Thursday, November 30, 2017

Strategies for Classroom Dialogue

Strategies for Classroom Dialogue  Transforming Teaching and Learning through a Constructivist Approach 

3 Credit Course Offering
This course is designed to introduce participants to the philosophy and pedagogy of student centered classroom dialogue known as “Socratic Dialogue or the Harkness Pedagogy” Participants will learn how to design classroom lessons that move instruction from teacher-centered classrooms to student-driven learning. Participants will learn a range of techniques for teaching students to listen, collaborate, explore, and construct essential questions and understandings from classroom activities and texts. Teachers will learn how to implement Socratic Dialogue in a variety of disciplines and will have the opportunity to work with colleagues to plan lessons using these approaches. This course is appropriate for upper elementary through high school teachers.

 Instructor: Katherine Cadwell, Harwood Union HS Teacher, 2016 Rowland Fellow Dates: Four Days: June 25- 28,2018 and six two- hour sessions TBD throughout the fall semester Location: Harwood Union High School

 Registration Process: 1) Please click here to register
 2) WWSU (HUUSD) PD request form must also completed*
3) * SNHU Registration Form (provided before the start of class) must also be completed if taking the course for credit

 For more detailed information, contact Katherine Cadwell at See Strategies in Classroom Dialogue for an overview of this work

Monday, November 27, 2017

HUHS Socrates Cafe-November 13, 2017

Harwood Union High School welcomes author & philosopher Christopher Phillips for Socrates Cafe featuring Harwood teacher Kathy Cadwell, Joy Worland from the Joslin Memorial Library and Judi Byron of the Waterbury Public Library

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Getting Started With MAP Skills

Getting Started with MAP Skills

Included with our transition to MAP Growth- the two to three times per year assessment system that tracks student performance in Literacy and Math. HUUSD also has a subscript to MAP Skills --which is a skills mastery and progress monitoring assessment that helps teachers drill down to the specific skills each student needs to learn. 

MAP Skills is designed to be used between MAP Growth administrations to see exactly what struggling students are missing and advanced students are ready to take on—then adjust instruction in the moment and monitor student progress. While specifically designed for students in Grades 3-8, Skills can be assessed as enrichment for students in grades K-2 and for remediation in grades 9-12. Click Here for an information FACT SHEET about MAP Skills. 

This graphic shows how Growth and Skills work together to build concepts for improved performance. 

While not required during school year 2017-18, teachers should practice using this tool now and throughout the Spring in anticipation of a more formal implementation of the tool in 2018-19. SKILLS will easily support on-going DATA TEAM analysis of student performance and progress monitoring within our MTSS system. SKILLS also provides personalized practice for all students in grades 3-8 and can serve to compliment classroom instruction. Students find the "Missions" engaging and connect instantly to the dashboard view and content management display. 

For more information on getting started with MAP Skills please click this link. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

November 2017 Updates

Writing Portfolio Expectations 2017-18

Again this year student proficiency in writing will be assessed through a portfolio scoring process. Student portfolios in targeted grades should contain up to 5 pieces that demonstrate the student's best work across all genre (minimum of one piece per genre or 3 total). Additional effort should be made to sample student writing across the curriculum (e.g. science, health, social studies… etc).  

Writing samples can be selected from pieces that have gone through an editing process, but should reflect the student’s own ability to apply feedback obtained through indirect means such as conferencing, or self-assessment. While direct/specific feedback and explicit corrections may play a part in writing instruction- writing pieces that have been redrafted following this teacher-directed process would not be suitable measures of student proficiency.

The Scoring Process
This year scoring of student portfolios will take place over the course of the school year within the individual buildings on or before the dates specified below and agreed upon scores will be entered directly into ALPINE. Effort should be made to score student work in vertical teams rather than at individual grade levels. Please see the attached “Directions for Scoring Writing Portfolios”

Dates for Scoring
1st Piece- December 15, 2017
2nd Piece- March 30, 2018
Remainder of the Portfolio- June 8, 2018

Elementary Program Selection Updates

The Elementary Mathematics Program selection committee is transitioning to their third and final program under review. So far the team has implemented a unit from the new Investigations program, a unit from Bridges Mathematics, and last but not least will be Engage NY (Eureka Math). The team visited Rick Marcotte Central School in South Burlington in October to see Bridges Math in action, and will visit the Barre Town school to see Eureka Math. 

