• April News-Mathematics

    Posted by Julie DeRoche at 4/13/2017

    At the end of March, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) adopted updates to the 2010 Massachusetts Mathematics Curriculum Frameworks.  This post will focus on the expectations and guiding principles for mathematics programs in our schools. Over the course of the next year, as we review, assess, and update the district's mathematics curriculum, we will be guided by the following principles and expectations of the standards from the 2017 Massachusetts Mathematics Curriculum Frameworks. A strong, integrated, well-planned, and rigorous mathematics program, as referenced in the Massachusetts Mathematics Curriculum Frameworks (2017, p.5), promotes the following:

    A Balance of Conceptual Understanding, Procedural Fluency, and Application

    The standards strategically develop students’ mathematical understanding and skills. When students are first introduced to a mathematical concept they explore and investigate the concept by using concrete objects, visual models, drawings or representations to build their understanding. In the early grades they develop number sense and work with numbers in many ways. They learn a variety of strategies to solve problems and use what they have learned about patterns in numbers and the properties of numbers to develop a strong understanding of number sense, decomposing and composing numbers, and the relationship between addition and subtraction, and multiplication and division. In calculations, they are expected to be able to use the most efficient and accurate way to solve a problem based on their understanding and knowledge of place value and properties of numbers.  Students reach fluency by building understanding of mathematical concepts (this lays a strong foundation that prepares students for more advanced math work) and by building automaticity in the recall of basic computation facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division).  

    As students apply their mathematical knowledge and skills to solve real world problems, they also gain an understanding of why mathematics is important throughout our lives. 


    To achieve mathematical understanding, students should be actively engaged in meaningful mathematics. The content and practice standards focus on developing students’                      

    • conceptual understanding (make sense of the math, reason about and understand math concepts and ideas);
    • procedural skills (know mathematical facts, to compute and do the math); and
    • capacity to solve a wide range of problems in various contexts by reasoning, thinking, and applying the mathematics they have learned.  Sealey, Cathy. Balance is Basic, A 21st Century View of a Balanced Mathematical Program

    Guiding Principles for Mathematics Programs in Massachusetts

    According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), these principles should guide the design and evaluation of mathematics programs.  Programs guided by these principles will prepare students for colleges, careers, and their lives as productive citizens (Massachusetts Mathematics Frameworks, 2017, p.11):

    Guiding Principle 1

    Educators must have a deep understanding of the mathematics they teach, not only to help students learn how to efficiently do mathematical calculations, but also to help them understand the fundamental principles of mathematics that are the basis for those operations.  Teachers should work with their students to master these underlying concepts and the relationships between them in order to lay a foundation for higher-level mathematics, strengthen their capacity for thinking logically and rigorously, and develop an appreciation for the beauty of math.

    Guiding Principle 2

    To help all students develop a full understanding of mathematical concepts and procedural mastery, educators should provide them with opportunities to apply their learning and solve problems using multiple methods, in collaboration with their peers and independently, and complemented by clear explanations of the underlying mathematics.

    Guiding Principle 3

    Students should have frequent opportunities to discuss and write about various approaches to solving problems, in order to help them develop and demonstrate their mathematical knowledge, while drawing connections between alternative strategies and evaluating their comparative strengths and weaknesses.

    Guiding Principle 4

    Students should be asked to solve a diverse set of real world and other mathematical problems, including equations that develop and challenge their computational skills and word problems that require students to design their own equations and mathematical models. Students learn that with persistence they can solve challenging problems and be successful.

    Guiding Principle 5

    A central part of an effective mathematics curriculum should be the development of a specialized mathematical vocabulary including notations and symbols, and an ability to read mathematical texts and information from a variety of sources with understanding.

    Guiding Principle 6

    Assessment of student learning should be a daily part of a mathematics curriculum to ensure that students are progressing in their knowledge and skill, and to provide teachers with the information they need to adjust their instruction and differentiate their support of individual students.

