Curriculum Board Report

June 13, 2016

Benton School District

New Arkansas Mathematics Standards

On April 14, 2016, the Arkansas State Board of Education approved the Arkansas Mathematics Standards for grades kindergarten through 12. These standards represent the work of the educators from across the state. The review committee involved more than 80 teachers, administrators, and higher education professors. They began the review process in October with live streamed meetings and surveys sent out for feedback. Using the feedback and responses, 65 percent of the math standards were revised or clarified.

After the initial review, a new community feedback survey was released in January, with 3,157 responses sent back. Math specialists and educators reviewed the responses and made additional edits, if needed. The new documents include expectations for what all students should know and be able to do. The revised standards also include additional examples as well as more teacher notes which will help all teachers across the state implement the new standards with more accuracy and precision. According to 2015 Arkansas Teacher of the Year Ouida Newton, who served on the math standards review committee, “The Arkansas Mathematics Standards are the product of many hours of collaboration and review by educators, parents and students from around our state. As a result, Arkansas students have a set of strong, high-quality math standards that will prepare them to compete not just nationally, but globally as well. These standards will build the problem solving and critical thinking skills our students need to be successful in the future.”

The district facilitators are meeting with grade levels to review the new standards and any changes that were made. If you have any questions concerning the new standards, please contact your school’s math facilitator.

Adapted from AR Dept. of Education Press Release, April 14, 2016.

"With Math I Can" Initiative Unveiled to Change Student Mindsets about Math

In February, a coalition of non-profit education and education technology organizations launched a national initiative to transform student attitudes about math. Developed under the leadership of Amazon Education and TenMarks, “With Math I Can” challenges the nation’s teachers and students alike to take the pledge to replace the idea of “I’m not good at math” with “I am working to get better at math.” Educators and students are encouraged to embrace a “growth mindset,” the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed.

A key supporter of the campaign is internationally recognized math education expert Jo Boaler, Ph.D., professor of mathematics education at Stanford University and author of the new book, Mathematical Mindsets. She was one of the first education researchers to apply growth mindset to math achievement, discovering that more children have a fixed mindset toward math than any other subject. She is also the co-founder of, a Stanford website dedicated to providing free resources to teachers, parents, and students to help students develop mathematical mindsets.

Boaler said, “If you ask most students what they think their role is in math classrooms, they will tell you it is to get questions right, and when they inevitably struggle, most decide they are not a ‘math person.’ When students are in math classrooms where they are given growth mindset messages, as well as encouraged to appreciate the beauty of mathematics, to ask deep questions, and to explore the rich set of connections that make up the subject, they develop a growth mindset. ‘With Math I Can’ is an extraordinary opportunity to help students all around the country transform their thinking about math and develop a growth mindset.”

ACTM, ADE, AETN and NW Arkansas Mathematics PLC are planning a one-day conference at Bentonville High School featuring Jo Boaler, youcubed founder, and Cathy Williams, director of youcubed, both from Stanford University. The focus of the day is “Promoting a Growth Mindset in Mathematics Education in Arkansas”. The event will be live streamed at Dawson Education Cooperative with about three dozen Benton teachers in attendance. Teachers will receive a copy of Boaler’s book, Mathematical Mindsets.

Teachers and students can learn more, watch a video that highlights the need for a growth mindset around math, access free resources, and take the pledge at

Adapted from Reuters Press Release, February 2, 2016, and ESCWorks.

Secondary Literacy

New ideas have sprung up this spring semester in English classrooms at secondary schools. Transitions English 12 is a new high school course designed to help transition seniors to college-level reading and writing. Rather than study traditional British literature, students explored questions of technology and society through both nonfiction and fiction texts. Students read The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr and the science fiction novel Ubik by Philip K. Dick.

Many of the students feel they have learned a lot and are better prepared for college-level reading and writing. The course challenged students’ thinking and gave them strategies for reading college-level texts. Senior Kathryn Thornton said that she has “learned to read ‘between the lines’ better,” and fellow student Alex Stackhouse said that he “learned how to write a very detailed rhetorical précis.” Students participated in a variety of discussions and wrote a synthesis essay. Overall, students who took the course feel better prepared for college. “It helps a lot with reading and writing,” said senior Brianna Hampel. “The course is a lot of fun, and you do learn more than you think.”

Also at Benton High School, Jessica Herring and Stephanie Moon implemented GoodReads with their English classes. GoodReads is a social media site for readers that allows members to log what they are reading and how many pages they have read. It also allows for members to find book recommendations based upon what their friends have read. Jessica Herring’s students read 100,066 pages during the spring semester. Her students were given 30 minutes a week for independent reading time. “Many of them have developed a solid independent reading habit, which research shows is one of the strongest indicators of success in higher education,” Herring said. “It’s been one of my favorite things I have done this semester!” Stephanie Moon’s students have also loved the time to read. “One of my 10th grade boys came up to me the 2nd week we had independent reading time and said, ‘Thanks for helping me to fall in love with reading again,’” said Moon. “Overall, I would call this [program] a success!”

