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April 13. 2014 10:51PM

Nashua board to hear about new writing course

High school administrators will present an overview tonight of a new freshman writing course designed to improve Nashua's dismal scores on NECAP writing tests.

For the past four years, more than half of Nashua's 11th grade students scored either partially proficient or substantially below proficient on the annual NECAP assessment tests.

In September, the school district launched a freshman writing course to help students develop and strengthen English language skills. The administration will present an update on that program tonight, at the Board of Education's regular meeting at 7 p.m. at Nashua High North.

English teachers from both high schools wrote the curriculum for the new course last summer. Unlike traditional English courses that have relied on different types of literature as a springboard to teach students how to organize and express ideas, the new course uses more informational texts as a starting point for writing argumentative essays and persuasive speeches. A shift from literature to more informational material is a hallmark of the new Common Core Standards.

The course, which includes instruction in vocabulary, speaking and listening skills, also requires students to maintain a portfolio of original and revised work.

The district spent $10,400 to develop the new freshman writing course, which included $6,000 for materials, $2,400 for curriculum writing and $2,000 for ongoing professional development.

According to the administration, anecdotal information from teachers has been positive with faculty from both schools seeing a bounce in student performance across all subjects.

The administration is seeking an additional $3,000 for professional development that will give teachers an opportunity to review the course and make needed adjustments. And according to a summary from the administration, students will need more access to technology since writing and editing assignments should be done on computers.

The board is also expected to make a decision on the proposal to extend school days by 12 minutes, starting on May 5, to make up a snow day. Because the additional time lengthens the work day for teachers beyond the limit agreed to in the last teachers' contract, the Nashua Teachers Union had to approve the change. A majority of teachers and staff voted in favor of extending the day and setting June 20 as the last day of the school year. Also on the agenda is a report on the 2015 budget proposal, which the board approved on April 9. The $100 million budget is roughly $1 million over the 2.1 percent increase Mayor Donnalee Lozeau urged the board to accept last February. The board cut about $1 million in spending from the original budget proposal but was unable to agree on any more reductions. They also rejected a string of proposals that would have raised revenue by increasing athletic fees.

btaormina@newstote.com


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