The Manchester School District took an unprecedented step in whole district reform last year when it embarked on a year-long journey with teachers, administrators, curriculum specialists, learning standards professionals, and professors from higher education to assemble the best possible set of preK-12 learning standards for the children in Manchester’s public schools. Using the New Hampshire College and Career Ready Standards (NHCCRS) as the base upon which the new standards would be built, the large team of educators researched sets of learning standards from several states and nations such as Indiana, Massachusetts, California, Alaska, Finland and Singapore. Beginning in January 2014 the writing process was available to the community on the school district’s website and open for input, feedback, criticism and questions.
     The learning standards in Manchester represent what students are supposed to know and be able to do at each grade level, and currently the standards are designed for improving literacy (reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing) and numeracy (mathematics) for all students. This body of work holds all students to the same high expectations with the understanding that each student requires different supports and structures to reach those expectations. The standards are designed to enable students to make post-secondary choices upon high school graduation and to build a bridge to their future throughout their academic career in Manchester.
The next step in this whole district reform process is in the area of curriculum. The development of curriculum and subsequent curriculum units of study will illustrate how students will practice mastery of the standards as well as describe the assessments that will be used to measure students’ mastery. Teachers will be working collaboratively across grade levels and schools to identify those standards already being addressed and to align and/or revise curriculum to address newly developed standards. Materials and resources will be aligned to the standards and innovative instructional strategies will be shared and/or introduced.
     Teachers will be working together to best determine how students will learn, regardless of the school in which they are enrolled and the address at which they live. All of Manchester’s children will benefit from this whole district reform process.
     The school district will utilize several pieces of data to best inform the success or challenges of the standards and curriculum. Benchmark assessments are being developed to help inform teachers about individual students’ performance as well as alignment of curriculum to standards. The information gleaned from these assessments will be used to change how teachers are teaching, what teachers are teaching, and most importantly, how and what students are learning. The standards have the purpose of shifting the importance of teaching to the importance of learning, and assessments have the purpose of telling us to what extent are students learning.
     The school district will also be using data from the statewide assessment program in which it must participate. Most recently the program used the New England Common Assessment Program, or NECAP, to test for curriculum alignment. Beginning in spring 2015, New Hampshire and 21 other states will be utilizing the assessment from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, an online adaptive test that is scheduled to be administered in spring 2015. A paper and pencil test is also available to those school districts believed to not have the ability to meet the technology demands of the new assessment.
     The Manchester Academic Standards can be found at Teams of teachers continue to review and suggest edits, and the format for the document is still under construction. The critical components of the standards are essentially complete and ready for use in curriculum design and implementation. At press time, the standards were being considered for final approval by the Manchester School District Board of School Committee.

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