There are changes coming to the Montclair School District and the way students will be taught and assessed beginning in the 2013-2014 school year. To explain the changes to parents, the district has created a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.
The first question explains why the Montclair Public School district is implementing a new curriculum and new, common assessments:
The State of New Jersey — along with 44 other states and the District of Columbia — has adopted a set of academic standards that define what students need to know and be able to do at each grade level in order to be college and career ready. These Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were adopted by New Jersey in 2010, and every public school in the state is required to implement them. The CCSS are more rigorous than the state’s previous academic standards and require increased emphasis on the critical thinking and problem-solving skills we know children will need to master to be successful in the future. The curriculum that will be developed in Montclair to support teachers’ classroom instruction will include clear learning objectives, common quarterly assessments, and resources all aligned to these new, more rigorous academic standards, or expectations.
Integral to our students’ success is the ability of our educators to know which students are progressing well, which students require more help, and which students need to be challenged beyond these adopted standards as the students move through a given year of instruction. Checking students’ progress will be accomplished, in part, through the implementation of teacher-designed assessments conducted at quarterly (10 week) intervals throughout each school year.
In a nutshell, students will have common assessments district wide, creating consistency throughout grades and schools. The assessments will be created by teachers collaboratively.
The page also clears up a common fear that parents and educators have: “Will the use of these new assessments force our teachers to “teach to the test?” The response given is:
These assessments are aligned with classroom instruction; therefore, preparation for these assessments should not be any different from other classroom assessments. It is important to note that these district-wide, teacher-generated assessments will be at least 50% performance-based (i.e., require critical thinking, writing, problem-solving) so that they align with the new state-adopted assessments from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which will also be 50% performance-based. The PARCC assessments will replace NJ ASK testing in grades 3-11 in school year 2014-15
The Montclair Public School district supports the development of assessments that include an even greater percentage of performance-based or authentic assessment designs. Educators agree that student responses to more authentic or performance-based assessments give us a clearer picture of student thinking and problem-solving skills; they also more clearly indicate areas where students struggle.
These assessments will help us more deeply understand what our students have learned – in general and specifically in relation to the new CCSS. The new common assessments will not simply be additional, scanner-graded, multiple-choice standardized tests.
Read the entire FAQ page for full details on the new curriculum / assessments that will be implemented next school year an then tell us what you think about it in comments.