What's New @MWES...

Some Surprising Facts About Learning...

posted Mar 9, 2017, 8:01 AM by Sandra Gassner

Have you heard about a growth mindset? It stems from Carol Dweck's much published belief that, “...our most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” Recently one of our teachers shared a video with us that we wanted to share with our entire school community, In this video Jo Boaler, Stanford mathematics education professor tells us, “You have probably heard people say they are just bad at math, or perhaps you yourself feel like you are not “a math person.” But this isn’t true and she goes on to share the brain research showing that with the right teaching and messages, we can all be good at math. Not only that, our brains operate differently when we believe in ourselves. Boaler gives hope to the mathematically fearful or challenged, shows a pathway to success, and brings into question the very basics of how our teachers approach what should be a rewarding experience for all children and adults. We hope you'll have time to give this 12-minute video a look!

How you can be good at math, and other surprising facts about learning | Jo Boaler | TEDxStanford

i-Ready Reports: Grades K-2 Reading

posted Feb 21, 2017, 7:49 AM by Sandra Gassner   [ updated Feb 21, 2017, 1:06 PM ]

Our district’s vision is to foster students who are leaders of their own learning.  This post highlights one resource, i-Ready, while also sharing with you an array of resources that help students, teachers and parents gain insight, which when combined, provide information on the current strengths and areas to focus on for their child.  We are on a progression to student’s owning their data and setting goals to lead their learning as they are able to understand their current skills and needs.  The progression begins with teachers and parents utilizing an array of indicators that provide the ability to set goals and measure growth.  As you will see, although we are highlighting     i-Ready in this post, it is from a composite of many sources that we truly build our understanding of the whole child and his or her pathway to growth.  
Watch the 8-minute video and/or read this post to learn more about i-Ready in your child's classroom.
When you look at any data source from a variety of resources that our teachers and students have access to, it is important to keep in mind that one source provides a piece of the larger mosaic that is the whole child.  Many sources which provide indicators as to current levels of mastery and understanding are utilized in our classrooms.  This information is used to  build goals and set pathways to honor individual student’s strengths and focus on areas of need.  
Some examples of data sources are:
  • teacher observations which can happen in a number of ways from 1 on 1 conferencing, to small group instruction, to whole group interactions; 
  • Learning targets, learning progressions, and formative assessment tools, 
  • student’s writing, 
  • reading levels as indicated via Fountas & Pinnell (F&Ps), 
  • current behavioral and social strengths indicated through our Executive Functioning Tools (EF rubrics) 
  • Digital platforms - such as i-Ready.  
i-Ready assesses students’ academic skills in reading, helping teachers design individualized instruction based on their unique needs while setting a personalized pathway for students within the i-Ready Instruction module.  The Diagnostic, which takes place three times a school year, assesses skills across the reading domains aligned to college and career-readiness standards.  The i-Ready Instruction model is an instructional tool used during the school day.  This adaptive digital tool is ungraded and meets each child at his or her level.

Recently you received a copy of the parent report.  Let's take a closer look at this document. On the top of the page you will see your child’s name, their teacher, and their school.  Directly below that information you will see a brief description of i-Ready (in our district, we are using the assessment for reading only) and then your child’s overall reading performance.  A scale score (or vertically scaled measure) is utilized to indicate current levels (based on grade level standards) and also gauge the difference between the 1st and 2nd diagnostic.  i-Ready uses a vertical scale to measure what skills students have gained from one point in time to the next on a chart of skills that spans K-12th grade...think of it like the growth chart that you see at a pediatrician’s office.  

As mentioned earlier, and essential to keep in mind, i-Ready should be used in conjunction with other measures as each measure of achievement is valuable; however, none are perfect and using multiple measures is critical for getting a complete picture of your child. Statisticians note that a student’s score on any assessment will be affected by random influences (for example a student may get distracted) or by measurement error, and the best test cannot capture important teacher fostered traits such as challenging and engaging students.  Understanding this, let’s continue to learn more about what is available from this report. The second page of the report provides more detail for you about a scale score and details on your child’s indicated levels from the diagnostic. On the third and fourth pages the reading domains are defined for you from phonological awareness to vocabulary and comprehension of literature and informational text is explained.  

