HHSD Office of Curriculum

April Curriculum Update

Pennsylvania Schools Brace for Possible Score Adjustments with New PA Core Standards Aligned PSSA

In the coming weeks, Hatboro-Horsham students in grades 3-8 will take new versions of the annual Pennsylvania Statewide Schools Assessment, or PSSAs. The new versions of the test will reflect the recently-adopted PA Core standards, which replaced the PA Academic Content Standards on which the tests were previously based. The PA Core standards are Pennsylvania's implementation of the national Common Core State Standards, an effort by the National Governors Association to create more rigorous college and career ready guidelines and consistent academic expectations for students nationally.


The new tests feature an integrated writing component in the English Language Arts tests at each grade level, so fifth and eighth graders will no longer take a separate writing test. Math tests are still given at each grade level and middle school Algebra students will still have to take both the Keystone Algebra test and the grade-level mathematics test. Only the English Language Arts and Math PSSAs are new; the science tests in grades 4 and 8 remain similar to what has been administered in previous years, as do the Keystone tests taken during the middle and high school years as part of Pennsylvania's graduation requirements.


In other states where new Common-Core aligned tests have been adopted, the tests were noticeably more challenging and resulted in far fewer students meeting grade level expectations (to see how the expected proficiency levels for a nationally-developed test being used in 18 other states are expected to look, check out this article). Pennsylvania is not part of either of the two test consortia which will manage the testing in over 30 other states this spring, and has opted instead to administer a common-core aligned assessment developed by DRC, the corporation which developed the previous versions of the PSSAs. Because we are using a test unique to our state, it's difficult to predict how our students' scores will be adjusted to reflect the PA Core standards. Based on the experiences in every other state that has implemented a common-core aligned assessment, it is reasonable to expect a substantial drop in student proficiency, but the Pennsylvania Department of Education has been tight-lipped on this topic despite having field-tested new items on last-year's tests, a process similar to what has been used elsewhere to publicize expected proficiency rates beforehand.


In other states, student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) were a good predictor of student performance on the new common-core aligned tests. The NAEP is a national assessment of reading and math given annually by the US Department of Education to a random sample of schools in each state. In Pennsylvania, statewide averages on the NAEP tests have been lower than on the PSSAs. About 30% fewer students each year rate proficient on the NAEP test than on the comparable PSSA test. Pennsylvania schools are in a bind. While the content and format of the new tests are known, schools don't know what to expect in terms of student performance. It's possible that the cut scores on the new tests will be set in such a way that student rates of proficiency will look similar to what they were on the old PSSAs. However, it would be good to be able to advertise any new expectations for student success to our community beforehand, as it certainly seems reasonable to expect a sharp drop in the scores with the new tests as this has what occurred in other states during the transition process.


When the scores for this year's tests are released, if proficiency rates on the new tests look similar to the old PSSA proficiency rates, then this undermines one of the key purposes of transitioning to Common Core standards, the ability to make good comparisons to student learning in other states. Because these scores provide a baseline measure of student success, as well as affect our schools' ratings on the School Performance Profile and impact our teachers' evaluations, many in Hatboro-Horsham will be holding their breath until the results are known. Despite the uncertainties, our students are prepared to take these new tests over three weeks this month.

Literacy Review Highlights HHSD Transition to PA Core Standards

HHSD is in year two of a system-wide literacy review process. In 2013-14, a district Literacy Leadership Team was formed to review literacy resources and practices for alignment with PA Core Standards. Beginning by completing the Pennsylvania Local Literacy Needs Assessment the team examined curriculum and assessments, instructional practices, and professional learning as they relate to the research on literacy best practices. A district comprehensive literacy plan was developed, including guiding principles for instructional practice and literacy frameworks to guide the review of literacy resources.


Professional development for 2014-15 has focused on implementation of the HHSD Comprehensive Literacy Plan. District literacy frameworks were introduced in August to secondary content area teachers, including demonstration lessons for implementing PA Core aligned practices. At the elementary and middle school levels, teachers attended shared and close reading demonstrations provided by REACH Associates. In-service days included collaborative planning opportunities for teachers to apply learning in their daily planning. Literacy frameworks will continue to provide a common vocabulary as we adjust Tier I and Tier II practices towards implementing the Comprehensive Literacy Plan.

