The Learning Curve

From the Office of Teaching & Learning-December/January 2015

From the Office of Teaching and Learning-Dr. Nakia Hardy, Executive Director

The Learning Curve

The Learning Curve is our monthly newsletter. This informational letter will highlight events occurring in City Schools sponsored by the office of Teaching and Learning. Each month we will provide updates from every content area as well as timely information for teachers and leaders.

Assessment MATTERS!!!!!

Several weeks ago schools administered the first round of interim assessments and middle of course assessments for high school courses for this school year. Our update this month will serve to recap the previous assessment window, to discuss next steps for our office and for schools throughout the district, and to look ahead at upcoming assessments.

As a district, assessment completion rates were higher than they have ever been before. This is great news! Thank you for your effort to make this happen! Through this work, school leaders and teachers can better understand student performance, and the district can better offer support.

This growth in administration was not without challenges. We have received your feedback on system performance and are taking steps to ensure that schools can more smoothly administer assessments moving forward. Similarly, we will be revising scoring guidance and test items to make sure that we are clear in our expectations for teachers who administer assessments. Finally, our office wants to make sure that school leaders and teachers are more aware of what content they can expect on interim assessments and how to use these assessments to support adjustments to instruction. We will use this newsletter to provide some of that information, but make sure that you read additional sections of this newsletter to receive specific content guidance. If you have additional feedback about assessment administration, instructions, or content, we encourage you to reach out to our office.

At this point in time, assessments that were scored in Data Link or Agile Mind have been incorporated into school Instructional Leadership Team (ILT) tools. These tools are available for school leaders to access through the Principal’s Dashboard and school Office 365 folders. ILT tools provide an overview of student proficiency on interim assessments and student performance on key standards identified by content teams at district headquarters. This said, it’s important that school leaders and teachers “dive deeply” into their student data—and this is best done in City Schools’ Data Link or in Agile Mind. For information on how to look at your student data, we encourage you to reach out to your building’s content representatives. If you have questions about how to view your assessments in Data Link, please review the user guide; for questions not covered in this guide, please contact our office.

The Office of Teaching and Learning has identified key standards in English Language Arts (ELA) and domains for Math courses. These standards and domains are not inclusive of the curriculum as a whole and should not be the only standards upon which teachers and school leaders focus their attention; however, these standards should have particular emphasis paid to them as they are foundational skills for learning in subsequent grades. For ELA courses, these key standards are R1, R2, and R4 in both literary and informational texts. On all subsequent assessments, school leaders and teachers should expect these standards to be assessed on all ELA interims for grades 1-12. Because the content in mathematics courses does not spiral throughout all grades the way that ELA standards do, there are different key domains for each grade or course of math. Please see the table below for these domains, but keep in mind that not all domains will be assessed on each interim assessment .

Additional details regarding required assessments and the assessment calendars for all grades can be found in the assessment resources area of this website

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Upcoming Assessment Windows

Administration Window: December 3rd through December 5th, 2014

Scoring End Date: December 12th, 2014

Semester-long High School courses

English I through IV: Interim

Honors Algebra I: Interim

Algebra II and Honors Algebra II: Interim

Geometry and Honors Geometry: Interim

Administration Window: December 18th, 2014 through January 16th, 2015

Scoring End Date: January 16th, 2015


ELA: Middle of Year

Math: Middle of Year


ELA: Middle of Year Reading Diagnostic (Amplify or STEP)

Math: Middle of Year

Grades 1 through 4

ELA: Middle of Year Reading Diagnostic (Amplify)

Grades 5 through 10

ELA: Middle of Year Reading Diagnostic* (RISE)

*only for students who have received 3 or more warning subtest scores or did not take the beginning of year reading diagnostic

If you have questions about any of the information above, please contact the Assessments Team by email.

Content Representative Meetings-December and January

Elementary School

Early Learning-January 20, 4:30-6:30pm

ELA-January 14, 8:30-4:30pm

Math-December 16 & January 13, 8:30-11:30am or 12:30-3:30pm

Science-January 15, 4:00-6:00pm

Social Studies-January 21, 9:00-12:00pm or 1:00-4:00pm

Middle School

ELA-January 14, 8:30-3:30pm

Math-December 16 & January 13, 8:30-11:30am or 12:30-3:30pm

Science-January 15, 4:00-6:00pm

Social Studies-December 11, 1:00-4:00pm

High School

ELA-January 14, 8:30-3:30pm

Math-December 16 & January 13, 12:30-3:30pm

Science-January 15, 4:00-6:00pm

Social Studies-December 18, 1:00-4:00pm

Department Updates, News and Events

Humanities-Social Studies

Social Studies Content Representative Meetings were held in November.

