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Schools set to open on Monday
County curriculum shifting into applications, four C’s

Sunday, August 10, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Henry County Public Schools is changing its curriculum to focus on students being able to apply what they have learned and emphasizing the four C’s: critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity.

This is an emphasis on college and career readiness skills, according to Monica Adams Hatchett, HCPS’ coordinator for family and community engagement, and information she provided.

Newly revised curricula in English, math, and health and physical education K-12 will be implemented in the school year that starts Monday. Revisions to science, social studies and fine arts curricula will be made in 2014-15 and implemented in 2015-16.

In both cases, after changes are implemented, there will be ongoing reviews and more revisions if needed.

Also, project-based learning will be implemented throughout the division, Hatchett said. It already was fundamental in the curriculum at Magna Vista High School’s Warrior Tech Academy, which opened a year ago.

HCPS wants teachers to teach and students to learn in a way that students have the knowledge needed to apply and solve problems, according to information from Hatchett. That may involve teachers tweaking some of the ways they teach and assess (test or evaluate), and students and parents getting on board to support a different way of learning that HCPS officials believe will help better prepare students for the future and meet employers’ needs.

At the schools’ convocation last week, Superintendent Jared Cotton referred to Webb’s Depth of Knowledge Guide, which shows four levels of knowledge: level one (the lowest) — recall and reproduction; level two — working with skills and concepts; level three — short-term strategic thinking; and level four — extended strategic thinking, according to Hatchett, information she provided and online information.

Level one involves basic tasks that require students to recall or reproduce knowledge and skills, according to online information. Level two requires some additional mental work beyond recalling or reproducing a response, such as comparing or contrasting, converting information from one form to another, describing or explaining to some extent.

Level three demands a short-term use of higher order thinking processes, such as analysis and evaluation, to solve real-world problems with predictable outcomes.

Level four requires extended use of higher order thinking processes such as synthesis, reflection, assessment and adjustment of plans over time. Students conduct investigations to solve real-world problems with unpredictable outcomes, among other things.

Student performance assessments will be developed in 2014-15 to help move away from multiple-choice tests that merely test fact knowledge. Students will have to construct an answer, produce a product or perform an activity. The performance assessment may range from a short response or problem solution, to writing an essay, to designing, conducting and analyzing a laboratory experiment. Performance assessments measure students’ reasoning skills and their ability to apply knowledge to frame and solve meaningful problems.

In his presentation Tuesday, Cotton quoted a statistic showing that only 33 percent of students entering college are prepared for analytical assignments. That national statistic “is from New Tech Network, the overarching group under which Warrior Tech falls,” Hatchett said.

Another initiative for HCPS in 2014-15 is that guidelines (called rubrics) have been developed, by grade level, to measure each of the abilities (called learning goals) students need for each of the four C’s, according to Hatchett and information she provided. Students will be rated novice, emerging, proficient or exemplary on each of the learning goals.

For example, for grades 3-5, one learning goal for critical thinking is, “I can decipher information and ask meaningful questions (information and discovery).” A novice student shows an inability to explain the problem, investigation or challenge in his/her own words; creates a small number of questions; and asks questions that are unclear.

An emerging student defines the problem, investigation or challenge but the explanation is a little unclear; creates a small number of related questions; and asks questions that sometimes are clear.

A proficient student clearly explains the problem, investigation or challenge; creates an acceptable number of questions; and asks questions that usually are clear.

An exemplary student provides a description of the problem, investigation or challenge, including important details and creates a large number of clear, powerful, open, thought-provoking questions.

Also in 2014-15, there will be more opportunities for professional development, Hatchett said.

She added some things parents will see different in the classroom as a result of these curricular changes are that students will be working together in small groups, and the teacher will be circulating between the groups, guiding students and answering questions when needed and even holding “workshops” to provide extra instruction.

At home, Hatchett said, instead of parents asking their child how his day was, might want to ask what he learned today, or with whom he collaborated, or other questions to reinforce the four C’s. Likewise, in helping a child with homework, instead of focusing on getting the answer, focus more on the process, Hatchett suggested.

“We need to stop focusing on grades and focus on learning,” Cotton said. “Making A’s doesn’t make you ready for college and career. It really comes down to those skills.”

HCPS also has developed a teaching and learning framework (graphic).

It “is a visual representation of what we believe should be taking place in our classrooms,” Hatchett said. “It is comprised of seven components from the teacher evaluation system (professionalism, professional knowledge, instructional planning, assessment of and for learning, instructional delivery and environment) and is a guide for teachers, administrators, and students as we work toward the same goal — student achievement of college, career and citizenship readiness.”

 

 
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