At Benton Junior High, 8th grade English teachers Jamie Stearns and Amanda Honea implemented centers during their students’ revision and editing process in their English classes. Students rotated around the room to seven different centers where they concentrated on one aspect of revision or editing. At one station, students completed exercises on, an online platform for teaching grammar. After identifying and correcting sentence fragments online, students looked through their own paper for sentence fragments. At another station, students worked together to check that each other’s parenthetical citations were correct. Other stations included a one-on-one teacher consultation, a read aloud station, an editing station, with other stations all focused on helping student improve their writing through revision and editing. “Overall, the centers helped my students,” said Honea. “They were focused and interested in the editing portion of their essays.”

Ninth grade teachers Beth Mathys and Rusanne Revis, along with Jamie Howe, a UALR teacher intern, utilized a student showcase for their students to conclude their study of the nonfiction work Unbroken. This student-centered project allowed students to select from a list of tasks from a Choice Board. Some of the tasks were worth more points than others, but all students had to select enough activities to achieve 200 points. After working on their projects in class, students were “coached in speaking techniques, as well as manners when talking to adults,” said Mathys. Students prepared a short speech to present their projects to teachers and district staff, who were invited to see the presentations on March 31. Later at Parent/Teacher Conferences, students presented their work to their parents.

At Benton Middle School, Media Specialist Christy Ray challenged 7th grade GT to read five books over one nine week period. Students gave book talks on each book that they read. The project culminated with students using a 3D printer to create one object to represent each book read.

Are u-Ready for i-Ready?

Benton Middle School has had a long tradition of ranking high among middle schools in the state for achievement. In the spring of 2015, principal Steve Quinn set out on a mission to make his middle school rank even higher by seeking out ways to provide intervention in math and reading for those students who need it, and to provide enrichment for those students already meeting grade level standards. After looking over several programs and meeting with representatives, Mr. Quinn and his staff met and settled on i-Ready.

Built with Arkansas standards in mind, i-Ready Diagnostic adapts to each student, providing easier or harder questions depending on students’ answers to previous questions. Valuable data provided by the program helps teachers understand the root causes behind students’ struggles and in turn gives teachers a starting point for where to begin remediation and intervention with individual students. This is especially beneficial for providing differentiated instruction and for identifying gaps spanning back multiple years, or for determining where students are ready for further challenge.

While it has been a work in progress, the staff at Benton Middle School has worked to find the right balance within the school day to implement the i-Ready program with much success. Students are showing strong gains in both reading and math skills overall. Due to the success at the middle school, many of our elementary schools are considering implementing the program in their buildings next year.

Big image

New English Language Arts Revised Standards Are Coming

On Tuesday, August 18, 2015, Arkansans for Education Freedom met with Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin and his Chief of Staff Annamarie Atwood, Education Commissioner Johnny Key, Assistant Commissioner of Learning Services Dr. Debbie Jones, and Dr. Sarah Moore, the Governor’s Education Policy Advisor. They discussed the process of review and revision of the Arkansas K-12 math and English language arts (ELA) standards. AEF specifically requested the following: (1) the opportunity to recommend teachers for inclusion on the standards revision work groups, (2) an open process whereby the public is aware of what is happening at all stages of the standards work, and (3) a simplified online public comment process after the new standards draft is released. The department selected 75 literacy educators from applications that had been submitted along with 4 education experts from Arkansas universities. Work sessions began in October.

According to the ADE website, “The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) is committed to ensuring a thoughtful review and revision of the current standards by a committee of knowledgeable and experienced Arkansas educators. The revised standards will impact the future of all Arkansans by providing a solid foundation for college and career ready students. Recognizing this, ADE welcomes the opinions and suggestions of all stakeholders. Parents, teachers and all other community members are invited to participate in surveys about the current standards.”

The Arkansas Department of Education has released a Community Feedback Survey for the draft revised Arkansas English Language Arts Standards for Grades K-12. This survey provides an opportunity for educators and other community members to participate in the revision process. The survey will be open from April 18 through May 18, 2016.

To take part in the Community Feedback Survey, click the following link

Dyslexia Awareness

Dyslexia refers to a learning disability that affects reading and writing. It is often misunderstood. One common belief is that dyslexia results from seeing things reversed, when in fact, it is not due to a problem with vision, but rather a problem with language. According to the International Dyslexia Association, “Dyslexia is a special learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction”.

With the creation and continued revision of the Dyslexia Resource Guide, the ADE has taken steps to bring awareness to educators about the characteristics of dyslexia, and what can be done in the classroom to help those students who show indicators. Our district has worked with the ADE, the local educational coop, and neighboring districts to develop a plan to meet the needs of our students who show indicators of dyslexia. Our classroom teachers, along with reading aides, resource teachers, speech teachers and others have worked diligently to provide explicit, direct, and systematic researched-based strategies during intervention. These multi-sensory strategies have been incorporated into the core curriculum as well, as this type of learning engages all senses and reinforces best practices for all students, not just those with characteristics of dyslexia. Visit the ADE website or click here learn more.