Assistant Superintendent / Curriculum & Instruction

DoryRGB Why is the district concentrating on curriculum? Curriculum identifies what our students will learn at each grade level and is at the heart of educational success. Three years ago, Marblehead Public School district leadership recognized that we needed to renew our curriculum. Our goal is to ensure that all classes at the same grade level cover the same materials, and to link materials vertically so that curriculum in each grade builds on what was covered earlier as students advance through the system. Moreover, we needed to align our curriculum with the new state standards, so when our students are tested (MCAS/PARCC), (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness and College and Careers) they have covered the topics. The district hired a new Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction to spearhead the effort. This report updates you with the details of our district’s progress in curriculum renewal efforts.

Curriculum Alignment

A key priority for the district has been aligning curriculum to the State Curriculum Frameworks and the Common Core Standards. This has been an important focus of committee work during the past two years. Curriculum alignment is the process of coordinating learning standards, learning objectives, instructional resources and strategies, and assessment tools across grade-levels and content areas. Curriculum Alignment helps in providing for a well-articulated and coherent educational program. A major part of this work has focused on English Language Arts (ELA), Mathematics and Fine Arts. In math, we continue to implement “I Can Do” statements and power standards in the curriculum.  This work supports the alignment process as it relates to the GO Math! Program and curriculum units. In ELA, we have analyzed learning standards and worked them into measurable units of student learning. We are in the process of identifying Power Standards (refers to a subset of learning standards that educators have determined to be the highest priority or most important for students to learn. In most cases, power standards are developed or selected at the school level by administrators and teachers) which are incorporated into the curriculum. These “I Can Do” statements and power standards will help us in developing and revising ELA curriculum units. Work also continues in art and music.  The Fine Arts Committee developed a comprehensive set of “I Can Do” statements across multiple strands in art and music. Next steps include developing K-8 curriculum maps in art and music. We have drafted a K-8 music curriculum map aligned to the strands in the State Curriculum Frameworks. This work will continue at the next professional development day.


Elementary teachers continue to implement the GO Math! Program in grades K-5. This includes incorporating “I Can Do” math statements and power standards into classroom instruction. These are measurable skills that help guide student learning and focus instruction. Teachers have been engaged in professional development to support implementation of the GO Math! Program and Common Core Standards. These standards are incorporated into the State Curriculum Frameworks. Math Liaisons in each building continue to provide support to teachers in using technology available through Think Central—the technology component of GO Math! Parents and students can access this program to support math learning at home. During the school year, we will continue to develop and adjust curriculum to guide student learning and teaching. In grades 6-8, we continue to implement the Big Ideas math series, which is aligned to the Common Core Standards. The district will expand professional development on the Big Ideas math program, and work will continue to align grades 6-8 with a progressive curriculum into grades 9-12 taking into consideration the NEASC curriculum recommendations. In grades 3-8, teachers are making the transition to the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) math assessment, which will be administered this spring. This assessment will focus on the Common Core Standards. Work continues on incorporating a variety of math tasks in classroom instruction that supports the PARCC assessment. 

English Language Arts (ELA)

Another area of focus is the ongoing work in English Language Arts (ELA), K-12. During the previous school year, teachers worked on identifying “I Can Do” statements and power standards in ELA. We are in the final stages of completing this work, which will guide revisions to ELA curriculum.  Contained within the ELA Curriculum Frameworks, and Common Core Standards are five curriculum strands to guide teaching and learning. These include foundational reading skills, reading for literature, reading for informational text, writing across genres (narrative, informational/explanatory, and opinion/argumentation), language development, and speaking and listening. As we move forward with curriculum work, we will continue to develop and refine learning activities, instructional strategies, and assessments that support best practices in literacy and language, building the strong ELA program in the district.


As part of the district’s commitment to continuous curriculum renewal, we are in the process of conducting a review of the science program in grades K-12. This review process includes collecting a range of data including surveys, interviews, MCAS results, and curriculum documents.  Through this process, we will identify areas of strength and areas for growth, and make recommendations for curriculum, instruction, and assessment.  The final program review is scheduled to be completed by the end of January, 2015. At this time, we will have recommendations to guide the science program into the next decade. Additionally, this review will help the district make the transition to a new set of science standards--Next Generation of Science Standards—which will be phased in according to an established timeline. As we make changes to the science curriculum, we will build upon the many strengths in the district while moving in new directions to guide teaching and learning to support 21st century knowledge and skills.

High School:

The high school staff has been actively involved in curriculum development work since the beginning of the school year. This work has focused on developing scope and sequence and unit plans for all content areas. The High School is using a design model and template that includes standards alignment, essential questions, a needs assessment, instructional strategies and resources, differentiation to address diverse needs, and assessments. This work has been led by Principal Layne Millington, with support from lead teachers and staff. We will use this work as a foundation to determine next steps, including NEASC recommendations for curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Updates on completed curriculum sequences and units will be included in future NEASC Progress Reports. 


Building upon the wide range of assessment tools used across the district, we have expanded the Galileo Assessment to include grade 4. This assessment was first piloted in grade 3 at all elementary schools. Galileo has been very helpful is assessing student progress on the ELA and math standards. Assessments are administered three times a year—Fall, Winter, and Spring. Students respond to a variety of multiple choice items extending across multiple learning standards. Reports in the program help us determine areas of strength and areas for growth.  This data helps us meet the needs of students in a timely manner. We can use this data to determine where intervention and support is needed, while making adjustments to curriculum. The goal is to expand this assessment to grades 5 and 6 during the next two years.

Professional Development

With key initiatives underway across the district, we continue to focus on professional development to support educator quality and student achievement. We are maximizing professional development time during early-release half days, school meetings, after-school study groups, and the PK-12 professional development day in October. A range of work has been completed during these sessions, including school-data analysis, updating school improvement plans, teacher meetings on curriculum, instruction, and assessment, implementation of the GO! Math program, content-area curriculum development and planning, addressing NEASC recommendations, working on goals to support educator quality, developing common assessments, curriculum mapping aligned to the standards, and identifying and developing assessment tools to measure student growth and progress.


This report details our district’s multi-year progress in curriculum renewal, which began with math and was followed by ELA, and now extends to other areas. The work has been achieved with teams of teachers working together in groups large and small, facilitated by district leadership. We ensured sufficient time for teachers to meet to work on the new curriculum and receive ongoing training on curriculum, instruction, and assessment. In some cases, we adopted new classroom materials, and our teachers were trained in their use.  We also adopted new classroom assessments of our students throughout the year to provide feedback to teachers—student by student, and classroom by classroom- such information not only helping each student, but also leading to curricular and instructional adjustments. Curriculum renewal will be a cyclic ongoing process in Marblehead. We are pleased with the progress made over the last few years, a reflection of the enthusiasm and dedication shown by our teachers and staff to enhance the educational experience for all students in the Marblehead Public Schools.

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