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Monday December 5th

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools redeveloping curriculum, focusing on achievement gap

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The N.C. State Board of Education released preliminary performance data for state schools this month. CHCCS scored above the state average in almost every category, but the district hopes to help certain groups, including minorities and students with disabilities, perform better.

“Our goals continue to be higher in that we simply want every student to demonstrate proficiency and to graduate on time,” said CHCCS Superintendent Tom Forcella in a press release. “We will continue focusing on instructional excellence to reach that goal.”

To help all students perform better, the district is contracting Learning-Focused, a Boone-based company that helps schools adopt more effective teaching strategies by providing training and support for teachers and administrators.

The company’s strategies include increased student writing in the classroom and backward planning, a strategy that identifies what students should know by the end of a section and giving assignments that match up with the curriculum standard.

“It feels upside-down but makes a hell of a lot of sense when you look at it,” Diane Villwock, executive director of testing and program evaluation for the district, said of backward planning.

Max Thompson, project director of Learning-Focused, has conducted long-term, multi-country research on school demographics, practices and performance and has identified strategies that helped students achieve at higher levels.

“In every state, the schools that have the highest achievement have some of the highest achievement gaps,” he said.

Magda Parvey, the district’s assistant superintendent for instructional services, said she wanted to see these practices applied to CHCCS to help all students, particularly those in minority groups and with disabilities, perform at higher levels.

A fter hearing Thompson give a presentation in January, Parvey and Thompson started observing CHCCS classrooms together. On Sept. 13, they began developing a plan to train district teachers and principals in the new methods.

“Our focus is on these exemplary practices and strategies,” Thompson said. “The district’s doing what it’s done for several years, and there has been a consistent achievement gap with certain groups of students.”

Training the district’s more than 1,300 teachers will be a challenging task, Parvey said. There are eight different training sessions scheduled throughout the school year, and more teachers will be trained next summer.

city@dailytarheel.com



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