The second key priority in the Bloomfield Public Schools’ blueprint for success is a focus on rigorous curriculum, instruction, and assessment–the foundations of an effective school system.
All Bloomfield educators are working to implement a standards-based curriculum in English Language Arts and Math. Across the district, teachers have teamed up by grade and subject–with directors and instructional coaches. Together, they unwrapped the Common Core State Standards to develop units of study using the Rigorous Curriculum Design model. Thanks to this important work, today, practices in instruction and assessment are aligned to the Common Core.
At Carmen Arace Middle and Intermediate schools, curriculum writers used a resource book, The Common Core Companion: The Standards Decoded by James Burke, to help them better understand the nuances of the standards and how to execute them.
Wintonbury Early Childhood Magnet School uses the Creative Curriculum for preschool, which meshes well with Connecticut’s Early Learning and Development Standards. They have also developed instruction based on a science/literacy focus. Using grant funds, all students participate in a two-hour field trip every three weeks to the Auerfarm, a local 4-H Educational Facility. This partnership provides a hands-on learning experience for students and enriches their acquisition of vocabulary and science concepts. As a result of their focus in this area, Wintonbury’s preschoolers have demonstrated significant improvements on a standardized vocabulary test administered at the beginning and end of each school year.
When the Big Picture High School was redesigned as the Global Experience Magnet School (GEMS) in 2012, the entire staff rewrote the curriculum to align with the Common Core. As a result, they were able to open their new school with an up-to-date curriculum in place. This work quickly began to produce results. On the 2014 CAPT assessment, GEMS led the district with 100% of their tenth graders reaching proficiency in both Science and Writing, as well as high scores in Reading and Math.
Magnet Schools of America, a Washington, D.C.-based national nonprofit education association, recently recognized GEMS with a prestigious “School of Distinction” award. The honor–for exemplary curriculum, student performance, staff training, and leadership–is a rare accomplishment for a fledgling school in its third year of operation.
Across the district, all personnel are aware that maintaining alignment to the Common Core requires continuous work. As teachers are implementing the curriculum, they are now making further adjustments to refine and strengthen their original lesson plans based on their experiences teaching this material.
Professional development is also an important component of an effective educational system. Teachers need to feel comfortable with what they are required to teach, be acquainted with the most current research, and be aware of best practices in instruction.
In Bloomfield, professional development is provided at both the school and district-levels. Sometimes, in-house experts lead the staff in their understanding of concepts. For instance, Bloomfield High School sometimes has teachers initiate sharing sessions as part of their early release Wednesdays.
Bloomfield also offers differentiated professional development through online resources and in-district workshops. At Laurel School, teachers watch exemplar lessons on an online platform called PD 360 (recently renamed Edivation). This platform provides on-demand, personalized learning through videos, courses, and lesson plans. After watching a video, teachers can record their own lessons and later critique each other during data teams. The willingness of Laurel’s teachers to participate in this type of activity is further proof of the collegial environment that has developed in the Bloomfield Public Schools.
The district’s instructional coaches can also provide embedded professional development in the classroom, where teachers are striving to improve their practices. Instructional coaches may model lessons, meet with data teams, or provide workshops on challenging instructional tasks.
Sometimes, the district brings in experts to help them with important initiatives. For example, in order to implement data teams, Bloomfield brought in the Leadership and Learning Center, nationally recognized leaders in this area. After the initial sessions, the district developed capacity in data teaming and conducted a comprehensive audit in 2013-14 with the Learning Center.
There is no better example of what happens when instruction and curriculum are aligned than at Metacomet School. On the 2013 Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT), Metacomet’s third graders scored above the state average in Reading, Writing, and Math. This is even more relevant given that the school is predominantly African American. In Connecticut, only 1 in 3 African American third graders read at grade level. (This is also true of Hispanic third graders in Connecticut.) Metacomet’s third graders are doing almost twice as well.
Bloomfield regularly monitors student progress so that teachers can adjust instruction to meet the specific needs of each student.
Rather than focusing only on state assessments, the district also uses formative assessments to identify which concepts need to be reviewed with which students–keeping everybody on track. Formative assessments are quick snapshots of what students know and can do. They are not administered to provide report card grades and are not a final tally of what children have learned. Bloomfield teachers create their own simple checks to make sure students are on track every step of the way.
The district is also currently using Blue Ribbon Testing, an online assessment platform which provides immediate results broken down by individual student, classroom, grade, school, and district-levels. In addition to assessing student learning three times per year, this instrument provides resources and lessons for re-teaching.
As a district, Bloomfield Public Schools follows an assessment calendar so that all grades in all schools can administer tests at the same time and in the same way, and receive timely results.
Because teachers, principals and district administrators have formative, summative, and state-level test results to examine throughout the year, they are able to monitor each student’s progress very closely and create instructional plans based on that information.
To learn about Bloomfield’s other three priorities, or to return to the overview page, click on the buttons below.