MANCHESTER, N.H. – Report cards are undergoing a transformation in Manchester’s public schools and members of the Manchester Board of School Committee’s (BOSC) Teaching and Learning Committee got a look at that transformation on Tuesday night.
Led by Manchester School District Assistant Superintendent Amy Allen, school district officials provided an update on the district’s transition to competency-based learning, beginning with the shift to competency-based report cards at the elementary school level.
In the competency-based learning model, grades are replaced with lists of expected benchmarks that the student has achieved. In theory, this aims to remove the stigma from struggling students showing what they have accomplished and where work is still needed rather than focusing on what they’ve done wrong.
Currently the new type of report card is only available at Parker Varney Elementary School, but it will be rolled out to every school from kindergarten to eighth grade in September, with Allen believing that teachers across the district are ready for the change as well as other efforts to standardize curricula across the city.
The move to competency-based learning was one of the recommendations in the 2020 Manchester Proud plan.
At the elementary school level, a total of 57 pathfinder teachers, or teachers that are piloting the new curricula model, have received two classroom follow up visits on the transition according to Allen.
At the middle school level, another 39 pathfinder teachers have also received support sessions on the new model, with competency-based report cards for English Language Arts also expected sometime next year in addition to new programs based on career exploration.
Additional information on the curricula-standardization at the high school level was also given, emphasizing a focus specific course selection for particular college and career pathways.
At-Large BOSC Member Peter Argeropoulos asked if teachers would need to make their own lesson plans to fit within the new framework or if they would be provided a “soup to nuts” standardized lesson plan
Dan Joseph, a consultant working for the district on competency-based learning, said that the goal is to be somewhere in the middle, providing support to educators but also working in a collaborative manner to avoid a one-size-fits-all model as it has been found that certain lesson plans for certain educators or students may not be effective.
Ward 3 BOSC Member and Teaching and Learning Committee Chair Karen Soule was happy to see the progress, even if it has now taken two years to implement, saying that she would prefer the district takes its time as long as they get things right the first time.
“We are way ahead of where we were two years ago, we are moving in the right direction,” said Soule. “Sometimes you need to go slow to go fast.”
Soule requested that Allen return with an update at the Teaching and Learning Committee’s meeting in April.