District Digital Library

Every student and staff deserves the chance to learn and thrive in an environment that is enriched by the latest technology. In 2012, voters in our district approved a mill levy override that, among other improvements, greatly strengthens our district’s capacity to equip students with 21st Century technology tools. As a result, the District Learning Technology Plan was developed. This initiative focused on transforming teaching and learning through digital connectivity and content.

This advancement in information technology has also started to revolutionize our libraries. Building on this concept, The Department of Assessment, Curriculum, and Instruction is proud to announce the creation of our new St. Vrain Valley Schools Digital Library. A committee comprised of staff members from Media Services, district library staff, and Department of Assessment, Curriculum, and Instruction developed this new digital library collection.

This new library offers eBooks and AudioBooks and Streaming Media, including over 52,000 copies for middle and high school students.  Many titles have both an eBook and AudioBook version and several titles have multiple copies.  The committee dedicated many hours to ensure that the best titles, topics, and authors are available in this digital library and that we are reaching all readers and interests​. In addition to myON Reader, over 900 titles are available for preschool and elementary students including embedded audio with more books to be added. Professional resources for teaching staff have also been purchased. You can enjoy this library anytime, anywhere on a computer, iPad, smartphone or eReader.

For further information and access please click on the following links or contact your school library staff.

Thank you and happy reading!


Today, at our Learning Leaders meeting, we reflected on the need for schools to develop a Target. A Target is a one-page document that clearly states the school’s goals for instructional improvement.  People who are involved in knowledge-work are more likely to embrace these  organizational goals if they have say in their creation.  This collaboration is often a balancing act between freedom and structure.  It is my opinion, when any team, staff, or professional organization embarks on developing goals they are in fact creating a powerful FOCUS.

“Focus sets a purposeful direction, brings meaning to our work, and helps us make better choices.  In work-life, you can either be the hammer or the nail. You can apply force and energy where you want it to go, or you can react to outside forces. The more you react instead of act, the harder it is to set your own direction.  A collaboratively developed target gets all on the same page, keeps us on an agreed upon course and sets a positive direction for a team.  A typical school day can be packed with many things to do, many of which have nothing to do with a well designed plan. When your mind and efforts are scattered like that, nothing gets done well, and some high priorities may get set aside or forgotten. With focus, distractions are kept to a minimum and your days are spent in a meaningful way. Motivation is high.  You have control and success will follow.”  Learning Leaders Google Group


Unit Plans on Google Docs

The Unit Plans for the 2013-2014 school year have been transferred to google docs and posted on the District website. These updated documents can also be accessed through the SVVSD Portal under the “Curriculum” tab.

In order to “be green”, we do not encourage teachers to print the unit plans.  Keep in mind, too, that as a google document, you now have constant access to any updates that may be made at your grade level.  However, if you operate your classroom best by a hard copy, please enter through Mozilla Firefox and click on “printable view” at the bottom of the page.  You may then find the unit you’re looking for, within that content area to print.
When teachers click on the new links to assessment or instructional resources, a Google collection should open (login to your Google Applications may be required).  These documents will appear in your Google Documents “home.”  Once the documents appear in your “home,” you can remove them or organize them as you wish within your Google Documents collections.  For the best printing and viewing of these documents, it is suggested to download these documents from Google Documents before printing.

The Shift …

For the past several months, our department has been discussing the shift to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC) assessment.  Generally, for English Language Arts, the CCSS emphasize much higher comprehension skills, reading and writing complex texts, and cross-curricular literacy instruction.

In the book, Pathways to the Common Core (Calkins et al), suggest there are some essential implications with regard to implementing the Common Core Reading Standards.

“The Common Core’s emphasis on high-level comprehension skills calls for a reversal of NCLB’s focus on decoding and low-level literacy skills.” For many years we have been providing instruction in decoding and low level comprehension.  Now, students will be asked to develop literal understandings of complex texts. 

“As you embrace high-level comprehension and analytical reading skills, you may need to acknowledge that many teachers never received any training or practice with these skills in their education or own reading lives.” Districts, schools, and grade level or department teams will need time to study and practice these skills.

“In order for students to do Common Core reading work, they’ll need explicit instruction in the skills and strategies of high-level comprehension.” Students will need a “tool box” of strategies in order to access and comprehend increasing difficult levels of text.  Clear instruction and practice are a must. 

“Teachers will need to assess the texts the kids are holding, and ensure they are texts on which they can actually practice synthesizing and critical reading.” Students will need to read texts that enable them analyze craft, structure, symbolism, and theme development at a deep level.

