Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers)
Please note that this FAQ document, along with several other useful resources, can be found here. Also, please note that this document is focused primarily on English Language Arts and Math, the two core subjects of annual State testing in grades three through eight.
1 – Here’s a brief description of our overall instructional program.
Harlem Hebrew uses a range of curricula in core subject areas, including Teachers College Readers and Writers Workshop in English Language Arts, Engage NY in math, Scott Foresman in social studies and Interactive Science in science. Teachers regularly supplement formal curricula through a mix of teacher-created and online resources. In Hebrew, teachers are trained in the Proficiency Approach to language acquisition, and use a wide range of materials and resources to immerse students in the Modern Hebrew language.
2 – Here’s a brief description of our program in English Language Arts.
Students have at least 1 hour and 45 minutes of English Language Arts (ELA) each day. The cornerstone of our ELA program is the Teachers College Readers and Writers Workshop program. This model fosters a love of learning while students engage in rich texts and meaningful writing tasks.
This year, we are supplementing the Teachers College model with a strong phonics program –Wilson Fundations — in grades K-3. We are also supplementing it with ThinkCERCA, an online writing program, in 4th grade.
Teachers also engage in small group instruction based on students’ performance on the NWEA MAP assessment (which is administered three times per year). Each small group engages with reading materials and work based on their current skill levels.
For more information, you may wish to explore the following links:
3 – Here’s a brief description of our program in Math.
Students have one hour of Math each day. Teachers use Engage NY, which is a high-quality curriculum based on the Common Core State Standards. Two teachers lead each Math class to allow for small group instruction.
You can learn more about EngageNY, including a grade level-by-grade level reference, here.
4 – How are teachers supported and trained to improve their instruction?
Teachers have attended regular workshops at Teachers College (Columbia University) in previous years. This year, they are supported through formal trainings with our consultants at Atlantic Research Partners, and through ongoing support from the Hebrew Public and School leadership teams, including observations, co-planning, and coaching. We are in the process of designing a new approach to our literacy instruction with the Lavinia Group, which has previously worked with Success Academies and Ascend Public Charter Schools, among others.
For more information, you may wish to visit:
5 – How does the School know which students are struggling, and in what ways?
We use formal assessments, such as NWEA, NYSELAT, and Fountas & Pinnell (F&P) to identify struggling students. The NWEA-MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) tests are given three times per year, and they identify areas of strength and growth opportunities for all students. The NYSELAT addresses areas of strength and growth opportunities for English Language Learner students. The F&P assessment helps teachers track students’ reading levels. The NWEA assessments, in particular, are highly aligned with the content and skills measured on the New York State annual tests.
Please click here to access the Parents’ Guide to NWEA MAP tests as well as the RIT reference charts. You can compare these reference materials to the student growth report you received at parent teacher conferences.
6 – What does the School do, specifically, to address the needs of struggling students in ELA?
Students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) (who make up about one quarter of the School’s enrollment) receive individualized services based on each such student’s special needs. Students who are English language learners are receiving targeted instruction from our ESL teacher based on their level.
In addition, we use the NWEA MAP results, informal assessments, and educator input to identify students who are at risk of not meeting proficiency standards. Teachers have grouped their students in reading based in part on NWEA results, and meet for focused time with their lower-scoring groups with specific plans for their needs. Many of the students also engage in daily work with a reading teacher.
As noted above, the addition this year of Wilson Fundations in grades K-3 is specifically intended to help students develop basic reading skills. The addition of ThinkCERCA will help our 4th graders with their argumentative and persuasive writing skills.
7 – What does the School do, specifically, to address the needs of struggling students in Math?
Math is always taught by two teachers, this staffing model allows us to teach in small groups, with additional teachers pushing in depending on individual student need. Several teachers are also receiving individualized coaching around specific math strategies. Hebrew Public and School leadership are reviewing several potential Math curricular supports, including Amazon’s Ten Marks. We anticipate choosing one or more of these additional programs in January to implement during the remainder of the school year.