    Guiding Principle 7

    Students at all levels should have an opportunity to use appropriate technological tools to communicate ideas, provide a dynamic approach to mathematics concepts, and to search for information. Technological tools can also be used to improve efficiency of calculation and enable more sophisticated analysis, without sacrificing operational fluency and automaticity.

    Guiding Principle 8

    Social and emotional learning can increase academic achievement, improve attitudes and behaviors, and reduce emotional distress. Students should practice self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision-making, and relationship skills, by, for example, collaborating and learning from others and showing respect for others’ ideas, applying the mathematics they know to make responsible decisions to solve problems, engaging and persisting in solving challenging problems, and learning that with effort, they can continue to improve and be successful.

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  • April News-English Language Arts

    Posted by Julie DeRoche at 4/6/2017

    April News

    At the end of March, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) adopted updates to the 2010 Massachusetts English language arts and mathematics Curriculum Frameworks.  This post will focus on the expectations and guiding principles for ELA and literacy programs in our schools. According to the DESE, the following guiding principles for English language arts and literacy programs, "should guide the design and evaluation of English language arts and literacy programs in schools  and the broader community.  Programs guided by these principles will prepare students for colleges, careers, and their lives as productive citizens" (Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for English Language Arts and Literacy, 2017, p.7).  Over the course of the next year, as we review, assess, and update the district's K-12 English Language Arts curriculum, we will be guided by the following principles and expectations of the standards.  A strong, integrated, well-planned, and rigorous English language arts program promotes the following:

    Guiding Principle 1

    Students should receive explicit skill instruction, including in phonics and decoding. Explicit skill instruction is especially important in narrowing opportunity gaps.

    Guiding Principle 2

    To become successful readers, students need to develop a rich academic vocabulary and broad background knowledge.

    Guiding Principle 3

    Educators should help students develop a love of reading, by:

    • Selecting high-quality works of literature and non-fiction;
    • Reading aloud in class; and
    • Providing students with ample opportunity and encouragement for sustained independent reading, both for school and on their own.

    Guiding Principle 4

    Students should be exposed to complex and challenging texts at their grade level and above, with extra supports and scaffolding as needed, reflecting high expectations for all students.

    Guiding Principle 5

    Students should read a diversity of authentic texts balanced across genres, cultures, and time periods. Authentic texts are intact and unadapted texts in their original complexity; they are texts composed for purposes other than being studied in school.

    Guiding Principle 6

    Students should have frequent opportunities for discussing and writing about their readings, in order to develop critical thinking skills and to demonstrate understanding.

    Guiding Principle 7

    Reading well-crafted texts is an essential foundation for developing effective writing skills.

    Guiding Principle 8

    Developing the ability to write well demands regular practice across multiple forms and genres of writing and opportunities to write for a variety of audiences, including expository, analytical, persuasive, narrative, and creative writing, as well as explicit instruction in vocabulary and Standard English conventions.

    Guiding Principle 9

    Educators and families should view each other as resources with both invested in supporting students’ skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening.

    Guiding Principle 10

    Social and emotional learning can increase academic achievement, improve attitudes and behaviors, and reduce emotional distress. Students should practice recognizing aspects of themselves in texts (self-awareness), struggling productively with challenging texts (self-management), tailoring language to audience and purpose (social awareness), grappling vicariously with choices faced by others (responsible decision-making), and collaborating respectfully with diverse peers (relationship skills).

    Guiding Principle 11

    Educators should select works of fiction and nonfiction that instill in students a deep appreciation for art, beauty, and truth, while broadening their understanding of the human condition from differing points of view. Reading, discussing, and writing about high-quality prose and poetry should also help students develop empathy for one another and a sense of their shared values and literary heritage, while learning about who they are as individuals and developing the capacity for independent, rigorous thinking.