Please note, home use of i-Ready for MWES students is currently NOT encouraged. 

If you have additional questions about the i-Ready Diagnostic Assessment, and/or Instruction modules, we encourage you to reach out to your child’s teacher, to Mrs. Areman or myself, or to the Curriculum Office.  

Thank you for taking the time to read this post to learn more about i-Ready and how we gain the best picture of your child using an array of resources in our district.  The goal is to provide resources to gain the information teachers’ and students’ need to foster growth and understanding to ultimately create students who are “Leaders of their own Learning”.  

Parent Conferences - January 12th, 24th & February 1st!

posted Feb 1, 2017, 6:21 AM by Sandra Gassner   [ updated Feb 1, 2017, 8:22 AM ]

We look forward to this time each year when parents have the opportunity to meet with their child's teachers. Parents might enter a parent-teacher conference full of questions relating to academic performance. Conferences give you the opportunity to inquire about your child’s progress and/or ask for more information about the curriculum. However, parents might be surprised when the conversation starts with a discussion about social skills, a very important piece of the school experience often overlooked. For some parents, talking with their child’s teacher about their expectations and learning about the teacher’s priorities for their child can be an eye-opening experience. There are many components to the school day that include opportunities for social and emotional learning.

During parent teacher conferences, is it more important to discuss a child’s academic development or their social/emotional well-being? This often asked question can be answered simply by stating that both are critical aspects to your child’s school life.

We, as educators, strongly advise to have a conference that does not in any way discount your child’s social and emotional needs, and looks at this piece of your child’s development equally with that of academics. “My child is having trouble with friends;” or “My child isn’t feeling confident on the playground;” or “My child is having difficulties navigating situations when they are not included;” “My child seems nervous about lunchtime because they have no one to sit with.” We often hear these common parental concerns. Providing your children with the tools to handle these situations will help them in all areas of their school life.

Parents might wonder if it is a waste of valuable conference time to focus on their child’s emotional well-being as opposed to how they are reading or have performed on their latest math test. We do not want to discount the importance of a child’s academic success or the importance of when they need that extra support in the classroom, but their social and emotional welfare should take up an equal part of the conversation.

Students that can find ways to feel good in the face of adversity (we have all been there) and can navigate many different situations on the playground are the same children that will hopefully take these life lessons outside the classrooms. The lessons on how to speak to your peers, how to be an ally to a friend and how to know when to get a teacher involved in a situation are invaluable. School is a place where they will have the chance to gain the support of their teachers, and families to guide them through life’s social and emotional challenges, hopefully making them adults who are better equipped and more resilient throughout their lives.

So, please, applaud your child’s academic successes, help them where they struggle in school, but remember to ask about your child’s behavior in the classroom, and don’t forget to share valuable insights of their personality that only a parent can know.

Rethinking Report Cards: Standards-Based Report Cards

posted Dec 7, 2016, 10:46 AM by Sandra Gassner

Why many schools are linking report cards to education standards and how that helps students and parents!

Adapted from a post from Great! Schools: May 2016

Did your grandparents give you a dollar for every A on your report card? Did you ever receive a dreaded F? For a growing number of today’s elementary school students, the days of celebrating or dreading letter grades are over. As schools and educators across the country focus on teaching content based on core standards, student report cards have changed to reflect this. Elementary schools are using standards-based report cards that align with their standards-based teaching. As a result, parents are getting more information about their students’ achievement.

What are standards-based report cards?

On traditional report cards, students receive one grade for reading, one for math, one for science, and so on. A standards-based report card lists the most important skills students should learn in each subject at a particular grade level.

Instead of letter grades, students receive a number that shows how well they have mastered the skills. The numbers represent whether students meet, exceed, or approach each standard. In Freehold Township we use the following key:

  • “4” Exceeds – Student exceeds grade level standards

  • “3” Meets the Standard– Student effectively meets grade level standards

  • “2” Developing – Student sometimes meets grade level standards. Needs more time and instruction to develop skill

  • “1” Novice– Student is not yet meeting grade level standards. Needs more time and instruction to develop skill

How does the standards-based report card help parents?

