Winter 2015 Newsletter

CCS Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Updates

note from kim...

Dear Staff,

I cannot believe that it is 2015! This is our second newsletter this school year. Please review the information contained in this newsletter to learn about the happenings in departments across the district. Thanks for everything you do to support learning for all of the children and adults in our schools. As always, please let me know of any questions, thoughts, concerns or suggestions.


Kim Fletcher

Administrator of Curriculum, Assessment, Professional Learning & Grants

2014-15 subject area coordinators

Daryl Biallas, K-12 World Language

Kevin Emmons, CTE

Jessica Hall, K-12 Fine Arts

Barb Huey, K-5 Math

Radhika Issac, K-5 Social Studies & District ASL

Mike Lewis, K-12 Performing Arts

Laura Mahler, 6-12 Literacy

Phyllis Ness, K-5 Literacy

Brian Pierce, 6-12 Social Studies

Noah Sharrow, 6-12 Math

Heather Smith, K-5 Science

Janet Thomas, K-12 PE & Health

Nichole Trzasko, 6-12 Science
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state assessment update

As you are probably aware, the state of Michigan will be implementing new summative assessments for use in Spring 2015. Unlike the previous MEAP assessments, the new 'M-STEP' assessments will be aligned to Michigan standards, administered in the Spring, and measure current year versus previous year student knowledge. English language arts and mathematics will be assessed in grades 3-8 and 11. Science will be assessed in grades 4, 7, and 11; and social studies in grades 5, 8, and 11.

For more details on the testing windows, please follow this link:

You may have also heard that the state of Michigan will be implementing the SAT (instead of the ACT) as the state administered college assessment exam beginning in the spring of 2016. To read more about the SAT, follow this link:

studies & pilots

In order to continue to provide a high quality K-12 program for all of our learners, it is critical that we continuously monitor and update our texts and resources. While budget reductions have certainly impeded these efforts, we can no longer ignore our outdated resources. Slowly but surely we will evaluate available instructional resources. This school year our middle school is participating in a trial of 'Big Ideas' mathematics. We are monitoring the impact of this trial on students, teachers and parents. Also this school year we have a team of elementary teachers involved with a county wide study of elementary math resources. This collaborative effort will help to inform and guide our work in analyzing our elementary math program and materials. We also have elementary teachers studying word study programs in alignment with our desire to improve our balanced literacy program. At the secondary level we have a few textbook proposals that will be going to TLC and the board. These include texts for CTE and AP US History. We recognize that the most important factor in improving student achievement is quality instruction. While this does not mean that new/updated textbooks will solve all of our problems, we believe it will help to better support our teachers, learners and parents. The art of teaching can never be replaced with a textbook. At the same time, teachers and learners deserve high quality and up-to-date resources. We will continue to monitor our programs with fidelity. Updates related to curriculum materials/resources will be communicated through these newsletters as well as through updates to the board and TLC.
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feedback & assessment

As we continue to grow ourselves, our classrooms, our buildings and our district as Cultures of Thinking, we must also reflect on our assessment and feedback practices. We are moving forward in our journey to better align our feedback/reporting system with our values and beliefs. We are currently engaged in a study of our elementary feedback system. How do we communicate with parents and students about student learning/growth? What is the purpose of grading? These are the questions we are beginning to tackle as we move forward in refining and re-aligning our reporting and feedback system. I recently shared this article with a large group of teachers. We used the 4 A's to reflect and guide follow up conversation. It is critical that we continue with these conversations and consider the connection between our practices and our values.

k-12 literacy

Don’t be surprised if you’re hearing a buzz in your buildings about a multitude of literacy initiatives going on this year. Teachers across the district are engaging in dialogue and learning about universal reading strategies, word study, assessment beliefs and practices, performance assessments, literacy continuums, progressions of literacy learning and reporting on literacy growth.

All of these endeavors, whether they are taking place at the K-5 and/or 6-12 levels, are designed to grow our understanding of best literacy practice. Our goal is to nurture cultures of thinking where children exhibit proficiency with reading and writing. We strive to make sure that our learners leave Clarkston Schools as readers and writers who can effectively collaborate with others and share their thinking about text, whether it is their own or that of others.