Elementary Content Representatives met at Fort McHenry. While there, they examined and discussed resources for Native American Heritage Month. In addition, they toured the Fort and were given the "Learning Journey" experience that our Fifth Graders will participate in this year.

Middle School Content Representatives met at the Walter’s Art Museum. They received updates on Social Studies initiatives in the district. They also received a very special tour of the Ancient Cultures section of the Walters Art Museum with curricular connections and information on what students would be able to do when participating in the 6th Grade Learning Journey at the Walters.

High School Content Representatives also met at the Walters Art Museum where. They received updates on Social Studies initiatives in the district and a special presentation from Jenny Nakamura on online programs being made available to them through EverFi, including Personal Finance and African American Studies units. The teachers also got a tour of the brand new exhibit From Rye to Raphael: The Walters Story which highlighted the Walters family and how their collection started and took shape here in Baltimore.


It’s not too late to register for MD Science Olympiad – contact Catherine Villnave, Science Enrichment Specialist at

NASA is seeking teachers to participate with a group of UMD students on an environmental monitoring project. For more information visit the following link

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have just released a set of draft Classroom Sample Assessment Tasks. These tasks have been developed for grades 6-12 by teachers across multiple science disciplines and integrate science, engineering, and mathematics. The tasks are available online ( and can be used in the classroom as formative assessment tools to gauge where students are in their understanding of science. The tasks are the first time that NGSS have shown what assessment might look like to address the new standards. Please review, consider using some of the tasks in your classroom, and provide feedback to NGSS for ongoing revision.

The inaugural Baltimore City Mentor League VEX ranking session hosted by the RoboLions of Lakeland Elementary/Middle occurred on Saturday, November 22nd. Forty-three teams representing 26 middle and high schools competed in five rounds of head-to-head robotics challenges. Of those 43 teams, 26 were attending their first competition.

According to local leaders in the VEX robotics community, this was the largest school-year event of Baltimore City teams. Around 150 students, 50 coaches, and 35 family members were in attendance. According to coaches, “the competition was AMAZING! We had a fantastic experience” and “my students really enjoyed themselves. I thought it was a good experience.”

The top teams after the first ranking round are:

1. Coppin Academy, team 2734A

2. Highlandtown #237 Elementary/Middle, team 2161B

3. Maree G. Farring Elementary/Middle, team 9271B

4. Forest Park High School, team 8617

5. Paul Laurence Dunbar High, team 1748A

The top teams in the skills challenges are:

· Programming Skills – Baltimore International Academy, team 8557

· Driver Skills – Cross Country Elementary/Middle, team 8951

The next ranking session is hosted by the RoboHawks of Highlandtown #237 Elementary/Middle on Saturday, January 10th. Doors open at 7:30 AM and the competition will conclude around 1:00 PM (estimated).

The third ranking session is hosted by the Robotic Defenders of Patterson Park Public Charter School on Saturday, January 31st, time TBA.

The final ranking session, elimination rounds, and crowning of the City Champion will occur at the Hopkins Robotics Cup on Saturday, February 14th. We are always in need of volunteers – so if you are interested in helping these great events become reality please contact Catherine Villnave, Science Enrichment Specialist at

Math News

Parent Roadmaps to the Common Core Standards in Mathematics

Need a way to increase parent and family engagement in the math your students are learning? The Council of the Great City Schools' parent roadmaps in mathematics provide guidance to parents about what their children will be learning and how they can support that learning in grades K-8. These parent roadmaps for each grade level also provide three-year snapshots showing how selected standards progress from year to year so that students will be college and career ready upon their graduation from high school. Please click here to access the roadmaps for your grade level.

Useful Tools, Resources, and Articles

Achieve the Core was developed by three of the contributing authors of the Common Core State Standards, and is a practical support site that is well-researched and organized for easy access for implementing the MCCRS in K-12.

Mathematical Practices Posters

Click here to access visually appealing Mathematical Practice posters that describe each of the eight mathematical practices in the MCCRS and may be enlarged, printed and laminated to be displayed in your classroom.

