Latin Exam is offered under the joint sponsorship of the American Classical League and the National Junior Classical League. The exams taken at Montgomery High School this year were Latin I, Latin II, Latin III, and Latin IV Prose. Each exam is comprised of 40 multiple-choice questions; categories include grammar, comprehension, mythology, life, history, derivatives, and questions based on a short passage in Latin.

OHES & VES Math & Science

It’s Spring and everyone is aware that our environment is changing. Plants are blooming, we're welcoming spring showers and warmer weather, and we see baby birds nesting near both schools. Through the Next Generation Science Standards, students in grades K-4 will be learning about many of these changes.

Kindergartners take nature walks to observe and learn about the patterns of seasons and weather. First graders track their shadows to safely track how the sun moves in our sky and then apply that learning to the motions of the moon and stars. In future NGSS units, second graders will explore how erosion changes landforms and fourth graders will build on that learning by investigating how the interactions between wind, water, ice, living things, and Earth’s crust result in different changes on the Earth’s surface. In third grade, students will uncover causes of change in Ecosystems- comparing both natural processes and human impacts.

You may want to point out these exciting changes as you spend family time outdoors. Our young scientists are so excited to learn more about the world around them!

LMS & UMS Language Arts & Social Studies

Book Clubs are traveling to 8th grade Social Studies!

As 8th grade Social Studies immerses itself in a study of the Civil War and Reconstruction, students will be enjoying themselves in Historical Fiction book clubs. Historical Fiction Clubs will help to deepen students’ interpretation through heated conversation and close reading. Students will turn to Primary Sources to better understand history as well as the characters in their novels. Through the power of narrative, students will strengthen their abilities to adopt new perspectives as they work hard to analyze how historical events and various human motivations converged to result in the Civil War Era.

Throughout this Civil War Unit, as your son or daughter is energized to read more, we can support their ability to choose from a wide variety titles. In addition to visiting our Media Center to look for available novels on the shelves, students can choose from a plethora of online titles. A student simply has to bring an electronic device to the Media Center and if our library is able to locate a requested title from our online collection, your son or daughter will be able to immediately download the desired title to his/her device free of charge.

Happy Historical Reading to All!

OHES & VES Language Arts and Social Studies

Spotlight on Grade 3!

Third Grade readers at VES have been diving into Biography Book Clubs, and have been focusing on making inferences about their biographical subjects, supporting their ideas with text evidence. They are now focused on viewing biographies with a nonfiction lens, working to identify the main idea and the way in which the sections of the book are organized. In writing, they have been crafting fairy tales, working to write adaptations of favorite tales (such as The Three Billy Goats Gruff and Cinderella), with an increased emphasis on weaving narration through their stories, using dialogue strategically and adding descriptive language to their drafts.

Third grade students will end the year with a focus on Poetry in both reading and writing. In writing, this unit will ask students to use line breaks to give their poems rhythm, use precise word choice and focus on meaningful topics. In the corresponding reading unit, titled Little Thing Are Big, students will read poetry and analyze the form, length, rhythm, shape and mood of the text, as well as investigate how the parts of a poem work together to create meaning and apply poems’ main messages to the world around them. Spring is a great time to enjoy the outdoors and dive into some nature-inspired poetry at home! Poets that are recommended for third grade reading include: Ogden Nash, Shel Silverstein, Kenn Newbitt, and Jack Prelutsky, as well as some poets who are not strictly “children’s poets,” such as Langston Hughes, Naomi Shihab Nye, Robert Frost, William Wordsworth and Walt Whitman. Happy reading!

MHS Social Studies

As AP Exams are quickly approaching, the AP teachers in the MHS Social Studies Department are working hard to ensure the students are fully prepared for the tests by designing engaging and memorable class time review sessions to ensure student success. All AP teachers offer multiple extended after school review sessions as the exam time nears. Students’ hard work, teacher dedication, collaboration, and a shared commitment to excellence leads to consistently high scores on all AP Exams offered by the MHS Social Studies Department year after year.

To prepare for the AP US History exam, Mrs. Murphy has her students work in pairs to create topic outlines which the students share via the Google Drive. All APUSH students have access to these outlines to be used as study guides, which has proven to be an effective study tool.

As participants in the "Bring Your Own Device" pilot program, students in Mr. Washburn’s AP U.S. Government and Politics review with Google Classroom and the online resources within their textbook’s online test prep site “Aplia.” Students create a series of review materials which they then electronically share with their peers to review. In each class, students research political topics with their laptop computers and report their findings to expand the knowledge of everyone in the class.

In Mr. Griffin and Mr. Miller’s AP Economics classes, students prepare FRQ review presentations, take practice Macro and Micro exams, and review exam prep Slide Decks as a class. Students in this course will be prepared to sit for two AP Exams: Microeconomics and Macroeconomics.