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  • March News

    Posted by Julie DeRoche at 3/16/2017

    Manchester-Essex Regional School District

    top skills

    At MERSD, our focus is coordinated and supportive of developing the most important skills students will need for future college and career readiness.  The World Economic Forum cited the above top 10 skills needed for a competitive future career.  All grade levels and content areas support the development of these 21st century skills. The district has begun to focus professional development in creativity and emotional intelligence at every level.  Our teachers participated in a keynote speaker presentation with Dr. Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. This summer, our goal is train teachers and administrators at Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence to learn more about the implementation of RULER.  For more information on these social and emotional strategies, click here!

    Next year is shaping up to be a very exciting year for professional and student learning!


    This month in art class, 3rd graders heard from Cape Ann Museum Education Director, Liza Browning. She introduced the students to the famous Cape Ann Folly Cove Designers and their founder Virginia Lee Burton. Virginia was also famous for writing and illustrating wonderful children’s books as Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, The Little House, Katy and The Big Snow, and so many more. In the spring, the 3rd grade classroom teachers will take the students on a field trip to the museum to see the authentic artwork of these wonderful, local artists. 
    Visit the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester if you can. It is free to teachers and their families, and has many fun family programs for all ages. www.capeannmuseum.org

    Teachers were trained this month in reading comprehension strategies from Stephanie Harvey's Comprehension Toolkit.  These foundational strategies focus on the following areas for developing strong reading habits:

    • Monitor Comprehension- helps readers keep track of their thinking and monitor their understanding as they read.
    • Activate & Connect-supports students in learning the impact background knowledge on their learning and supports them to connect the new to the known.
    • Ask Questions-highlights how readers can use questions to clarify unfamiliar ideas and discover new information.
    • Infer & Visualize-teaches students how to use context clues and text evidence to draw conclusions about and crack open the new concepts and big ideas in a text.
    • Determine Importancehelps students identify, organize, and share the important ideas and information in a text.
    • Summarize & Synthesizeencourages students to go beyond the simple restating of facts, to pull together their thinking, and use all the strategies to understand big ideas.

     We look forward to the development of these strategies in all grade levels!

    From the Middle School...

    Shakespeare and Company: March 15, 16, 17

    Many thanks to our generous community sponsors for joining The Parents of Manchester Essex Middle School (PMEMS) in funding our upcoming Shakespeare and Company visit.

    We can't wait for the whole-school play, Midsummer Night's Dream, and the grade-level workshops. Twelfth Night for Grade 6, Midsummer Night's Dream for Grade 7, and Macbeth for Grade 8.  A special thanks to Vidula Plante for her hard work and dedication to this project!

    Keys to Literacy Middle School Training

    We are working to embed Keys to Content Literacy focusing on writing at the middle school level. The Common Core literacy standards call for teachers of all subjects to embed writing instruction in content classroom teaching, especially writing from subject-area reading sources. Middle school teachers and administrators are learning strategic supports for teaching the following:

    • Using daily “quick writes” to support content learning and build writing fluency
    • Teaching students to incorporate basic text structures into formal writing assignments, such as introductions, conclusions, transitions, and body organization
    • Teaching “writing from sources” skills, including: gathering relevant information from content sources into two-column notes, using a topic web to organize before writing, writing a draft from notes, and source citation skills

    MERMS is a very exciting place with many new ideas and concepts being discussed and implemented to support the middle school model!

     From the High School...

    The Independent won first place in Excellence in Editorial Writing at the 47th Annual Suffolk University Greater Boston High School Newspaper Competition tonight. They were chosen out of 30 schools.

    High school departments have been working all year on developing new coursework and curriculum maps.  This is not easy work and their dedication to this important work for the district is to be commended!

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  • January and February 2017 News

    Posted by Julie DeRoche at 1/16/2017 9:00:00 AM


    Teaching Emotional Intelligence...Why?

