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The Suburbanite
  • Teaching Really is Rocket Science

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  • Last issue, Dr. Bob Roden spoke with Brent May, Plain Local Schools superintendent about changes in state standards and how his district was preparing. This issue, Dr. Bob talked with Michael Hartenstein to find out how North Canton City Schools are looking to the future.
    “Though classroom instructional strategies should clearly be based on sound science and research, knowing when to use them and with whom is more of an art,” said educational consultant Dr. Robert J. Marzano. In his book, “The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction,” Marzano presents a model for ensuring quality teaching that balances the necessity of research-based data with the equally vital need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of individual students.
    In response to Ohio’s new common core standards, North Canton City Schools are implementing enhanced scientific methods. “We have begun using sophisticated diagnostic and prescriptive tools to monitor the progress of our students in real-time,” said Michael Hartenstein, superintendent. “This monitoring will allow us to individualize instruction to meet the needs of our students.  Every full-time teacher begins each day with thirty minutes of analysis and planning using these tools to measure the performance of the students to which they are assigned.”
    The Ohio Department of Education’s adoption of the common core standards in mathematics and language arts is another reason behind the intense monitoring. The new standards also have significantly impacted curriculum in the district. “Two years ago we adopted a new mathematics series (Everyday Math) in the K-5 buildings that is more closely aligned to the standards than the previous text series.  This year we adopted a new English Language Arts (ELA) textbook series that was co-written by one of the developers of the common core curricula for ELA,” Hartenstein said.
    As staff adapts to the new initiatives, “the only resource we are short of is time,” explained Hartenstein. “I understand the legislature’s desire, but the implementation timeline is too short. Teachers in North Canton, like teachers across the state of Ohio, are trying to understand and adjust to the new requirements of the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) and the Ohio Improvement Process (OIP) model. Central to both of these sweeping initiatives is the adoption and deployment of the new common core standards,” he said. 
    All this has an effect on the teaching/learning process, Hartenstein continued. “The amount of time implementing all of these initiatives requires is a significant strain on instructional time in the classroom. The daily schedule has been affected by the large amount of time devoted to training in the new ELA adoption and for coordination of the Everyday Math series.”
    Additional technology resources are also necessary. However, thanks to local taxpayer support, NCCS has an advantage in this area. “Many districts are struggling to respond to the technology needs of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARRC) assessment which can only be taken on-line.  Computers for the children and the bandwidth needed for them to connect while taking the test is in short supply.  With the passage of the permanent improvement levy in May, North Canton schools are positioned well to respond to this requirement,” Hartenstein said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Administering state assessments online rather than with a pencil and paper are likely to present an additional challenge to students and staff. Hartenstein wants NCCS to be ready for this monumental step. “The district has been selected to pilot the new PARCC test instrument. This instrument is the new state test required as part of the Common Core initiative. The pilot test will give us an advance idea of what to expect when the real assessment ‘goes live’ in the spring,” he said.
    Hartenstein’s perspective on the new state report card system is consistent with that of fellow superintendents. “I would argue that the constantly changing requirements of the report card have made it impossible for school districts to target what to expect or how to respond. Most districts, North Canton City Schools included, did a better job in 2012-2013 than in previous years—as measured by most any single indicator. Yet, because the cut scores for the report card have been reset to a higher level, some of our individual scores appear lower,” he said.
    For additional information, refer to the school district’s website, education.ohio.gov, and corestandards.org or talk with teachers or principals.

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