School system’s new model pulls from existing state standards

Published 6:57 pm Tuesday, September 10, 2019

SALISBURY — While Rowan-Salisbury Schools will measure teacher and student performance in new ways, the district won’t create new tests for “renewal,” says Superintendent Lynn Moody.

Instead, for academic standards, the school system plans to negotiate with state officials to pull from existing state data, Moody told school board members Monday night.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools is also prioritizing existing state standards and labeling them “fundamental” or “supporting,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Julie Morrow.

That was the product of a presentation Monday by Morrow intended to tell school board members about the system’s fundamental standards for math, English and language arts. The presentation was informational in nature, not requiring a school board vote to approve.

Morrow told school board members that teachers have historically been given a thick book of standards to teach in a year, but those were never taught at the level or depth that was needed for students. And that’s the reason for the school system’s labeling of some as fundamental and others as supporting.

“With fundamental, we believe every student needs to have extensive knowledge and depth of knowledge in that particular standard,” Morrow said.

And Moody added that a greater portion of state standards were labeled “fundamental” in early grades. In high school, fewer standards were labeled as critical for all students.

In kindergarten English and language arts, for example, fundamental standards include being able to retell familiar stories, including key details, with prompting and support; printing upper- and lower-case letters; and being able to speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings and ideas clearly. Supporting standards include adding drawings to descriptions for additional detail, actively engaging in group reading activities with purpose and understanding, and distinguishing shades of meaning among verbs describing the same actions by acting out the meanings.

There weren’t significant questions from school board members about individual labeling of standards, but board member Alisha Byrd-Clark asked whether cursive would be a requirement.

Morrow responded that there’s House legislation requiring it, but the Rowan-Salisbury school system is not required to comply with that under “renewal.” But she stressed that does not mean RSS won’t teach cursive.

The lengthiest debate Monday was prompted by board member Dean Hunter, who focused on how proficiency in fundamental standards would be measured. And Hunter asked whether standardized test scores would improve if Rowan-Salisbury Schools is simply labeling existing standards and whether RSS is simply creating a “new test.”

Moody responded plainly.

“We don’t want to design a new test that is a better test,” she said. “That’s why it’s taken so long.”

She said that the method by which RSS measures fundamental standards would be revealed in October with the system’s accountability model. That model will factor in the district’s “directional system,” which also includes unique life goals and interpersonal skills. Fundamental standards only represent one piece of the pie that is the directional system — academic standards.

“I think your questions are good questions and very valid,” Moody told Hunter. “We don’t have all the answers yet.”

Moody said she thinks RSS students would perform worse on standardized tests because only certain standards would be emphasized.

During debate on Monday, board member Travis Allen said he felt a return to the fundamentals is “where the whole nation is going.” Allen said he is not sure how students now are able to take two- to three-hour standardized tests.

Contact editor Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4248.