    A few years ago I learned of the importance of Emotional Intelligence (EI) and its impact on student learning and self-efficacy and I wanted to share this important research and message with our staff.  Our world is changing and our students will face a future in which most careers don't even exist yet.  Which means, our students will need to be not only academically strong, but also more flexible, creative, divergent, and convergent in their thinking.  To me, understanding emotional intelligence means understanding the 'other side of the coin,' when it comes to students and their learning. This approach deals with understanding emotional drivers and how students internalize feelings and behaviors, often times impacting their image, self-worth, and overall educational capacity for academic success.  It makes sense then that we should invest in learning more about educating our staff and students about emotional intelligence and how this 'other side of the coin' factors into our students' everyday lives-both in and out of school! 

    Day One! On February 17, 2017, Dr. Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence was the Keynote speaker at Manchester-Essex's professional development day  His grant-funded research focuses on the role of emotional intelligence in learning, decision making, relationship quality, wellbeing, performance, and organizational climate. Marc is the lead developer of RULER, an evidence-based approach to social and emotional learning that has been adopted by over 1000 public, charter, and private schools across the United States and in other countries, including Australia, England, Italy, Mexico, and Spain. RULER infuses emotional intelligence into the fabric of a school through training for school leaders, educators and staff, students, and families, and has been shown to enhance wellbeing, academic performance, and school climate.

    Marc has published over 100 scholarly articles and is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Joseph E. Zins award for his research on emotional intelligence in schools. His research is featured regularly in popular media, including the New York Times, Time Magazine, and National Public Radio. Marc regularly consults with school systems and companies around the world, including Schwab and Goldman Sachs, and for the last four years he has worked with Facebook to develop tools that help adults and children develop emotional intelligence and resolve online conflict. Marc's research has also been accepted by Georgetown, Dartmouth, and Yale University.  These colleges have begun working with Marc to create college-level student coursework to support students' overall social emotional learning.  (http://ei.yale.edu/person/marc-brackett-ph-d/).

    Learn more about Marc Brackett and his research at Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence: 





    Emotional Intelligence at Manchester-Essex Regional School District:






    Reaching All Learners Professional Development Day was a great success! On February 17, 2017, our dedicated and knowledgeable staff offered many presentations to staff on topics such as: student-centered learning, formative assessment, behavior management, student engagement, literacy, supporting LGBTQ students, adolescent learning, digital portfolios, Google classroom, flexible seating, growth mindset, and technology. 

    Thank you to all of our wonderful teacher-presenters!  



    2 3 5


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  • November-December News

    Posted by Julie DeRoche at 12/6/2016 11:00:00 AM

    Curriculum and Instruction 

    • The New England League of Middle Schools (NELMS) recently conducted the school-wide assessment of MERSD middle school. This comprehensive assessment included: a two-day site visit, school-wide surveys of teachers, staff, and students, school-wide meetings, observations of classroom instruction, and conferences with a wide variety of administrators, community members, parents, teachers and staff. From the NELMS report, we will endeavor to inform our practice as a middle school and create systems of school-wide goals and supports for middle school students, teachers, and parents. We are committed to ensuring a middle school philosophy and look forward to continuously developing our middle school model!
    • MCAS 2016: This year, we analyzed school-wide data trends for the past five years.  Each school continues to score above the state level in most, if not all, standards across all schools and grade levels. Many strengths were noted, as well as areas for continued focus and support.  These data will help us to coordinate a multi-year focus on continuously raising student achievement for ALL students in our schools through assessing aligned curriculum, determining professional development, and supporting our students across all content areas through effective instructional strategy.
    • 2016 DESE ELA and Math Framework Revision Updates: DESE has updated the 2011 English Language Arts and mathematics frameworks to better support classroom instruction in critical areas. This week, we will attend trainings on the upcoming new revisions. To learn more about the upcoming revisions and changes, click here.  To review overview DESE briefs on the curriculum updates, please see:  
    • Curriculum Leaders: Throughout the fall and winter, MERSD curriculum leaders have been analyzing elementary school-wide curriculum in an effort to create a holistic view of elementary learning in MERSD. As we review these curriculum plans, as well as updates to the Massachusetts standards and school-based data, we will determine areas of strength and areas in need of support in the existing curriculum at each grade level.
    • MERSD High School Curriculum Mapping: Recently, the curriculum department chairs trained with an ASPEN consultant to learn how to write and map district curriculum using the ASPEN curriculum mapping module.  Over the course of the year, middle and high school teachers will begin the process of writing grade-and course-level curriculum within ASPEN to ensure that our curriculum is coherent, rigorous, multi-faceted, and aligned to most current Massachusetts standards.