For more information, please click here.
8 – What does the School do, specifically, to meet the needs of gifted learners or students who are ready to accelerate their learning?
In ELA and Math, the structure of small student groups allows teachers to customize rigorous instructional activities for students based on their current level of skill and their potential to take on more challenging concepts and activities. For example, in Reading, gifted students will work with more complex reading materials.
We are also in the process of choosing between Compass Learning and Study Island to further address needs for all students. Advanced learners and struggling students alike will benefit through each lesson being tailored to their exact instructional level. Both Compass Learning and Study Island allow students to access the full spectrum of Kindergarten through 12th grade content. More information will be forthcoming in January of the rollout of one or both of these programs.
9 – How are students being prepared to be familiar with the kinds of questions they will encounter on the State tests?
All class work is based on the Common Core standards covered on the State tests. Additionally, the students will practice test questions that mirror the State test.
10 – How are students developing the stamina to concentrate and persist through the online state tests, without an inappropriate level of test prep?
Like the State tests, the NWEA assessments are untimed, and students take them online three times per year (twice prior to the State tests). Students will also take a practice test under similar conditions to the State tests, in part to help them develop the stamina to focus throughout the State exams.
Lastly, the work that is done to support literacy and math is frequently done on a device (iPad or computer) thus increasing the student’s proficiency with online assessments.
11 – How are students being prepared to understand the importance of their best efforts on the state tests, without creating anxiety or fear?
School leadership and staff will ensure that students hear a consistent and supportive message around the state tests, similar to what they have heard regarding NWEA assessments. They will be encouraged to take their time in answering questions, to maintain focus and attention, and to work hard to show all that they have learned. In addition, teachers will be present to proctor the exams and to help students with encouraging messaging, maintaining attention and focus, and troubleshooting any technological issues.
12 – How, specifically, can parents support the School’s instructional efforts?
Parents can do a number of things to support the School’s instructional efforts and their students’ progress:
- Please make sure that your child arrives on time every day.
- Ensure you child has a quiet space to complete their homework.
- Encourage your child to read at home.
- Ensure your child has completed all school-related assignments.
- Stay in regular contact with your child’s teacher, and review your child’s NWEA results with the teacher.
- Discuss with your child’s teacher whether there are specific activities you and your child can do at home to reinforce areas of learning.
- Parents who are interested can do additional work with their child on Prepdog.org.
13 – How do parents learn the specifics of where their children are struggling or succeeding and what the School is doing about it?
Your primary point of contact is your child’s general education classroom teacher. In addition, depending on the area of interest, you may also need to be in touch with your child’s Hebrew teacher, special education teacher, or other school staff or leadership team members.
Reading the class newsletter is a great way to stay on top of what students are doing at school. If you feel that you need more support in this area, both the Head of School and Hebrew Public staff are available to answer any questions.
14 – Is the School planning any additional use of time to address the needs of struggling students?
In addition to the strategies, supports, and interventions described above, we are looking closely at school schedules and staffing to enable individual and small groups of students to receive additional targeted support during the school day. In some cases, this may involve our notifying individual parents that we would like to provide additional Math or ELA support to their children in February and March during time that would normally be used for other subjects.
15 – How can I support my student’s readiness to take the state tests online in the spring?
New York State has provided a wealth of information on its computer-based testing. Please do not have your student take the sample test at home, however, as we will be doing this at school. For more information on the State’s computer-based tests, please click here.
In addition, Compass Learning or Study Island (one or both of which will be implemented in early 2017) will have at-home logins that students can use to practice and push their learning. ThinkCERCA is already being utilized by many 4th grade families at home. Please see the Harlem Hebrew instructional staff if you have questions about access.
Lastly, for those new to, or struggling with, typing and keyboarding, this resource is very effective.
Thank you for your support of your child’s education!