AP Art History teachers Mr. Lugo and Mr. Oosting offer after school review sessions that extend well into the evening. This year is an especially challenging year for the AP Art History students and teachers as they are preparing for a completely redesigned AP Art History exam. Mr. Lugo and Mr. Oosting have helped prepare students for this challenge by rewriting the course curriculum and piloting a revised exam provided by the College Board.

MHS Science

The MHS Chemistry team is piloting a new performance assessment during MP4. The challenge incorporates prior work in physics with basic chemistry stoichiometry. The students are divided into engineering teams with the task of generating a chemical reaction that will propel a “rocket boat”. The assignment attends to the eight practices of science and engineering described in last month’s newsletter. The June edition will include examples of the student designs and reflections on the process of incorporating chemical engineering into the course curriculum.

Opportunities to be involved:

  • The MHS Student STEM Board is accepting recommendations for guest speakers to participate in the MHS Science Lecture Series. The students solicit individuals to share their experiences in education, research, and industry.

  • The Monty MakerSpace is open and getting ready to host open lab times on Saturdays this spring.

  • Spring is just around the corner meaning that the MHS Courtyard Garden will be set for another planting season. The Garden is divided into 3 areas. The Outdoor Classroom is a grassy expanse with benches that accommodates various classroom and Unit lunch activities. The Native Plant Garden displays numerous varieties of perennials and a small pond with waterfall. The third section is home to over 40 raised beds where fruits, vegetables and flowers are raised without pesticides or herbicides. Donations of plants, equipment, or time are always appreciated.

MTSD Visual and Performing Arts

One of the most important genres of music for our music students to be educated about is opera. Opera is an incredible art form that combines many different artistic disciplines including vocal music, instrumental music, world languages, visual arts, creative writing, and acting. Through the efforts of our LMS choral director, Mrs. Jocelyn Keefe, we have been successful in forming a partnership with the Metropolitan Opera Company in which our 5th grade choir students get to see a dress rehearsal of an opera at the Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center, New York City. Last month, these students got to see Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio conducted by the world-famous artistic director, James Levine. Before their trip to New York to see the opera, the students had the opportunity in class to learn about the genre of opera and about the specific opera they were seeing.

Additionally, May is concert season! Concerts are where our music classes bring their curriculum to life for an audience. All of the teachers and students look forward to sharing with you what they have learned through their performances. For a schedule of concerts, please visit the district website. We encourage you to attend these wonderful displays of our students’ musical learning.

Our visual arts program celebrated their students’ achievements at the MTSD Arts Extravaganza last month where student work from grades K-12 was on display. This was a fantastic representation of what our students have been learning in their art classes. One of the most important goals of our art curriculum is for students to visually express their personal interpretation of the world and what it means to them. Many of our art teachers have students complete self-portraits where the portraits represent how the students see themselves in this world. These self-portraits as well as many other projects were proudly on display at the extravaganza.

We encourage you all to visit the upcoming Heritage Day and Cultural Museum Experience events that take place at LMS. Both of these events are rich with student art work that visually represents the learning that takes place in their social studies curriculum. The Cultural Museum Experience is the evening of June 8th and June 9th and Heritage Day is on June 16th.

Spotlight on Curriculum

Many of our K-12 curriculum guides have begun to incorporate a new kind of rigorous assessment called a Performance Task. According to expert Jay McTighe, a Performance Task is an assessment that asks students to perform to authentically demonstrate knowledge, understanding and proficiency. Performance tasks present a complex situation that calls for learners to apply their learning in context. In an authentic task, students consider goals, audience, obstacles, and options to achieve a successful product or performance. Believe it or not, Performance Tasks have been around for decades and have been routinely used in visual and performing arts, physical education, and career-technology where performance is the natural focus of instruction. However, we believe that such tasks should be used in every subject area and at all grade levels.

These Performance Tasks will not replace more traditional types of assessments regularly given to our students. Rather, these two assessment types will be used in tandem to better gauge student mastery. As we continue to develop and utilize these in our curriculum, our collective goal remains the same—to promote meaningful learning for students. Be on the lookout for a Performance Task coming to a curriculum near you!

MTSD Mission and Vision Statements

Mission Statement

Our mission as a forward-thinking community is to ensure that all students grow into confident, compassionate, successful, and self-directed learners a multi-cultural and socio-economically diverse society by providing engaging and challenging real world educational experiences in a student-centered environment.

Vision Statement

We envision a district on the forefront of public education. We focus on the needs of every child, dedicating ourselves to their present and future success. Success means that all students possess a passion for learning, develop a deep understanding of rigorous content, demonstrate cultural competence, and exhibit ethical conduct, while cultivating social skills and healthy habits that will empower them to achieve their goals and aspirations. Achieving this vision requires that the district become a learning community that continually reflects and challenges itself to effect transformational teaching and learning. We prepare our students to take responsibility for their own educational accomplishments in our global society while nurturing them in a community where each student is known and valued. We believe by embracing frontier spirit, we can create a unique organization that is recognized as a forerunner in public education.