Your Parent Guide to i-Ready, TNCS’s Math and Reading Platform!

At The New Century School, Curriculum Specialist Adriana DuPrau is always looking for ways to effectively engage students in their learning. One long-standing method is the i-Ready platform, which TNCS adopted several years back to help teachers assess the math and reading areas their students might need additional support in, personalize their learning, and monitor their progress throughout the school year. TNCS teachers immediately appreciate the targeted, individualized instruction i-Ready allows.

The early implementation of i-Ready turned out to be rather prescient, when TNCS students found themselves distance learning nearly a year ago now—fortunately, i-Ready was at the ready, and students were able to continue making their math and reading gains without a hitch! For some families, one thing did change, however, and that is the presence of parents working at home alongside their students. Parents, having seen your children working with i-Ready first hand, many of you have questions about the platform, and that’s what this edition of Immersed hopes to address!

Mrs. DuPrau finds that a commonly expressed concern is that, “Parents feel [i-Ready] isn’t placing their child at the correct level and also find it repetitive. We are hoping to help families feel better or to help educate them on the program.”

Here are three important links where you can find a treasure trove of super helpful information:

But we’ll also walk through some of the key points so you have everything in one place.

Perhaps most importantly, you should know that your participation in this process is not only welcome by TNCS teachers and staff, it is also beneficial for your student. According to i-Ready’s website, “Helping families understand i-Ready and encouraging them to talk with their child about strengths or areas for growth support a growth mindset and student success.”

i-Ready Resources

The first item you’ll want to keep handy is the Family Guide. This is available in English and Spanish as well as other languages. Your students already know much of this information, but you never know when you might need to revisit the basics.

You can also view these helpful videos, available in English and Spanish.

View Resource

View Resource

Next, download these “Fridge Tips” to make sure you are supporting your student in ways that will serve them best in their distance learning endeavors and ensure their digital readiness.

Finally, a host of technical support as well as resources for how you can track your child’s progress at home and how your child’s placement is determined are available at these links:


See? With just a few clicks, you are ready for i-Ready!

TNCS Gives the Trex Recycling Challenge an Extra Pinch of Fun!

Logo_with_tagline3For the second year running, The New Century School is participating in the Trex Recycling Challenge, only this year, TNCS has upped the stakes!

Environmental sustainability is a key message at TNCS, and TNCS students in all divisions learn the importance of protecting our natural world as well as regularly engage in various initiatives that actively support it. Being “green” is part of our identity—just look at the school logo! Last school year, then TNCS Parent Council member and now TNCS PC Director Tilly Gurman heard about the school recycling challenge and thought it was ideal for TNCS students to join.

Trex School Recycling Challenge

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You can get the scoop on what qualifies as recyclable here (as well as in an explanatory video below) and where to drop off your materials here. We’ll explain more about the need-to-know info of the school challenge itself in details outlined throughout this post, and you can get just about everything you need to know in this handy presentation from the TNCS Parent Council Special Events Committee.

But first let’s explore that “extra pinch of fun”!

What Was That About a Competition?

And now on to the really good stuff! In our case, the competition is two tiered: TNCS is up against other mid-Atlantic schools (with comparable student body sizes), and we are also doing an intraschool competition—classroom à classroom!

This year, the Special Events committee of the TNCS Parent Council is running a Name the Blue Crabs Challenge! In a “crab shell,” here’s how it goes:

“You’ve seen the crabs in action. What would you name them? Share your ideas [in Google Classroom]! The class with the highest total of recycling in December gets to name the crabs and keep them in their classroom for the month of January!”

Friday, January 8th, is the last day to log your weights and and drop off your Trex Recycling items at the various sites for for the naming contest. (Note, that the overall challenge runs through April 15th.)

To keep TNCS students invested in the process, videos of the crab duo’s journey to TNCS were posted in Google Classroom.

As if all this isn’t great enough, for the Mid-Atlantic contest, we could win special prizes from Trex such as our very own park bench made from Trex recyclables! Due to TNCS’s small size and mixed-age classrooms, we are able to compete as an Elementary contender in the 0 to 350 student body category and will face off against other MD schools as well as schools in Washington, DC; Delaware; Kentucky; Ohio; Virginia; and West Virginia. Every school that participates gets an award.