On December 15th the team will reach consensus on a recommendation for the administrative team on the program they feel best matches the criterion identified for evaluation. Following that, the administrative team will make the final decision and determine next steps. For more information about this process please follow this link

If you have questions about the team's experiences please contact our committee representatives directly

Warren- Elizabeth Tarno
Fayston- Doug Bergstein, Jean Goldhammer
Waitsfield- Ann Beattie, Ali Hale
Moretown- Brenda Hartshorn, Deb Fadden

Crossett Brook- Melinda Anderman
Thatcher Brook- Anne Hutchinson, Pam Menz

LTEE Updates

The HUUSD Leadership Team for Excellence in Education continues to work to monitor and implement aspects of our district-wide action plan. Specifically the work is carried out by four sub-committees, each of which is detailed below.  

Group 1. Flexible Pathways/ Passage Presentation- this group is currently focused on better aligning expectations and supporting implementation of Personal Learning Plans across our schools. In addition they are focused on the development of a Passage Presentation process to take place at the end of 8th grade (similar to the 9th grade process already in place). 

What is a Passage Presentation? 

In the HUUSD, students demonstrate growth and achievement of the Learning Expectations in two ways:

  • A portfolio of learning, and 
  • An aggregation of scores received through learning opportunities (courses) on identified Proficiencies

This process helps to ensure that all students are engaged in their learning and are on pace to be successful in the next grade to which they will advance. This process provides an authentic audience for formalized reflection on learning and helps to engage students in the curation of their Portfolio of Learning. 

What is a Portfolio of Learning?

A portfolio is a selected body of student work and reflections that provides evidence of a student’s progress toward the HUUSD Learning Expectations. The portfolio is the anchor for the Passage Presentation. Each student in 9th grade has a digital portfolio using Google Sites. This process will extend to 8th grade during the current school year. 

What is a Passage Presentation?

The passage presentation is an academic rite of passage: a benchmark presentation at the end of a pivotal year in which students demonstrate their readiness to move on to the next level of education. Students present evidence that they have learned key content, concepts, and skills as well as habits of work, by presenting a portfolio of work to a panel.

Rationale of the Passage Presentation

  • It empowers students to take the lead role in reflecting on their learning and actively thinking about their strengths, challenges, and next steps in the learning process. 
  • It creates a culture of evidence for learning and increases student engagement.
  • It pulls together an audience that includes some of the most important people in the lives of students to mark their growth and readiness as a scholar. 
  • It provides a practical foundation for the Senior Capstone project.

Logistics of the Passage Presentation

While this description needs to be update to reflect the current school year- this checklist provides a strong description of the reflective process students must engage in to be prepared for their presentations. Passage Presentation - Student Checklist
Students present to a core teacher, another school adult as available, and a small group of peers (2-4) and parents and/or other adults important to the student, are also invited. 

Group 2. PD/ Learning Community

This group has been primarily focused on improving the outcomes for our shared staff meetings- and they also have their eyes on future PD opportunities for district-wide inservice (include our full days in June 2018). As part of this process they have also surveyed administrators in reference to improving Professional Development for Support Staff. They maintain the primary objective of continual support for the shift to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) practices in all classrooms by providing time for teachers to work together in the planning process.  

Group 3. Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting

This group has been focused on developing the Proficiency-based Learning Expectations that will align with the Middle and High School level outcomes already in place. These expectations will be preliminary shared with staff at the November 14 staff meeting- while a more formalized version will be share later in January. In addition, the group has started to focus on the Verification of Proficiency at the 8th grade level. 

4. Equity

This group has been in consultation with Matt Kolan (presenter from last year's September inservice on Equity) and Shadiin Garcia. The focus on their work is to prepare to share and build upon the outcomes of our District Management Council (DMC) study conducted last year. The purpose of our continued consultation with Matt and Shadiin includes the following goals:

  • Identify areas of work that support the creation of school systems grounded in equity, access, inclusion and diversity that is manifested throughout the course of each student’s, staff member’s, teacher’s, and administrator’s experience.
  • Develop an equity plan that complements DMC’s methods and findings which will include strategies for engaging with the community
  • Develop a robust professional development scope and sequence for district employees and school boards with outcomes that enhance a professional skillset in operationalizing equity practices ranging from curricular content to human resources to leadership and more.

This group also plans an (elective) 2018 summer course that will increase our own understanding of equity in schools and build on our capacity to create improved outcomes for students. 