The marks on a standards-based report card are different from traditional letter grades. Letter grades are often calculated by combining how well the student met his particular teacher’s expectations, how he performed on assignments and tests, and how much effort the teacher believes he put in. Letter grades do not tell parents which skills their children have mastered or whether they are working at grade level. Because one fourth-grade teacher might be reviewing basic multiplication facts while another might be teaching multiplication of two- or three-digit numbers, an A in these classes would mean very different things. The parent of a child in one of these classes would not know if their child were learning what they should be to meet the state standards. Standards-based report cards will provide more consistency between teachers than traditional report cards because all students are evaluated on the same grade-level skills. Parents can see exactly which skills and knowledge their child has acquired.

Why are some districts are switching?

Diane Mead, a teacher on special assignment in the Beverly Hills Unified School District in California, believes students are the biggest winners when standards-based report cards are used. These report cards give students specific information about how they’re doing and pinpoint where they need to improve.

This approach can carry over to classroom assignments, too, as the report card influences the way teachers assess student learning throughout the year. In the first two years of using a standards-based report card in Beverly Hills, teachers worked together to describe clearly what student work that meets the standards looks like. Teachers share these expectations with students, often posting them on the classroom wall. Now when students get an assignment they know exactly what they have to do to be proficient or advanced. That’s a big change from the way assignments used to be given and graded. “If you get a 90 percent, it doesn’t tell you much about where to go from there,” says Mead. Because concrete skills and knowledge are listed on the report card, it is one way to help monitor whether all students are being exposed to the same curriculum and learning the skills they should learn in each grade. The new report cards also make the standards very clear to parents, Liddell says. “Parents should know exactly what their students should be able to do.”

Discouraging or encouraging?

One of the biggest adjustments for students and parents is that many standards-based report cards focus on end-of-the-year goals. This means that in the first or second grading period, instead of getting A’s for trying hard and doing well on tests, a high-achieving student might have several marks indicating that they are not yet proficient in some skills. Although this is normal — most students will not meet all of the year’s goals in the first quarter — it can be disconcerting to parents and kids used to seeing all A’s or B’s. Another big change for students is understanding the concept of “advanced” or “exceeding standards.” Advanced is not necessarily the equivalent of an A on a traditional report card. For example, if a fifth-grader received A’s on every math test during the semester, she would probably receive an A on a traditional report card. If those math tests measured only the concepts fifth graders are expected to master, those A’s would be the equivalent of “proficient” on a standards-based report card; the student is doing what he should be doing, but not necessarily more. Al Friedenberg, former principal of Grant Elementary in Santa Monica, California, noted that this means teachers need to provide opportunities for students to show they can exceed what is expected and be truly advanced. Standards-based report cards can encourage teachers to make sure their lessons offer students chances to go beyond “grade level.” Mead said one analogy her district uses to explain this difference to parents is: “You climb up the hill to be proficient, but you have to fly off to be exemplary.” Standards-based report cards provide the added benefit of keeping teachers and parents focused on student learning goals from the very beginning of the year. Friedenberg said this gives his students a chance to get help when it’s most needed, sooner rather than later.

Glitches and fixes

As with the implementation of any new program, students and parents should expect some glitches and fine-tuning as the new report cards are established. Both Mead and Friedenberg noted that the first few years with their standards-based report cards were challenging for teachers as they dealt with technical difficulties at the same time that they were working to align their teaching and assessment with the new report cards. Patience and understanding from parents and students go a long way when schools are working out bugs in a new program.https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B73K7o7FOdpmbVhyV2k5U3M2U00?usp=sharing

More information for the Errickson learning community...

Information on standards-based report cards specific to the Errickson learning community and Freehold Township Schools can be found here. 

Week of Code: December 5th - 11th

posted Dec 5, 2016, 9:45 AM by Sandra Gassner   [ updated Dec 5, 2016, 1:52 PM ]

Building Mathematical Thinkers!

posted Nov 14, 2016, 6:23 AM by Sandra Gassner

After careful vetting by district teachers and administrators, Bridges in Mathematics, second edition, is being rolled out as the new K-2 math program in district elementary schools. Bridges in Mathematics is a comprehensive mathematics curriculum that equips teachers to fully implement the New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Mathematics in a manner that is rigorous, coherent, engaging, and accessible to all learners.