A reading pilot was implemented this year at the elementary and middle school levels to identify reading materials aligned with PA Core. Reading core programs were analyzed for alignment with the standards and HHSD Literacy Frameworks. A team of elementary classroom, special education, and hybrid classroom teachers piloted two core programs in the first semester, documenting the review using selection criteria rubrics. Keith Valley ELA teachers piloted instructional modules from Engage NY, a free web based resource aligned with Common Core State Standards. Selection criteria for piloting included components of the following rubrics: The Essential Guide to Selecting and Using Core Reading Programs from the International Reading Association; and the EQuIP Quality Review Rubric for Evaluating Alignment of Instructional Materials to the Common Core State Standards from Student Achievement Partners.


Piloting has led to the selection and recommendation of the Reading Wonders core reading program at the elementary level, and the adoption of additional Engage NY modules for middle level ELA teachers. The HHSD School Board will vote on the Reading Wonders recommendation in April, with a plan to implement system-wide for the fall.


Literacy implementation plans for next year will include embedding HHSD Literacy Framework practices across the curriculum K-12 with an additional focus on differentiating at the Tier II level. In K-5, professional development will include supporting elementary teachers as they implement a new core resource. At the middle level, professional development will include revising curriculum to embed best practices, and supporting the instructional shifts in across ELA, Science, Social Studies and related content areas. High School content areas will be developing and piloting methods of teaching writing in the content areas, and creating an aligned curriculum map across 6-12th grades.

HHSD Office of Curriculum

Susan Vaites, Director of Curriculum - Instruction and Professional Development

David Weber, Director of Curriculum - Educational Programs and Assessment

Sandra VanDorick - Curriculum Secretary

Melissa Buonato - Data Coordinator

Kathleen Gipson - Jarrett Nature Center Coordinator


Our instructional coaches are Rachel Hartman, Diane Heitzenrater, Christine Jenkins, Meredith Kane-Sokol, Pam Merenda, Carey Rhodes, and Carol Vellios. The instructional coaches for HHSD can be reached at instuctionalcoaches@hatboro-horsham.org .

Jarrett Nature Center Gears Up for Spring

The Jarrett Nature Center, Hatboro-Horsham's outdoor classroom, offers year-round educational experiences for our students and community. But as spring approaches, the JNC prepares to come out of hibernation and welcome the return of our students and families for some outdoor learning and fun! In the next few months, we will welcome students back for numerous visits. Each year, students in grades K-5 and 7 visit the JNC for lessons designed to align specifically with their science instruction for the year. About half of those visits take place in the spring.


On Saturday, April 25, the JNC celebrates Earth Day! Come on out between 9:30-12:30 and help celebrate. Numerous activities for families will be available and lots of local nature-themed organizations join us to help with the celebration.

Hybrid Learning Initiative Expands

We are excited to be in the second year of our Hybrid Learning Initiative. Hybrid learning is an instructional format that uses an expanded deployment of technology to establish learning stations for students in each classroom. During a typical hybrid lesson, students rotate through an independent learning station where they work on personalized content with adaptive software, a collaborative station where they work with other students on lesson objectives, and a direct instruction station where the classroom teacher delivers instruction in differentiated, flexible groups. This year, new classrooms include three additional hybrid classrooms at Simmons Elementary, three classrooms at Blair Mill Elementary, two classrooms at Crooked Billet Elementary, and one additional classroom at Keith Valley Middle School. In January, we deployed new laptops to these classrooms and finalized licenses for adaptive learning software. Recent professional development days allowed our new teachers to collaborate with veteran hybrid teachers, to be prepared to launch their own hybrid programs. All teachers remain excited and eager to continue with this initiative. Hatboro-Horsham's teachers are becoming recognized statewide for their successes, and HHSD is becoming known as a leader in hybrid learning!

Testing Season is Here!

Here is a consolidated list of the Pennsylvania testing windows for the next few weeks. Remember that buildings will schedule the tests within the windows, so not every day during each window will be used:


April 13-17: PSSA English Language Arts, Grades 3-8

April 20-24: PSSA Mathematics, Grades 3-8

April 27-May 1: PSSA Science, Grades 4 & 8

May 4-8: All PSSA Make-up Testing

May 13-27: Keystone Testing for Algebra I, English Literature, and Biology, Grades 7-11.