The Colchester School District has had a consistent history of strong student achievement, even when compared to other districts in Vermont. This can be seen using common measures like the old NECAP and now the new SBAC assessment that is given in the spring. These results have not been an accident and could only happen through the intentional and coordinated work of administrators and teachers that took years to develop. It is part of the work done in good educational systems that the public rarely sees or recognizes.
One good example was the work within K-5 for the past 3 years to fully implement a curriculum that supports the Common Core State Standards. When the new standards were published and approved by the Vermont Board of Education, every district in Vermont had the same objective, to prepare their schools and their students for a new set of standards that would be more rigorous than previous years. Starting with the Director of Curriculum’s office, a plan was devised to move this process throughout the system that was clear, focused, progressive, and accountable. Using knowledge and research that defines best practice, this included aligning all common assessments to the standards and using those results to monitor the progress of students learning. It included developing, with the teachers, grade level curriculum maps that would be used to guide instructional expectations throughout the year in all schools and the grade level conversations around instruction.
The current step now involves looking more closely at instruction. One area in particular the district has focused on is word study; a critical skill needed by students to be successful. The district has developed a strong and sequential process with the curriculum maps to ensure all students have the specific skills in this area. Word study provides students with opportunities to investigate and understand the patterns in words. Knowledge of these patterns means that students needn’t learn to spell one word at a time. This skill has many benefits for meeting both reading and writing expectations by grade but also will be critical throughout their lifetimes.
Teaching is a complex process that requires a strong knowledge base in both content and pedagogy. For systems like Colchester to support this work successfully also requires strong leadership, clear vision, focused goals, and the needed resources in people, time, professional learning, and materials. All of them singularly are important but it is only when they are combined are processes liked this successful and sustained.