Click here to read a blog post regarding best literacy practice by Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild.

If you would like to see and hear Donalyn Miller speak, you can join colleagues from throughout Oakland County on Saturday, January 31st at Oakland Schools. Click here for registration information.

k-12 world language

Teachers of all languages in grades 7-12 have been engaged in shifting their classroom practices and assessment techniques as we have transitioned to a skills-based grading system this semester in all of our classes. While there has been a "learning curve" with this new grading practice we do believe that we have a more accurate picture of our students' abilities in the four skill areas (reading, writing, listening, and speaking). This shift has opened up great dialogue amongst colleagues regarding our practices and fostering language proficiency on our students. This will continue to be our focus as we move through this year. In addition, we will be focusing on updating our curriculum maps, incorporating national and state standards, as well as "I Can" statements from ACTFL.

k-12 cte

K-5: We have recently been awarded a grant from the Clarkston Foundation to continue to enrich the coding clubs at five elementary schools with hands-on real world projects. These “makey makies” will allow the students who participate in the coding clubs a chance to put their coding learning into a tangible product. We hope to be able to reach more elementary schools next year.

6-12: We continue to work hard to ensure that our curriculum is relevant and recent. We are currently undergoing a textbook review for our Business courses. The primary focus of our business courses is shifting from primarily learning MS Office technologies to learning Business skills using MS Office. As such, we are changing the course titles and the primary text. Business Computer Apps I will now be called Business Management and Business Computer Apps II will now be Business Entrepreneurship. Our Interior Design pilot last year was a big success. This year we are currently fielding three sections of the course and anticipate similar results next year.

Hour of Code

The Hour of Code is a global movement to to expose students to computer science the week of December 8 - 12. This year, 15 million students across the world participated. Many of our CCS students participated this year and will join their building coding clubs after break. Missed the Hour of Code? No problem! Check out the resources below and start learning.

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Student Technology Showcase

Some of our Coding Club students participated in the AT&T/MACUL Student Technology Showcase at State Capitol in Lansing on Wednesday, December 3. Our Coding Club students were among nearly 30 schools in Michigan who participated in the 14th annual Student Technology Showcase at the State Capitol Building in Lansing. Students demonstrated to elected members of the Michigan State Senate and the House of Representatives how technology is used in the classroom to
facilitate learning.

Taking part in the demonstrations were Pine Knob elementary students Abigail Kurniawan and Trent Schmeling, Sashabaw Middle School students Gracie Sielinski and Nathan Dimmer. Lori Banaszak, Technology Integration Specialist, Lisa Drew, Pine Knob elementary teacher and Dennis Klenow, Independence elementary teacher lead the group to Lansing to highlight the importance of elementary coding clubs and showcase their coding projects.

We have also started a Facebook Page called Elementary Coding Clubs to highlight their projects, resources and the importance to expose students to computer science at a young age.

k-12 pe & health

Many professional development opportunities have occurred this year. K-5 Physical Education teachers attended the Whole Child committee meeting in December. They are working hard to collaborate with colleagues integrating learning so all of the needs of a child are met. The entire Physical Education department was very impressed with the inservice provided by Joe and Elizabeth Degain on fundamental movement principles and concepts in relationship to CrossFit. The techniques they demonstrated crossed all developmental stages and can be incorporated K-12. The Health teachers are being trained in the new Michigan Model Health Curriculum through Oakland Schools. Many new advancements and improvements have been incorporated to enhance the program. And a BIG Congratulations to KR Richardson, his staff and team on their back to back State Championship win!!!

K-12 Performing Arts

Professional development is available for the music department at The Michigan Music Conference scheduled for January 22 - 24, 2015 in Grand Rapids. The Michigan All-State ensembles, both Band and Orchestra, will be performing at the conference. Once again, there are a number of Clarkston students that auditioned and were selected to perform in these ensembles. Solo and Ensemble festivals will take place again this winter with over 200 students performing for an adjudicator with personal critique to follow.

The High School Symphonic Wind Ensemble was selected to perform in Carnegie Hall. The students will be traveling to New York in March with the performance set for March 16th.

