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Boquet: St. John students learning stronger Tier 1 curriculum

Teachers in St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools were tasked this year with implementing only the best curriculum, as rated by the Louisiana Department of Education.

The state rates curriculum available to school districts and separates it into tiers. Tier 1 curriculum is the top-rated curriculum and it became required at all public schools in St. John the Baptist Parish this year.

The goal is to improve student learning and prepare students for new English Language Arts, mathematics, social studies and upcoming science assessments that are linked to rigorous, college- and career-ready standards adopted by the state.

To prepare for the instructional shifts required by these more rigorous standards, teachers and administrators in St. John the Baptist Parish Schools began the school year engaging in professional development that focused on defining what “rigorous” high-quality instruction looks and sounds like in each of these core content areas.   

This training has continued throughout the school year, probably most noticeably to parents on the delayed start days when our staff members meet with the Tier 1 curriculum vendors to continue their learning.

However, behind the scenes, educators also meet weekly for professional development and they come out on weekends such as during our recent Super Saturday workshop that focused on specific content.

The St. John the Baptist Parish School Board recognized its school level Students of the Year for eighth grade at its Feb. 7 meeting. Superintendent Kevin George recognized school level Students of the Year, from left, Cali Boudreaux, John L. Ory Communication Arts Magnet School; Emani Payne, Garyville- Mt. Airy Math and Science Magnet School; and Norelle Frank, East St. John Preparatory Academy; Yasmin Moore, Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School.

Teachers with students who are struggling to master grade-level content aligned to the standards are provided continuous coaching as well.

It’s this kind of intentional planning that teachers such as Bertina Richard, a third-grade math teacher at West St. John Elementary School, say have helped them embrace the Tier 1 curriculum and made it clear what standards their students need to master.

Those teachers, and their students, have risen to the challenge.

Teachers have embraced the shift and are implementing a high-quality, content-rich curriculum.

Students are consistently engaged in grade-level content and spend the majority of their time focused on the major work of the grade. New ways of measuring progress, such as Tier 1 curriculum embedded assessments and LEAP 360 interim assessments, make sure students are where they need to be and are progressing toward the growth targets set for each student this year.

Jennifer Gleason, who teaches first grade at Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School, said she has fully embraced the new curriculum resources and added that when used faithfully they provide students with a wealth of knowledge that prepares them for mastery of the standard they are studying.

Gleason said the curricula also provide resources for intervening with students who have not yet achieved mastery so that she is able to create an effective action plan to help those students improve.

West St. John High School 12th Grader Amiya Lumar is the Student of the Year.

Amy Sargona, a middle school English language arts teacher at LaPlace Elementary School, said the units are scaffolded in a way that allows her to get her students to become deep thinkers.

“Each lesson builds upon the previous lesson and provides a way to not only model the completion of various tasks, but also to model thinking processes, which is key,” she said.

“My students aren’t learning to regurgitate information; they are learning to think deeply, analyze, and express their ideas in a way that wasn’t done with old-school literature textbooks that used short stories and passages to teach literary skills and comprehension in isolation.”

Jennifer Boquet is the communications specialist for St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools. Email her at jboquet@stjohn.k12.la.us.