Math Rep Meeting

The November math rep meeting will take place on December 16th at PDC. Please reach out to your network ACL for specific directions and start times. Math Reps will continue to develop competencies around supporting instruction aligned to MCCRS standards, planning intervention, and professional development.

Intensified Algebra I Books

Volume II of the Intensified Algebra I student books are being delivered to schools. Based on SMS enrollment, schools will receive the same number of books as the number of students is SMS plus 3 additional copies to accommodate new enrollments. Please contact Dr. Luis Lima at if you need additional information regarding this item.

Intensified Algebra I Midterm Administration

The Intensified Algebra I Midterm has an online component where students respond to multiple selection items on the computer, and a student-created response component, where students solve problems using paper and pencil. As in previous years, data from the student-created portion of the exam should be uploaded onto Data Link using the answer sheets created for that purpose. All data should be available in electronic format by the close of the scoring window.

Probability & Statistics Exams

New for 2014: the Prob-Stat MidTerm and Final exams will be available on DataLink to all students enrolled in this course either as a semester (Final) or as a year-long course (Midterm). Online administration is strongly recommended as the data for this assessment should be available from schools by the end of the scoring window.

Spring 2015 MSDE Professional Development

If you need credits to renew your certificate, MSDE Professional Development for Teachers has released the Spring 2015 Online Professional Development catalog at Registration is open through February 1st. All courses are delivered and managed by MSDE. Course costs vary but all offer Continuing Professional Development Credits (CPDs).

Math courses include: Elementary Mathematics: Fractions (3 CPDs), Middle School Ratios and Proportional Relationships (3 CPDs), Learning to Teach Maryland College and Career-Ready Algebra I ADVANCED (4 CPDs), Using Technology in the Elementary Math Classroom (2 CPDs).

Literacy News

Students in grades 1-5 are engaged in narrative writing and diving into texts related to the surrounding world. Look for these themes during quarter 2: Families Around the World (Grade 1), Animals Around Us (Grade 2), Introduction to World Cultures (Grade 3), Lessons From Those Who Came Before Us (Grade 4), and Taking Perspective: American Revolution and the New Nation (Grade 5).

Grades 6-8 Quarter 2 LDC Writing: Informational Writing Students in Grades 6-8 are engaged in informational writing! Look out for students reading and writing about these texts: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (Grade 6), A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park (Grade 7), and Chew on This by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson (Grade 8).

Grades 9-12 Quarter 2 LDC Writing: Narrative Writing Students in Grades 9-12 are engaged in narrative writing! Look out for students reading and writing about these texts: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (Grade 9), Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo (Grade 10), Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (Grade 11), and Hamlet by William Shakespeare (Grade 12).

Early Learning News

Kindergarten Readiness Assessment

Thanks to all teachers and administrators who participated in the first census administration of MSDE's new Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA). City Schools achieved a completion rate of over 97%, a strong result for this first year. The Office of Early Learning Programs is collecting feedback from teachers and administrators about their experience of the KRA, which will be shared with MSDE and also used to improve our performance for next year. Please access the survey using the link below:

Gifted News

The 10 GAL program sites continue to implement gifted infused curricula for grades K-5 and Honors curricula in grades 6-8 in ELA, Math, and Social Studies. To support these teachers, the GAL Office has provided differentiated professional development for teachers of Honors Middle School ELA, Math, and Social Studies during systemic professional development days. In addition, Dr. Kimberly Chandler, from the College of William & Mary instructed GAL teachers in the use of Jacob’s Ladder for grades K-5 at a November professional development. At least two staff members from each GAL site attended the National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC) national conference which was held in Baltimore from November 13-16. Conference participants attended sessions from researchers and instructional leaders in the field of gifted education and many made connections with educators across the state and country who are supporting gifted and advanced learners.

To demonstrate the great work the GAL sites are doing with their gifted and advanced students, they submitted an Excellence in Gifted and Talented Education (EGATE) application and portfolio to the Maryland State Advisory Council on Gifted and Talented Education. The EGATE application is a rigorous and self-reflective process by which schools who meet the criteria can earn recognition on the state level for providing high quality programming for gifted and talented students.

If you have questions about Gifted & Advanced Learning, please contact Dennis Jutras at

Gifted Events and Professional Development

The Office of Gifted and Advanced Learning (GAL) is partnering with Notre Dame University of Maryland to offer a graduate certificate in gifted education for City Schools teachers. The cohort will meet at Waverly ES/MS and will begin in January 2015. If you are interested in more information about this opportunity, please email Monica Hetrick at