HAMPSTEAD – Hampstead Middle School Principal Maria DiNola and Assistant Principal Darrel Dorion discussed the changes to the school schedule and curriculum and provided the board with side-by-side comparisons, as requested, of what the curriculum and Unified Arts offerings were this year and what the changes will look like next school year.
Changes had been made before review by the School Board.
DiNola’s previous presentation about the changes to programs and scheduling involved two proposals – the addition of a writing teacher for seventh grade and changes to the number and length of classes per day and adjustment of the Spanish program to allow for increased instructional time for writing.
DiNola explained that data-driven analysis based on iReady and NECAP (New England Common Assessment Program) scores had alerted her that HMS students need more focus on writing skills. Her changes were driven by trying to arrange a schedule and staff that could provide both sixth and seventh grades with a reading teacher and a writing teacher, via the addition of a writing teacher.
The length of the class periods has been increased from 44 to 55 minutes by reducing the 10 class periods per day to eight. That led, however, to adjustments to increase the instruction time allotted to Language Arts.
The decision was made to eliminate Spanish as a core seventh grade subject and return it to Unified Arts, and to offer Spanish as a Unified Arts program to sixth and fifth graders as well.
A further adjustment was to eliminate the part-time art position and reduce the Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) core program to a part-time Unified Arts program.
Restructuring these areas and the elimination of the enhanced learning class that was for students needing more than class time on a given subject played roles in allowing for the addition of the seventh grade writing teacher. Sixth grade will have a reading teacher and a writing teacher, as will fifth graders.
Modification of the Spanish program from a full year for seventh and eighth graders to a Unified Arts 60-day rotation for fifth, sixth and seventh graders – with eighth graders continuing to get a full year of Spanish – is designed to better address student needs, according to DiNola.
She told the board last week that she had heard concerns about the shortened lunch period and had returned it to 20 minutes and reduced recess to 15 minutes. In addition, she said a cohort of 24 seventh graders who are advanced readers and also advanced in Spanish will continue to have a full year of Spanish.
The WIN – What I Need – period will be for 20 minutes at the end of the day for remediation and enrichment for all students four times a week, and replaces the Enhanced Learning block that was offered five days a week for 40 minutes a day, she explained. Advisory will now be held once a week for all grades on Wednesdays during the WIN period.
She said the geometry period needed this past year has been eliminated because it has been incorporated in the new math program, and that class will be replaced with a dedicated writing course.
She also reviewed the Unified Arts offerings at each grade level. Board member Suzanne Barr questioned the shortening of the recess and wondered about the physical education periods, noting the importance of exercise for students at that stage of their development.
Curriculum Director Doris Buco said there are no specific requirements for physical education and DiNola said many schools don’t offer recess.
Board Chairman Jason Cipriano asked that DiNola put on the Web site the information regarding the changes in classes and scheduling, the Unified Arts offerings and the side-by-side comparison. The School District website is http://hcs.hampstead.k12.nh.us/.