“Because reading will no longer be the domain solely of English Language Arts teachers, as it has been in most schools, science and social studies teachers will need to participate in professional development on reading instruction.” Students will need practice in these aforementioned reading skills in every text they encounter during the school day.  This will require a prioritization of the limited professional development time currently allocated.  In addition, students will need to read more non-fiction texts across the curriculum.  This table outlines the CCSS recommended distribution.

Level Literary Informational
Elementary 50% 50%
Middle 45% 55%
High 30% 70%

As we look at these implications, what then is needed for successful implementation of the CCSS? It will take the maximum effort from every educator in our district.

This will require intensive capacity building, professional development, and training for teachers, principals, and district staff. Smooth implementation requires clear communication and open discussions between, teachers, administration, parents, and students.

As we move towards implementation we look forward to working on the details of building capacity and professional development.

Update: State board assessments in science, social studies, English language arts and mathematics

New Assessment Update

Staff provided the board with an update on the new content assessments being implemented in 2014 for science and social studies and in 2015 for English language arts and mathematics.

Science and social studies:

  • The new science tests will be administered in grades 5, 8 and once in high school and social studies in grades 4, 7 and once in high school.
  • The new science and social studies tests are intended to be administered online.
  • Tests will include selected response items, constructed response items, and – for the first time – simulations and performance-based tasks.  Staff previewed several samples of these more interactive and engaging performance tasks.
  • In order for local districts to administer the science and social studies assessments online, an online readiness survey is being administered. Each district has identified a district technology coordinator who will complete the survey.
  • There will be opportunities for districts to be involved in the development of the new tests including item writing, item review, cognitive labs, field testing, anchor paper selection and data review.

English language arts and mathematics:

  • Colorado serves on the Governing Board of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) which is creating tests in English language arts and mathematics for states to use grades 3-11 beginning in the spring of 2015.
  •  Sample assessment items from the PARCC system can be viewed here.



ASCD and Common Core State Standards Resources

Last year, was a crucial planning period for SVVSD teachers preparing to roll out Common Core math and English language arts standards. Teachers must be prepared to teach the new standards. The standards call for some major changes in classroom practice to enable students to meet higher expectations, such as the greater level of text complexity in reading and challenging math expectations for all.  This ASCD resource features ground-level work among teachers reviewing and revising curriculum to align with the new standards. Over the next few weeks, I will post additional resources to help in preparation for our second year of Common Core implementation.

Ditch the Workbook: Create Student Interactive Notebooks that get Results

Dear Secondary Social Studies Teachers,
For the past two years, TCI (Teachers’ Curriculum Institute), the publisher of the textbook series used in our 7th, 8th, and High School US History social studies classes, provided us free of charge the Student Interactive Notebooks associated with the program.  Unfortunately, TCI will no longer provide the Student Interactive Notebooks gratis.  In addition, due to the Colorado State budget crisis and subsequent cutting of funding to school districts, we are not able to purchase these notebooks.  (The cost for the Student Notebooks are $6.00 each).
However, we have a solution to this situation, one that many of you are already employing. Currently, many teachers in the district are creating their own notebook and prefer this to the “store bought” version.  One of our district teachers that is using the do-it-yourself method is Joan Hollins, social studies teacher at Longs Peak Middle School.  Joan is TCI trained and has agreed to conduct a workshop on how to create your own interactive notebook. Please take a look at her workshop description.
Ditch the Workbook: Create Student Interactive Notebooks that get Results
Learn how to create your own interactive notebook (workbook) and develop a system that keeps students organized, allows for quality learning, and provides a portfolio of work that is always present. By using a spiral or three ring binder, we can integrate the reading notes from our TCI program with other pieces of writing and vocabulary and help students create a product that is always available for reference and important enough to them to keep track of all year. It is a great tool for student-lead conferences as well. While this is directed at TCI users, it is a great tool for any content area, and all are welcomed.
Here are the details for this training:
Date: August 6, 2012
Time: 12:30PM-3:30PM
Location: Educational Services Building Board of Education Room
Cost: Free
Additional: All attendees will be compensated for attending this workshop at the extra duty rate.
Please email me if you are interested in attending this training or have any questions.
Thank you for your outstanding dedication and commitment to our students and schools! Please feel free to contact us with your suggestions and questions.

“It’s about how students use their brains to contribute to a topic, not just the regurgitation of that topic.”

This post, by Heather Wolpert-Gawrony, is an excellent essay demonstrating how the Common Core standards  promote creative thinking, creative writing, and creative ways of expressing for students. She argues that the standards encourage students to develop critical thinking skills rather than simple recall.  To read the entire post click here.