NGSS Statewide Science Assessment 

FROM: Amy Fowler, Deputy

The Vermont ESSA State Plan, developed by the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) with significant stakeholder feedback, received official approval from the US Department of Education in September. As Vermont works to implement an accountability system that better reflects the state’s education priorities as stated in Education Quality Standards, changes will need to be made at the state and local level.

One such change is the development of a new science test that will be fully aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The NGSS-aligned assessment will be field-tested in May 2018 to ensure it meets standards of technical quality.
The NGSS-aligned assessment will be administered to students in grades 5, 8, and 11. This represents a change from practice in 2016-17, when the NECAP assessment was administered to grades 4, 8, and 11.

The AOE intends for this test to be administered via computer, and to make use of innovative item clusters that will make it possible to measure the full breadth of the NGSS standards. The assessment will include reports to parents and schools that clearly articulate student performance. Additionally, the assessment will include accommodations and accessibility features to provide access for a broad range of diverse student needs in Vermont.

At this time, the best way for schools to prepare for the new assessment is to ensure that local curriculum and instruction are fully aligned with NGSS. To answer additional questions regarding the NGSS-aligned assessment, the agency developed a list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Monday, October 23, 2017

2017 NECAP Science Assessment Scores

October 23, 2017

All Vermont students in grades 4, 8, and 11 participate in the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) for science unless a student qualifies for alternate assessment or an exemption for medical reasons. This assessment was given in May 2017 and our recent results have now been released.

The NECAP test measures students' academic knowledge and skills that make up Science Literacy. Student scores are reported as scaled scores and at four levels of academic achievement:
  •          Proficient with Distinction
  •        Proficient
  •         Partially Proficient
  •         Substantially Below Proficient 

This is the last year of administration of the NECAP Science assessment as Vermont adopted new Science Standards knows as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2014. Vermont is currently working with Rhode Island to develop our new NGSS aligned assessment. A statewide field test of this new assessment is scheduled for May 2018, with full implementation for the 2018- 2019 school year. The exam will be given in grades 8 and 11 as in the past, but because of the layout of the NGSS, Vermont will now give the exam in 5th grade as opposed to 4th. The assessment will be shorter than the current NECAP, computer-based (similar to the Smarter Balanced test) and will include technology-enhanced test items. The current plan calls for two, one-hour test sessions.
A summary of Harwood Unified Union’s Science NECAP Scores for the past three years compared to the State are as follows:

Scaled Score

Grade 4
Grade 8
Grade 11
Proficient Cut Scores Grade 4=440, Grade 8=840, Grade 11=1140
Percentage Proficient or Above

Grade 4
Grade 8
Grade 11

Save the Date: Community Socrates Cafe, Monday November 13, 2017

Community Socrates Café
 with Christopher Phillips, author of Socrates Café: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy
“How do we balance freedom and security in our Democracy?"

6:30-8:00 PM Monday November 13, 2017
Harwood HS Library, Duxbury, VT

Co-Sponsored by the Joslin Memorial Library and the Waterbury Public Library

For more information contact:

Katherine Cadwell, HUHS@
 Joy Worland, Joslin Memorial Library @
Judi Byron, Waterbury Public Library @

Friday, October 6, 2017

What is a Harkness Classroom?

This is a Harkness Classroom

While meeting with a group of Elementary Math Educators today, we happened to be located in one of the classrooms at HUHS using the Harkness Method for classroom instruction. What is Harkness? they all wondered. Many of our Harwood Educators are participating in a course with teacher Kathy Cadwell who focused on this practice through her 2016-17 Rowland Fellowship, and continues her work by sharing these effective practices with others in our school. 

Click here for a video showing this practice in action and to learn more about Kathy's vision to support teachers in transforming their classrooms from teacher-directed to teacher-facilitated to student-driven learning environments. This video features Harwood students learning from one another using the "Harkness Table" methodology. These practices are completely aligned with the shift to proficiency-based learning, and are a key part of a student-centered learning design.  Check out Kathy's Blog to learn more.... 

From Kathy's Blog.... History of Harkness

Harkness refers to a method of teaching that was developed in the 1930s at the Phillips Exeter School in New Hampshire. The philanthropist Edward Harkness challenged Exeter with an offer: he would make a sizable donation of money to the school if they could originate and implement a radically student-centered method of teaching, and then use this method in all classes. After having their first proposal rejected by Mr. Harkness as “not radical enough,” Exeter eventually committed to moving away from the traditional model of teaching in which the teacher lectures information to students, the students copy the information onto paper, and later, the “regurgitate” the previously instructor-fed information back onto tests and essays. In a Harkness class learning takes place through discussions held around a circular “Harkness Table.” Sitting at the table, all members of the class must question, contribute, and contemplate in order to learn and succeed. Today all classes at Exeter, from English Literature to Algebra, from African History to Chemistry, are held around Harkness tables and use the Harkness method of learning.

