Madison Curriculum Director Nittel Outlines Changes and Programs at Board of Education Meeting
Wednesday, June 27, 2012 • 7:32am
MADISON, NJ – Lee Nittel, director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Madison School District, has just completed his first year on the staff.
In reviewing the year, he said, “I was getting to know the lay of the land, visiting the schools and getting to know the faculty and staff.”
His presentation at Tuesday night's board of education meeting included an assessment of the curriculum, state and federal initiatives, professional development, technological challenges and other areas. The presentation will be posted on the district’s website.
Nittel addressed World Languages, saying Rosetta Stone has been a success and it’s being applied to ESL (English as a Second Language) students to help them learn English. Project Community Pride, an organization of Hispanic parents, has also been involved. Languages are being introduced at younger ages and Chinese is offered at the high school at level 3, with level 4 to be introduced next year.
In Mathematics, a new textbook will be introduced at the Junior School and placement criteria will be used in grades 7-9 for honor classes. Algebra III, a new course, will be offered and the high school will have NCAA approved courses.
In Language Arts, programs will be developed for struggling students, driven by the Special Education Department. At the junior school, Language Arts will coordinate with the social studies department with relevant literature. Summer reading assignments will be fine tuned and monitored to make sure students are reading selected books. For the 12th grade, more electives will be offered, including humanities, creative writing and science fiction.
Physics will be required for all freshmen in 2012 – 13 as part of the science program. This is a change, Nittel said, from previous years when biology was offered first. Student surveys have shown that the new approach is working, he said. There will also be an emphasis on robotics and engineering.
Music courses will also be enhanced, including advanced guitar and band/wind ensembles. A Virtual High School (VHS) will allow students to participate in a learning course if it is one that isn’t offered in Madison.
Nittel also described various programs to assess learning, such as Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), which was a pilot in 2nd grade and measures student growth over time. The process will continue in 3rd and 6th grades and will help to fill in gaps in programming. Common Core courses are offered nation wide, with 42 states participating in NJ Partnership for Assessment of College and Career Readiness (PARCC). Common Core Standards will be simplified and clearer, and aligned with college and work expectations.
A new teacher evaluation system will be put in place, based on state requirements. Nittel explained that the number of observations will increase, including 3 to 5 minute walk-thru’s, increased evaluations for tenured and non-tenured teachers, un-announced visits and evaluations from a faculty member located at another building. Professional development will include technology training, instructional practices, blended learning and “an understanding of the 21st century student.”
Nittel emphasized the ever-changing nature of today’s technology. “It used to be you would hit a plateau, but that doesn’t happen today. We’re moving forward and going through curriculum documents. The idea is to get more teachers to delve into other worlds of study. The renewal cycle is no longer stagnant.” Nittel talked about Curricu-plan, a website that will allow lesson plans to be aligned, sharing each other’s ideas and resources, video clips and more. He said the elementary schools in the district should be as standard as possible, so that a student in any of the schools will have the same advantages and learning opportunities.
He described Edmodo at the junior school, similar to Facebook, where 400 students have signed up. “Students love to be recognized,” he said, “and they can have their work seen from all over the world.” Some teachers have started a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to school but the problem, he said, is not every classroom has the technology for hook ups.
More attention is being paid to bask skills instruction, to make it clear and clean, developing a method to identify students without pulling them out of class. Superintendent of Schools Michael Rossi said, “My philosophy has always been that we should connect the best educators with the most troubled students,” but said that doesn’t always happen.
Nittel concluded that the Madison district has “a lot to celebrate” with recognition from Newsweek, advanced classes and the introduction of rotating block scheduling at the high school. Still, he said, there are challenges ahead and work to be done. “Student learning is at the center. What does the diploma mean? Are we giving the students the skills and tools they will need for college or career and to become life long learners? How do we know when we get there?”
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