Preparation for the musical is in full swing. Performances are set for February 26, 27, and 28.

K-12 Visual Arts

CHS will be offering Advanced Digital Photo next year and the three art history classes have been consolidated into one semester course of art history.

The latest news for National Art Honor’s Society:

Members took a fieldtrip to the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center to see the Altered Book Exhibit on display.

Junior, Maria Puertas, organized a group of NAHS members to paint mini pumpkins with seniors at the Sunrise assisted living facility in Grosse Pointe. The event was a big success and the director would like us to come back and work with the seniors again.

CJH students have created electronic portfolios of their artwork as part of their final assessment. The process involves taking photographs of their artwork and combining narrative descriptions with pictures in a slide show that is submitted electronically to their teachers. They are required to use the appropriate art terminology. The results are impressive and a wonderful way to integrate technology in to the art classroom.

SMS artists are using various Visual Thinking Strategies to look at, understand, and respond to different artworks. Weekly discussions and activities are reshaping the way they think and feel not only about art, but also the world.

The elementary teachers are continuing to work hard at creating cross-curricular projects. Laura Wilson was able to purchase 4 new iPads with money generated from profits from Artsonia. Elementary student well have a chance to create art on the new devices. Amy Banach received a grant from Clarkston Farm and Garden Club for $500 to purchase kinetic sand and other things to enrich the entire nature art unit. Jody Sebring is full emerged in CoT at Pine Knob elementary and has created a visual thinking fabric loom. The students, CCS employees and other visitors write their responses, ideas, feelings or reflections then weave the strips into the loom. The colored ribbons are different shades of red that support the concept introduced by Dr. Rock that we are all connected as a global learning community. As the loom fills, the fabric strips are compressed and will eventually become a finished piece.

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k-12 science

K-12: The state board of education has not yet adopted the NGSS, but the MDE is working on a draft of Michigan K-12 Science Standards set to be released for review in early 2015. In an effort to continue moving forward we plan to get a team of teachers together to examine our science program, best practices, and determine next steps in our programming.

k-5 math

The Michigan Department of Education has developed an Interim Assessment for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades that is computer based, similar to Smarter Balanced and M-Step (formerly MEAP). Two elementaries administered these assessments as a field test, reporting successes and challenges for teachers and students to MDE. One interesting challenge for students of this touch screen age was being able to use a mouse or mouse pad to “drag & drop”. These optional assessments are scheduled to be ready for all students in Spring 2015 and provide an opportunity for us to gather additional data on our students to guide our instruction. More information on the Interim Assessments can be found at,4615,7-140-22709_63192---,00.html

One of our focuses as we continue to learn about and work on using best instructional practices to teach math is basic facts and why students are not retaining them. In lower elementary, we are diving deeply into research about how students learn and retain facts and the connection of learning facts to developing number sense.

6-12 math

Secondary Mathematics is working on best practice instruction this year. At the 6th and 7th grade level, there is also heavy emphasis on examination of instructional resources, and at the 8th-12th grade level, we are transitioning back to the semester system. As always, we ask questions like “What makes you say that?” on a regular basis to be sure Clarkston Math does NOT become JUST memorization and blind procedure repeating. As 2015 approaches, we have our eye on the new M-STEP and our course programming for next year. Ongoing goal: get the right math to the right student at the right time!!

k-5 social studies

The K-5 Social Studies survey was used to get an understanding of curriculum materials and resources being used and areas to revisit (time allocation, field trip, etc.). Some fourth and fifth grade teachers met to discuss TCI (4th/5th teaching materials) online subscription, how it's used, and it's benefits. Across all grade levels, we continue to use MC3 units provided by Oakland Schools along with textbooks/materials provided by district.

6-12 social studies

Each grade level or content level team has been maximizing their time this year tackling different issues and concerns. All of the discussions have been focused on best practice instruction and assessments (formative and summative). Teams are continuing to discuss more ways to strategically place various types of writing in the curriculum to allow students to communicate their ideas with purpose. Grades 6 - 8 are anxious to examine new instructional resources.