Teaching & Learning ~ Spring

April 2021

Welcome! To translate this newsletter, click on it then use the link at the top to the right.

Para traduzir este boletim, clique nele e use o link à direita.

Para traducir este boletín, haga clic en él y luego use el enlace a la derecha.

لترجمة هذه الرسالة من المدرسة ، اضغط عليها ثم استخدم الرابط الموجود على اليمين.

տեղեկագիրը թարգմանելու համար կտտացրեք այն, ապա օգտագործեք աջ կողմում գտնվող հղումը:

Чтобы перевести этот бюллетень, нажмите на него, затем воспользуйтесь ссылкой справа.

Bu bülteni çevirmek için üzerine tıklayın ve ardından sağdaki bağlantıyı kullanın.

Teaching & Learning Updates from the Assistant Superintendent's Office

WPS Families & Staff Members:

It's finally Spring and at WPS we are embracing the 'renewal' theme. Our resilient teachers and support staff are continuing to pivot to meet the needs of their students, with most of our PreK - elementary students and staff back in the schools this week full-time. Our WMS staff is readying for Monday's return with some students already visiting the school, prepping the gardens for renewed growth (See photo). Our WHS colleagues are planning their in-person return on April 26th with Principal Giacobozzi joining HS Curriculum Coordinators in offering Zoom presentations tonight (April 8) on their extensive Program of Studies (See information w/Zoom links below). All-in-all, it's with buckets of gratitude that we welcome staff and students into our halls, classrooms, and general physical presence. Our hearts are full and our hopes are high.

While our principals keep you well-informed with weekly newsletters, please enjoy these quarterly 'Teaching & Learning Updates' that provide you a glimpse of education in Watertown, from our T & L Team.

Keep each other (and yourselves) well,

Dr. Theresa McGuinness, Assistant Superintendent


Every Child...Every Classroom...Every Day

Quick Resources: WPS 2020 - 2021 Calendar, WPS Website

WMS & WHS Virtual Program of Studies, 2021-2022 School Yr

During this unique hybrid year, we've continued to be creative in communicating with our students and families. To familiarize our students and families with the course offerings at Watertown Middle School and Watertown High School, each school designed a Program of Studies website that includes a video presentation by each department highlighting its offerings. Principals are sharing additional information and/or meetings to supplement these websites.

Watertown Middle School Writing Challenge: Write Like Walter

Students at Watertown Middle School had the opportunity to participate in a Write Like Walter writing challenge. Each writer was asked to emulate a move or style from an excerpt written by award-winning author Walter Dean Myers. Writers had to keep to a 200-word limit; have a beginning, a middle and an end; and they were required to use a line or phrase from an excerpt that was either relatable, effective, or power. There were 292 entries that were reviewed by a panel of readers and we are looking forward to distributing awards next week! Thank you to every student who participated!

Teaching Controversial Topics Policy

A WPS Team is meeting this spring to review and unpack the School Committee approved Teaching Controversial Topics Policy for our staff members’ practical understanding and effective use. By June, we will share information and FAQs---broadly across the district and with our families---that are designed to translate the policy into practice. This will enhance our ability to address important curricular topics in a developmentally safe and intellectually curious manner, thereby helping our students to further develop their critical thinking and decision-making skills. Updates to follow in June.

Elementary Curriculum Update

Our elementary students have transitioned to our full-day schedule with many students learning in school. With this return, comes five days of reading, writing, and math instruction. We are also excited to launch our WIN “What I Need” block as well as a math workshop block, which will provide both intervention and extension opportunities. Teachers have been working with coaches to plan engaging units and lessons in all content areas. Teachers began teaching science and social studies synchronously and students have been excited to learn about new science and social studies concepts.

  • Over the next few months many grades will engage in Science units that will bring them into our gardens, outside, and engage in hands-on learning opportunities.

  • In Social Studies, students continue to learn about topics such as Immigration and The Great Migration, and grapple with key essential questions such as “Who makes the rules?”