Why Harkness?

Of the many different arguments in favor of the method, the most important may be that it goes beyond the mechanistic transmitting of information, and experientially teaches students how to learn.  It is false to assume that students know how to learn. Academic learning requires a series of complex skills, such as the ability to analyze texts, verbal and written articulation of questions and ideas, listening, critical thinking, dialogue and research, to name a few.  If students only learn in the traditional way, receiving information from their instructors in bite-sized chunks, and then later repeating the information onto tests, the skills they will have learned from this experience can be called little more than “parroting”: a parrot can be trained to repeat what it hears, but it holds little, if any, understanding of the meanings of the words it says. Likewise, students can learn to repeat what they are told without having to actually understand what they are repeating. Furthermore, the implicit message of lecture instruction is one that ultimately disempowers students.
As “unbiased” as teachers try to be, educating is, based on the content and pedagogical approach to the curriculum chosen, a political endeavor. By maintaining their place at center stage—their classrooms filling stations for the empty-vesseled students, and they the Guardians of Truth—teacher-centered teachers convey the lesson that their students’ ideas and questions have no explicit worth outside of how well they relate to the teacher’s own ideas and questions. Additionally, teacher-centered classes reinforce the state of intellectual powerlessness common to most students and adults: only “qualified” authorities possess truth, and their opinions we must seek: truth is had by only “qualified” authorities, and we must seek their opinions. While the results of the teacher-centered method may be a pleasant boost to the teacher’s own sense of intellectual superiority, the students are taught to distrust their individual ideas, and to rely too heavily upon the opinions of others; they learn not to trust in their own capacities to discern truth.
The Harkness class lessens students’ ability to simply “parrot” information. As members of the learning group, students must engage with the class by asking questions and contributing their own thoughts. In general, Harkness teachers will minimize the amount of information and answers they give directly to their students. Instead, they will give their students’ resources in which the information and ideas can be found, or at the very least, they will help their students locate the necessary resources. Because of this approach, students will experience the complex process of learning. This is a process in which they must involve themselves to a much greater degree than they may normally be required: students may not simply write down what teachers say. They must search for the ideas and information and then wrestle with that which they find. Students who engage themselves with the Harkness class will finish with a greater sense of autonomy and empowerment, knowing that they know how to learn. They will also finish the class with an increased ability to verbally articulate their questions and opinions in discussions. Additionally, Harkness students will come away with the important understanding of the power and necessity of listening, as well as the skills needed in order to be effective listeners.
What Harkness is Not
Harkness is not the Socratic method of teaching.  As it is generally understood, Socratic teaching involves asking students questions about their ideas, continually pointing out weaknesses in the ideas until students “realize” the correct conclusions. The conclusions, however, are predetermined by the teacher, and the students only qualify as having realized if they agree with, or surrender to, the teacher’s ideas.   This type of teaching is teacher centered: the teacher is the sage on the stage, throwing forth pearls of wisdom to the flock of befuddled and bewildered minds below. Socratic teaching is excellent in terms of providing students with the experience of intensive critical thinking, of seeing an intelligent and intellectually engaged adult in action. The downside, however, is that the method focuses too much on the personality and interests of the teachers, perhaps leaving them feeling masterful and smart, but imparting feelings of subordination, stupidity, and even harassment onto their students. The Harkness class will generally have, nonetheless, a Socratic feel, in that students’ ideas are questioned and commented upon. For the most part though, these questions and comments will come from the students’ peers rather than the teacher.
Harkness is not just “teaching through discussion.” While many teachers use class discussions in their courses, the discussions still tend to be very teacher driven: the teacher asks the questions, keeps the class focused, decides when to move on, and for the most part, still sits in the dominant role as expert holder of Truth. Conversely, some class discussions become very loose “blow-off-steam” forums in which members of the class (usually the dominant ones) shout out their opinions and argue back and forth.   Unfortunately, these quasi-debate style classes almost always contain more hot air than substance—they lack the structure necessary for the type of critical inquiry that leads to substantive conclusions upon which a class may build in the future. Furthermore, these types of discussions give students a bad model of intellectual dialogue: combativeness, blind position-taking, and immaturity are the lessons learned.