    Professional Development

    • Wednesday, December 7, 2016, is a half-day for the district. Elementary teachers will be learning about the expectations of the new science standards and how these expectations align with the Know Atom science curriculum.  We look forward to working with Dave Lyons, a recent inductee to the Massachusetts Science Teacher Hall of Fame, to support us this year with this important work! Middle school departments will learn about the upcoming changes to MCAS 2.0 and the updates to the Massachusetts standards in ELA, math, and science.  High school departments will continue to write district curriculum in ASPEN.
    • Professional Development Committee (PDC): MERSD PDC is working to create a district professional development survey for staff.  This survey will help inform future decisions related to teachers’ needs for professional development.  In addition, the PDC plans to create a year-long professional development plan for the upcoming 2017 school year.
    • Reaching All Learners: The district continues to offer Reaching All Learners training in grades K-8.  This training supports our teachers with best-practice instructional strategies to ensure that all of our students’ needs are met in the classroom and beyond.
    • RETELL: MERSD has coordinated with SEEM Collaborative to host a RETELL course for our teachers. RETELL is a course required by DESE and designed for classroom teachers of English Language Learners.  The MERSD RETELL course will begin in December at the high school and will continue throughout the early spring.

    State Assessment

    MCAS 2.0: DESE Updates for 10th Grade MCAS Changes: Board Sets Implementation Date for 10th Grade Next-Generation MCAS

    The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously on October 25, 2016 to implement the 10th grade next-generation MCAS in spring 2019 (for the class of 2021). Members of the class of 2021 are currently eighth graders and will take the eighth grade next-generation MCAS this year, giving them some experience with the next-generation version before encountering it as a graduation requirement. Students in the class of 2020 and prior classes will take the legacy 10th grade tests to meet their high school competency determination.

    • MCAS 2.0 Blueprints: Grade-level teachers and departments are reviewing the new MCAS blueprints to learn more about the new exam and expectations at each grade level. Additional information regarding practice exams and grading rubrics will be released in January 2017.

    WIFI Update

    Thank you team! MERSD WIFI is back on track! As we continue to update our WIFI and server, we ask that parents ensure that students’ computers are running updated antivirus software and malware detection on students’ devices.At home, if you are a Comcast user and don’t have antivirus software installed, download your free Norton Antivirus software from Comcast at: https://customer.xfinity.com/help-and-support/internet/downloading-the-norton-security-suite/ as well as free Malware detection software from Maleware Bytes at: https://www.malwarebytes.com/mwb-download/.  Thank you for helping us keep our students’ devices virus free!

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  • October News

    Posted by Del Vollink at 10/11/2016

    So many exciting things are happening in MERSD schools this month!  

    October Professional Development Series

    Reaching All Learners Training

    Our K-8 teachers will be learning instructional strategies for students with disabilities during our extended Wednesday professional development series.

    Middle School NELMS 

    The NELMS survey window for teachers, parents, and students closes on Friday October 14th .  The NELMS review committee will conduct interviews and classroom observations on Nov 2-4 at the MERSD Middle School.  Results and feedback from NELMS regarding the survey, interviews, and observations will be available in early January. 

