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Nashua school board eyes ways to individualize education

Union Leader Correspondent

September 08. 2013 9:42PM

NASHUA — Kids learn in different ways at different paces, and members of Nashua’s Board of Education are exploring how schools can make education a more individualized experience.

The Ad Hoc Goals and Objectives Committee, which has taken on the task of drafting a set of one-, two- and three-year goals for the district, is looking at ways teachers can capitalize on individual student strengths and meet individual needs.

Last week, members discussed long-running student histories that would let teachers and administrators record a student’s educational successes and hurdles. Teachers who are meeting students in their classrooms for the first time could browse through the histories for insight into what works best with each individual kid.

“In our strategic plan and mission statement, we talk a lot of individualized education but we don’t really do that,” said BOE Chairman Robert Hallowell.

School administrators have been developing student performance profiles which include a one-page “Kid Grid,” a chart of grades and test scores. According to a district report, teachers spend the first couple weeks of the new school year figuring out what kids know and what they need to learn. The performance profiles could jump-start that process by giving them information to help assess individual kids and classes as a group.But BOE members felt the numbers offered a limited picture of students, particularly in terms of individualize education.

“We’ve made (students) test scores,” said BOE member Kimberly Muise.

Hallowell also said profiles based on quantitative data were limited.

“The kid grid is all grades and test scores,” he said. “It doesn’t tell you what kids are interested in, what motivates them.”

Although a history of each student’s academic development might help teachers reach students, the Goals and Objectives Committee acknowledged there would be some problems maintaining the records.

Muise said writing student histories would overburden teachers, especially at the middle and high schools where the staff teach multiple classes and have 80 to 100 students.

“It can’t be 100 pages long,” said Hallowell, who envisioned a running narrative that let teachers and staff add relevant pieces of information instead of filling out a student history form every year.

BOE member Dennis Ryder said the histories should reflect a student’s behaviors and participation in extra-curricular activities. However, he and other committee members agreed that privacy laws would exclude certain types of information such as medical records.

BOE member Elizabeth Van Twuyver, who chairs the Goals and Objectives Committee, said student histories were something to consider. But over the summer, the committee reviewed a long list of perennial public school issues including compulsory summer school, promotions and retention, assessment tests, class size, special education and the role of the school board.

The committee’s next step is to gather ideas and opinions from teachers, parents, students and other members of the community. Members are developing a survey to collect that information and will present a report to the full Board of Education in

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