Integration of Success Skills: Advancing our Strategic Coherence Plan

September 18, 2018

As you know, our focus on integrating success skills (aka 21st century academic and social emotional skills: critical thinking, collaboration/communication, adaptability, perseverance and civic responsibility) into curriculum, instruction, assessment, the learning environment and professional learning continues to be a priority. Why is this important? After students graduate from Brewster, they will be judged in work, college and life not on what they know, but on what they can do with what they know. We are dedicated to the goal of preparing all of our students to succeed in their chosen path in life, whether it be college, work or the military.

To achieve success in an ever changing, global society, our graduates will need to be able to adapt quickly to change, learn new information, content and technologies to solve problems, innovate and create, and engage in ongoing learning to keep pace with the expectations of their employers. We are not waiting until students enter high school to start this process. Students in kindergarten will soon be able to describe, in their own way, how they used a particular skill to identify and solve a problem, why it is important to be able to work well with others to accomplish a common goal, how to stick to a project or task until it is accomplished or why it is normal to admit mistakes and view failure as an opportunity to learn.

We used this summer wisely to offer professional learning opportunities to educators and administrators that supports the implementation of the success skills outlined above.  These are a few of the ways that we engaged our leaders and educators this summer:

  • A trainer from the Buck Institute worked with 25 educators and administrators on how to implement Project Based Learning (PBL), which operates on the principle that students work for a specified period of time, ranging from a week to a semester, on an authentic problem or a complex, multifaceted question that emerges from study in a content area or subject. To demonstrate their knowledge and skills, students develop a public product or make a presentation to a real audience.
  • Ms. Jackie Fego and Mr. Steve Coshal of CV Starr trained their K-5 colleagues in Project Lead the Way (PLTW), which is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum that incorporates the five academic and social emotional skills that are the focus of our Strategic Coherence Plan. Educators at JFK Elementary will start using PLTW this year.
  • Ms. Michelle Gosh convened the K-5 Math Committee that is piloting two math curriculum resources this year with the goal of selecting one that all K-5 educators will use in the 2019-20 school year. The first training session for each curricular resource will take place before the school year begins, and ongoing professional learning and analysis will occur throughout the pilots.
  • Ms. Gosh also worked with a group of K-5 teachers and administrators as a Word Study Taskforce, who will explore ways to more effectively integrate word study, which includes vocabulary, grammar, phonics, spelling, and comprehension into literacy instruction.
  • Ms. Christian (DeJesus) Hernandez facilitated a Strategic Coherence Plan rubric development work session with Ms. Deb Elk (CV Starr), Ms. Deb Velazquez (HH Wells), Ms. Deb Romaine (HH Wells), Ms. Allie O’Connor (CV Starr), Ms. Kathy Brower (JFK), Ms. Lynn Olsen (JFK), Ms. Patty Taylor (BHS) and Ms. Janet Tallevi (BHS). We will be using the draft rubrics this year as a way to monitor the integration of the five SCP skills into curriculum, instruction, assessment, the learning environment and professional learning. After feedback from educators and administrators, we will incorporate suggestions that will make the rubrics more effective guides.
  • Ms. Michelle Gosh, Ms. Deb Romaine (HHW), Mr. Peter LaMoreaux (BHS), Mr. Jim Treloar (Director of Technology and Innovation) and Ms. Christian Hernandez (Assistant Principal, HH Wells), traveled to Cornell University to work with other educators on a computer science collaborative, sponsored by  CSforALL, New York University and the National Science Foundation. The goal of CSforAll is to ensure that all students are exposed to 21st century computer science skills that are essential for success in life, work and future learning.
  • Mr. Paul Stellacci (CSE Chair and Behaviorist), became a certified Therapeutic Crisis Intervention for Schools (TCIS) Trainer. As a result, we no longer need to hire a trainer to work with teachers, teaching assistants, administrators, aides and monitors.
  • Mr. Michael Hennessy, a school counselor at HH Wells, became a trainer in restorative practices. As a result, we no longer need a trainer from outside to offer this training. Restorative practices will become a part of our Code of Conduct.
  • All leaders participated in our annual Summer Leadership Council Institute to strengthen our leadership skills so that we continue to improve student outcomes and implement 21st century teaching and learning practices. We also read and discussed a book to assist our SCP integration work called The Internal Coherence Framework: Creating the Conditions for Continuous Improvement in Schools by Michelle L. Forman, Elizabeth Leisy Stosich and Candice Bocala. The culminating experience was a visit to IBM in Armonk to see how an industry with global reach incorporates critical thinking, collaboration/communication, adaptability, perseverance, and civic responsibility into the workplace and how employees in a 21st century workplace function and operate.
  • Ms. Michelle Gosh and Ms. Kathy Culligan invited new employees into the District as part of our annual New Educator Institute. They started their work by reading and discussing Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith. We used this text to help new staff members understand the expectations for students in this century to be successful in life, work and future learning.
  • Along with administrators and teachers, Ms. Michelle Gosh convened a K-5 Report Card Committee to upgrade the report card to reflect the new standards and skills.

We hope that you are able to attend the September 25 Board of Education meeting at JFK Elementary School in the auditorium where administrators, teachers and children will share the many examples of the District’s commitment to preparing all children for success in life, work and future learning. 

Valerie Henning-Piedmonte, Superintendent of Schools