Manchester superintendent, school officials to meet on curriculum revamp
By MICHAEL COUSINEAU New Hampshire Sunday News
MANCHESTER — New school superintendent Debra Livingston, who will meet today with a team of teachers revising the district’s curriculum, said she wants parents and students to have a clearer understanding of what is taught in city schools.
“This is definitely a priority because it directly affects the learning of children in their classrooms every day,” Livingston said Friday.
The school district recently received results of an audit showing it needed to improve its comprehensive written curriculum management plan. The district also is in the process of embedding Common Core State Standards into its curriculum, which is a road map for what is taught in the classrooms.
“Kids will understand and parents will understand what they’re suppose to learn,” Livingston said.
“At some point, what I’d like to see is we add examples for parents to see, so it’s just not particular statements,” she said. “Parents should be able to see what that looks like, so if they want to help their child at home, they have a better concept of what that looks like.”
A team of 66 teachers from kindergarten through eighth grade is working with a Boston consulting firm to make changes to what students learn, including making it more understandable to non-educators. Livingston will meet with the team Monday morning at the Manchester School of Technology.
“I already have some examples of what they’ve produced and I’m very impressed with what they’ve done,” said Livingston, who took over running the state’s largest school district July 1. “I want to hear their thoughts after the completion on how would they like to see it rolled out.”
The superintendent said she will meet with principals in two weeks “and be making some decisions around what came from this committee and implementation.”
School board member Sarah Ambrogi, who chairs the curriculum and instruction committee, said she is more than satisfied with Livingston’s performance so far.
“I’m very, very happy with her communication, with her thoughtfulness,” said Ambrogi, who will attend today’s session. “She seems to be a woman who listens and takes action. I think she’s going to be real, real good for this district.”
Curriculum outlines what educators will teach in the classroom. “There’s a lot of confusion when we talk about curriculum,” Ambrogi said. Anything that makes it “more transparent to the public is a good thing,” she said.
The district is incorporating Common Core State Standards, a math and English language arts/literacy curriculum intended for use across the country that was adopted by New Hampshire in 2010.
School districts are not required to follow the Common Core standards. They can choose to adopt it entirely, pick just the parts they like, or not use it at all.
A new assessment test that will measure student learning of the new standards will become mandatory in spring 2015. The Smarter Balanced test will be taken by about 100,000 New Hampshire students — in grades 3 through 8 as well as 11 — on school computers, though there is an exemption allowing districts to use paper tests for the first few years.
Some districts will cherry-pick what to include, but Manchester will incorporate all the Common Core standards into its curriculum.
“Since we have a chance for early implementation, getting the 30,000-foot view is better than picking and choosing,” Livingston said.
She didn’t know when work on incorporating all the Common Core standards would be completed.
“It takes time for teachers to develop expertise,” Livingston said.