The curriculum focuses on developing students’ deep understandings of mathematical concepts, proficiency with key skills, and ability to solve complex and novel problems. Bridges blends direct instruction, structured investigation, and open exploration, and taps into the intelligence strengths of all students by presenting material that is as linguistically, visually, and kinesthetically rich as it is mathematically powerful.

Bridges develops children’s mathematical thinking and reasoning abilities through age-appropriate problems and investigations in the areas of number, operations, algebraic thinking, measurement, data, and geometry. Some of these problems and investigations grow out of ventures into everyday life—reading stories, playing games, drawing pictures, building structures, and making collections—while others delve more deeply into the world of mathematics itself. Students are encouraged to explore, develop, test, discuss, and apply ideas; to see mathematics as something that is fluid, vibrant, creative, and relevant.

Teachers got right to work in September, setting up their classrooms to provide spaces for these explorations and most recently participated in a full day of professional development on the Bridges curriculum facilitated by our district math supervisor, Dr. Charlene Marchese and a representative from the program’s developer, The Math Learning Center.

An abundance of resources are available to families which allow them to support this new curriculum at home. From The Math Learning Center’s homepage, click on Support and slide down to Families – Bridges Second Edition. Here you will find overviews of each unit of study along with virtual versions of the visual models and manipulatives used in Bridges for use online or with an iPad. Links to age appropriate books which support math skills and links to online skills practice are included in these family resources.  


In keeping with the growth mindset we are working on in school, you can help at home, to build a Mathematical Mindset Community!

Welcome Back MWES Students!

posted Sep 6, 2016, 9:32 AM by Sandra Gassner   [ updated Sep 6, 2016, 9:54 AM ]

MWES staff welcomed close to 450 students back to school today! Students arrived with smiles and supplies, just the right mix for starting the school year in their new classroom. We are excited to have so many children eager to begin the year-long journey of learning with us as we challenge each student to grow in his or her academic abilities. 
We will be working together to achieve the FTS vision, where all students will be leaders of their own learning who are actively engaged and curious members of a global society. To achieve this vision, we will create student-centered, technology-infused, personalized learning environments. We hope your children will share these experiences when they return home from a busy day at school. We look forward to talking to parents in more depth at Back-to-School Night on September 14th!

Summer Learning = Summer Fun!

posted Jun 10, 2016, 6:27 AM by Sandra Gassner

As the school year comes to an end, many students are looking forward to lazy days in the sunshine. Most likely they are not dreaming about reading and math! However, there are plenty of ways to make learning fun and maintain the gains they’ve made over the school year, preventing what is often called, the “summer slide.”  Research consistently shows that children in elementary school may lose up to two months of achievement gains over the summer. Fortunately we can make learning an enjoyable part of every summer day! On Friday, June 10th, in the MWES computer lab at 1pm and again on Wednesday June 15th from 6 to 6:30, parents are invited to learn more about how they can help their child avoid the “summer slide.” MWES staff will share valuable information about print media as well as web-based resources which are used across content areas during the school year and remain easily accessible to students during the summer. Adults may register for one of these sessions by going to, http://bit.ly/mwesummerfun. Registration is limited to 30 adults per session; however, additional sessions will be added if necessary. (You will receive an email to confirm your registration.) Registration will open on June 1st and will close on Tuesday, June 14th.

Celebrate Children's Book Week!

posted May 2, 2016, 7:24 AM by Sandra Gassner

May 2-8, 2016 is the 97th anniversary of Children's Book Week. Children's Book Week is the annual celebration of books for young people and the joy of reading. Established in 1919, Children's Book Week is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. Every year, commemorative events are held nationwide at schools, libraries, bookstores, homes...wherever young readers and books connect! Children's Book Week is administered by Every Child A Reader, a literacy organization dedicated to instilling a lifelong love of reading in children. The Children's Book Council, the national non-profit trade association for children's book publishers, is an anchor sponsor.

Children's Book Week is a truly national celebration, with events taking place from coast to coast. In 2015, for the second time in the initiative's history, Official Events were held in all 50 states! Each year, the Children's Book Council enlists beloved children's literature illustrators to design the commemorative Children's Book Week Poster and Bookmark. Download the 2016 Book Week bookmark by Cece Bell and order your 2016 Poster by Brian Won!