  • Students in grades 1-5 had the opportunity to participate in the Cambridge Science Festival’s Curiosity Challenge (Sample WPS student entry above)

Elementary Schools Welcomed Students Back This Week!

i-Ready Universal Assessment, Grades K - 9

As a professional learning community, we directed our collective efforts over the summer of 2020 to identifying specific instructional tools that are best aligned to the delivery of our curriculum. i-Ready is one of these tools. It’s an assessment, with a supplemental online instruction component.

We are in our third school year of implementing this Math and Reading online assessment program, with fidelity. i-Ready data use is threefold:

  • To assist us in determining students’ needs,

  • To personalize their learning through differentiated instruction, and

  • To help us monitor student progress throughout the school year.

Students in grades 1 - 8 participate in three diagnostic, 45-min assessments (one literacy, one math), three times per year (fall, winter, and late spring). Kindergarteners have two diagnostic assessments (winter, late spring). In grade 9, it is administered two times and used for beginning of year data and end of year growth, in addition to informing groupings. Most importantly, i-Ready data allows us to meet students exactly where they are and we use this data to target and increase students’ learning gains. Please note that i-Ready data represents one set of ‘point-in-time’ data that, when combined with other assessments (classroom, benchmarks, common, MCAS), these collective data can inform instruction at a programmatic level and is used for targeted instruction/intervention at the student level. Curriculum coordinators and coaches pay particular attention to trends that may indicate learning loss or regression, then plan necessary interventions. During professional development time, we collaboratively analyze student-level data to account for individual student performance gaps, plan remediation that is integrated into the present year grade-level standards, and monitor student growth. Given the unique situation we find ourselves in during this COVID pandemic, with prioritizing standards to fit multiple scenarios (remote, in-person, hybrid) and assessing them, there are no comparisons to previous years. However, i-Ready is an integral and essential tool that we use to monitor individual student growth and to combine with additional classroom/teacher assessments in identifying, then meeting the students exactly where they are for the start of school this fall of 2021.

Parent Reports During this Unique School Year

Getting Technical....

The i-Ready mid-year Winter diagnostic was administered to students in grades 1 - 8 beginning the weeks of March 1st and March 8th. Results were analyzed by the assistant superintendent, curriculum coordinators, principals, instructional coaches, and shared further in data meetings with teachers, service providers, and Title 1 tutors. i-Ready has added a new percentile feature to their reports. In many cases, students increased in their achievement but went down in their percentile ranking. After contacting i-Ready Support about this they explained the following:

  • "The percentiles we see in the reports are based on i-Ready norming windows. If students were assessed between Nov 15, 2020 - March 1, 2021, the percentiles will be from the Winter norming window. If they were assessed after March 1, the percentiles will be from the Spring norming window, thus not accurate percentiles." We assessed after March 1st thus, the Spring norming window. Also, the percentiles are normed from the 2018-2019 school year --a “normal” school year-- so we're comparing apples to oranges. WPS and many other districts did not assess after the pandemic hit in Spring 2020 as students were learning from home, so there is no comparative data for the 2019-2020 end of year.

  • i-Ready Support suggested not using these percentiles with parents as they are not accurately reflecting our data against that norm. After the spring, during our June testing window we will examine the Parent Reports again for the accuracy of the percentiles. We may send home the end of year Parent Report, which will be slightly more accurate although still normed against 18-19 school year​, only if we collectively determine that the end of year comparison data is accurate this unique year​.

Our rationale for likely sharing the end of year Parent Report (with explicit explanation) is that they will provide individual student growth from ​the school year's ​beginning to the end​,​ and a comparison to more accurate percentiles (since comparison will be all students at the end of year timeframe versus the March ​2021 varying dates​),​ even though they are still normed against 18-19SY. Stay tuned, as we'll update parents/families with more information in June.

Social Studies Grades 8 - 12, Spring Updates

Our Middle School Civics teachers are rolling out the new Civics Action Project that aligns to the new Social Studies Frameworks and State law. Students will be asking parents and other community members questions about issues important to them and looking for allies on the way to becoming more civically engaged and active. Stay tuned for details from the 8-12 Social Studies Coordinator, Kraig Gustafson, Principal Martin, and our 8th grade Social Studies teachers, Mrs. Shock and Mrs. Kline.