    High School 

    Year-Long Focus on Student-Centered Learning:  Refining the Principles of Good Teaching

    Departments are focusing on developing the principles of good teaching, expanding student-centered learning opportunities, and developing instructional strategies and authentic assessments.  Overall, this month during departmental professional development, teachers will focus on identifying the underlying expectations for students within the content. These trainings allow teachers the opportunity to focus on the big picture and to develop departmental statements of values and principles. 

    Upcoming trainings will focus on:

    • creating a department tool kit for instructional strategies
    • developing authentic assessments for project-based learning
    • developing guidelines for authentic assessments using expectations for project and student outcomes

    EBSCO Pilot

    Under the supervision of Sue Krause, the middle and high school library will organize a pilot of new EBSCO technology which incorporates all library resources in one searchable database. Ms. Krause will coordinate the pilot of these resources with Social Studies and English department research projects.

    District Focus on Assessing and Developing Student Writing

    Based on analysis of MCAS, AP, and district-based data, the district will focus on assessing K-12 student writing expectations.  Our first meeting in November will focusing on defining norms for Looking at Student Work and assessing the expectations of Massachusetts' grade-level standards for writing.


    Kudos to Del Vollink and the MERSD Tech Ninjas!

    Ms. Vollink is preparing to announce the launch of the tech team YouTube channel! Students have been working on making tutorials and examples for students and staff members. Teachers and students: if any of these make you laugh, or teach you something new, please tell the kids or leave a comment. Check out our Tech Team commercial or follow the tech team on twitter at: @METechTeam

    Essex and Memorial Elementary Schools

    Curriculum leaders met this month and discussed the standard curriculum and instructional strategies used at both Memorial and Essex elementary schools.  We are developing a process for identifying and coordinating how each school uses and expands upon existing district curriculum.  Updates and information regarding grade-level curriculum will be shared between principals, schools, and among teachers as the year progress!




    Kudos to MS. Tamara Burns!

    The month of October is the international celebration dedicated to the importance of drawing in solving problems and changing lives!  Last year we began participating in The Big Draw and it was quite successful.

    This year the theme is STEAM. This is a chance for students to work on the main floor of the high school as a live event.  Students will each choose a direction to work in from weekly sketch book assignments. This choice option added greatly to the excitement and passion shown by students.   

    I will also share The Big Draw info with the faculty(ms/hs)as well as with Claudette Yutkins, newly appointed Art/Music curriculum leader.   The community  is welcome to come in and see our amazing students work as we participate.  I will of course Tweet about this! See the link below for more info and a great logo for publications: http://www.thebigdraw.org/the-big-draw-2016-festival-theme

    The arts are a critically important aspect of education!  Such an event helps to underscore this!

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  • C&I News

    Posted by Del Vollink at 9/13/2016

    Welcome to MERSD Curriculum and Instruction!

    Congratulations to all of our school staff for a very smooth opening to the school year. This week we held parent open houses and very we will soon begin our district professional development series.  Much of our training during 2016-2017 will focus on developing instructional practices to support teaching all learners, student engagement, technology, supporting 'growth mindsets,' and fostering health and wellness in all children. Our elementary schools have been setting routines with children across schools and classrooms-and getting our students very excited for the year ahead! 

    Establishing Routines: Elementary Routines

    Growth Mindset: Carolyn Dweck on Growth Mindsets

    The middle school will begin working with the New England League of Middle Schools (NELMS) to further develop a middle school philosophy focusing on teaching young adolescents. Our training on 9/21 will start with learning about Middle School Turning Points and the Keys to Educating Young Adolescents: This We Believe: Keys to Educating Young Adolescents

    And, our entire high school is engaging in developing a new schedule and participating in trainings devoted to student-centered and inquiry-based learning.  I experienced high student engagement and inspirational teaching throughout the middle and high school today in many ELA, math, science, social studies, and art classrooms!


    Growth Mindset In HS Art!



     Have a great weekend!

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