Launched by the Children's Book Council and Every Child a Reader in 2008, the Children's Choice Book Awards Program was created to provide young readers with an opportunity to voice their opinions about the books being written for them and to develop a reading list that will motivate children to read more and cultivate a life-long love of reading. Winners are announced during Children's Book Week. Voting at ccbookawards.com took place from Tuesday, March 8 through Monday, April 25.

Local bookstores and libraries often celebrate their love of books with special events for children. At the Freehold Barnes & Noble store on May 7th at 11am there will be a storytime and activity in honor of Mother's Day. You might plan a visit to your local library . During Children's Book Week, as always, continue to read with your child every day!

Add Math to a Child’s Home Routine - Advance Achievement!

posted Apr 7, 2016, 9:11 AM by Sandra Gassner

Last October in, WhereThe Wild Fractions Are: The Power Of A Bedtime (Math) Story, Eric Westervelt of NPR shared how parents might help their child develop a love of math using a no frills math app and every day math talk. Here is an abridged version of what Westervelt shared.

Parents who are uneasy about their own math skills often worry about how best to teach the subject to their kids. A study published in the journal, Science, suggests that at least one app works pretty well for elementary school children and math-anxious parents. A team from the University of Chicago used a demographically diverse group of first-graders and their parents — nearly 600 in all — across a wide swath of Chicago. One group got to use an app called Bedtime Math, built by a nonprofit with the same name. The no-frills app uses stories and sound effects to present kids with math problems that they can solve with their parents. The control group was given a reading app with similar stories but no math problems to solve. The results at the end of the school year?University of Chicago psychology professor Sian L. Beilock, one of the paper’s lead authors, shared the results.

Our study suggests that doing Bedtime Math with your kids can help advance their math achievement over the school year, and this might be especially important for parents who are a little bit nervous about their own math ability.

We compared kids who used the Bedtime Math app that involved reading stories and doing math problems with their parents to kids who did a very similar app that didn’t have the math content. We showed that when kids frequently used the app with their parents, those who used the math app were three months ahead in terms of math achievement relative to kids who just did the reading app.

Many adults in the U.S. and around the world profess to be uncomfortable or anxious about math. Oftentimes dealing with your kid around math can be a nerve-wracking experience — whether it’s homework or just talking about it. We found that doing this Bedtime Math app with kids was especially beneficial for those kids whose parents tended to be the most nervous about math. In essence, these kids grew significantly throughout the course of the year and looked like kids whose parents weren’t anxious about math by school year’s end.

It was somewhat surprising to us that such using the app as little as once a week would have such important benefits. One of the ideas is that we think that when parents get comfortable with talking with their kids about math — it doesn’t have to be complex math problems, it could be anything from shapes to even counting — they likely engage in math talk even when they’re not using the app. And we know that parents who talk more with their kids about math — whether you’re counting out the number of cookies or counting the minutes to bedtime — those kids tend to achieve at higher rates in math.

We’ve shown that, when parents interact with their kids and talk with them about math, that really impacts what kids learn. We were interested in this because it really is a no-frills app, an easy way for parents to interact with their kids, to talk with their kids about math. It’s not an app that they use by themselves. And we thought that that potentially had promise in terms of what math knowledge kids gained. To realize that math is part of everything we do, and math is not something scary or that one should be anxious about. And it’s really healthy to try to incorporate that into daily life. And often, as you said, parents think about reading bedtime stories, but there is a place for thinking also about bedtime math.

You don’t hear people walking around bragging that they’re not good at reading. But very intelligent people brag about not being good at math. And it turns out that that anxiety and social acceptability has implications for our nation’s success in math and science fields. And it’s really important that we as parents and teachers and adults try to convey to our kids that math is something that’s (a) enjoyable and (b) learned. You’re not born a math person or not; it’s something that’s acquired. And every time we talk about it and we integrate it into our daily lives, children may see the importance of it and that math is not something to be fearful of.”

Perhaps you can identify with some of the ideas presented here. To read the article in its entirety visit http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/10/08/446490524/where-the-wild-fractions-are-the-power-of-a-bedtime-math-story

To learn more about the app used in the study visit www.bedtimemath.org

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