The High School’s AP European History class had its annual midyear project French Revolution trial. Usually held in-person in the Lecture Hall with dozens of participants, jury members, and a mixture of parents and faculty, Mr. Mastro organized a hybrid project using the expanse of the auditorium and simultaneous Zoom broadcasts. The Model UN Club attended a virtual UN Conference at Clark University this winter and Mr. Buck is readying a post-Covid student trip to Central Europe next spring, preparing students for an international experience. A selection of World History classes have added nine books from authors of divergent backgrounds and ethnicities to explore common themes in contemporary world history. This pilot project supports the district’s goals of equity, diversity, and inclusion and helps our students connect with other young people from around the world. Our AP and Honors Psychology classes are starting their developmental psychology unit which means the production of students’ baby books, highlighting developmental milestones in each student’s lives. Finally, all of our classes from 9th grade US History I to 12th grade Civics were keenly interested in this year’s elections, the emergent BLM movement, and the tumultuous transition period leading up to Inauguration Day. It provided a number of opportunities to witness and process history in the making and help provide students a perspective on events.

WHS - Career & Technical (CTE) Education

The photo is from our Introduction to Engineering Design class. Aneeq Ahmed, a sophomore student in the vocational Engineering Technology pathway, is creating a 3D object in Onshape, a CAD (Computer-Aided Design) web-based platform that we are using this year to allow access from anywhere.

Career and Technical (CTE) Education classes this year made significant adjustments to the way our primarily hands-on, activity- and project-based curricula are taught. Teachers created take-home/pick-up packets of materials (i.e. ingredients for recipes in Culinary Arts, wood pieces for projects in Construction Technology, electronics kits for Robotics,...) and students are taking pictures and videotaping themselves doing the hands-on work and/or demonstrating live in Zoom classes.

  • Students in Radio/TV Broadcasting are creatively using their own devices to produce video and audio products.
  • Business/Finance students are using online Accounting software and an online investment tool to practice their skills.
  • Engineering students are using a web-based Computer-Aided Design (CAD) platform this year.
One of the goals of our CTE programs is to engender creative problem-solving in our students, and our teachers are doing a great job modeling that this school year!

World Languages Updates

Did you know?:

  • Watertown has the highest population of Armenians living on the east coast and the third-highest population in the United States overall?

  • 18 percent of our students speak Armenian at home as a first or heritage language?

  • Armenian as a language is taught at Watertown High School?

These facts may not come as a surprise. Since Watertown is home to so many Armenian families, it is important for our students and community to recognize that April is Armenian History Month. If you’d like to learn more about Armenia during the month of April, we’d love to share some resources below:

WPS Resources: Grade-Level Curriculum Brochures & WHS Program of Studies

WPS Teaching & Learning Administrator Team

Big picture

Teaching & Learning Contact Information

Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Theresa McGuinness theresa.mcguinness@watertown.k12.ma.us

K-7 Math/Science Coordinator, Elizabeth Kaplan elizabeth.kaplan@watertown.k12.ma.us

K-7 Literacy/SS Coordinator, Deb Opar deborah.opar@watertown.k12.ma.us

8 - 12, Math, Dan Wulf daniel.wulf@watertown.k12.ma.us

8 - 12, ELA, Susanne Dunn susanne.dunn@watertown.k12.ma.us

8 - 12, Social Studies, Kraig Gustafson kraig.gustafson@watertown.k12.ma.us

8 - 12, Science, Lynsey Kraemer lynsey.kraemer@watertown.k12.ma.us

K - 12, Digital Learning & Library, Rashmi Pimprikar rashmi.primprikar@watertown.k12.ma.us

K - 12, World Languages, Adam Silverberg adam.silverberg@watertown.k12.ma.us

K - 12, English as a Second Language, Kate Phillipson kathryn.phillipson@watertown.k12.ma.us

K - 12, Applied & Performing Arts, Richard Saunders richard.saunders@watertown.k12.ma.us

K - 12, Health/PE/Wellness, Will Bertoni william.bertoni@watertown.k12.ma.us

9 - 12, Career/Tech Ed (CTE), Laura Alderson Rotondo laura.aldersonrotondo@watertown.k12.ma.us