So What Is the Challenge?

TNCS will compete in the Trex Recycling Challenge through April 15th. The challenge is simple: Gather plastic grocery bags, bread bags, ziplocs, bubble wraps, case overwraps, dry cleaning bags, and newspaper sleeves and take them to specific drop-off locations to be recycled. Wait—those items aren’t recyclable, you’re thinking? Normally, no, but this program takes many such plastics that most recycling programs (including ours in Baltimore) do not take. Trex, on the other hand, turns them into decking material and outdoor furniture (more on that below).

💚♻️ Trex Recycling Challenge How-To Guide

  • Collect your plastics (bread/newspapers wrappers, bubble wrap, etc.); see below.
  • Weigh them when a sufficient amount is reached.
  • Fill out this form with your weight.
  • Drop off the plastics at Safeway, Harris Teeter, Home Depot, etc. (See locations here; check that location is still participating during COVID-19 restrictions.)
  • 👍👍👍👍Show your support on Facebook!

To clarify what qualifies as recyclable for this program, basically, it’s down to #2s and #4s. Also, download a handout here.

 

To learn more about the Trex company, see TNCS Has NexTrex Recycling Challenge in the Bag and watch this informative video!


Note: Even after Earth Day and the Trex School Recycling Challenge has come and gone, the giving back doesn’t have to stop! We can continue to collect plastic film and bring it to our partner locations.

 

Jalynn Harris Writes a New Chapter for TNCS 5th- through 8th-Graders!

At The New Century School, farewells usually also mean hellos! That’s why, when former TNCS middle school homeroom teacher Daphnée Hope went on maternity leave unexpectedly early, Jalynn Harris was ready to step in. “Ms. Lynn” as she prefers to be called, began acclimating to TNCS in October, learning the ropes alongside Mrs. Hope to ensure a smooth transition for students. But, as you’ll see, her joining the TNCS community seems almost destined.

Prologue

Before becoming the 6th- through 8th-grade homeroom teacher and English Language Arts (ELA) and Global Studies teacher for the 5th through 8th grades, this west Baltimore native was immersing herself in her craft—writing. She studied Linguistics as an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After her years as a Tar Heel, though, she felt called back home and pursued a Master’s of Fine Art at the University of Baltimore in poetry and book design. “I really learned a lot and enjoyed my studies,” she said. She also began teaching Writing Composition to undergraduates during her time at UB and graduated in the spring of this year. “I’m finally out of school,” she joked.

But she never really left the classroom. Earlier this fall, she taught a book-making class for the Baltimore Youth Film Arts Program, an affiliate program of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. They wrote, took photos, and designed their own books. “It’s a really great program that starts at age 16 through high school,” explained Ms. Lynn. “I encourage kids to enroll. They even give you a stipend for your work.”

The Story Begins

And now here she is! She says that she saw the listing on Indeed for a daily substitute, and something clicked:

I was thinking I felt ready to teach but hadn’t been applying for teaching positions yet. When I saw that listing, I knew it was time to do what I knew I wanted to do. Prior, I was feeling kind of shy about it, and then, of course the pandemic made me question whether this was the right time. But I really knew I want to be in the classroom. So I applied and spoke with Señora Duncan. When I learned that Mrs. Hope taught ELA and Global Studies, it was like serendipity—my major was Linguistics, and my minor was Geography. I was like, wow, my two favorite subjects—it was obvious alignment!

Although hybrid teaching (simultaneously virtual and in-person) might seem especially daunting to any new teacher, Ms. Lynn has adapted beautifully, probably largely due to her approach that will sound familiar to anyone among the TNCS community. “This is totally new, so I’m making mistakes and learning as I go,” she said. Being willing to try something new and challenging is just the resilience that we need right now, and it’s a great attitude to model for TNCS students. On top of the special demands placed on educators this crazy year, this is also her first experience teaching this age group. Nevertheless, she is particularly well suited for this new role she has adopted:

I’m very passionate about certain aspects of ELA. I’ve had two incredible writing teachers in my life who basically inspired me to write and to teach. The model is one of toughness combined with nurturing. They were always pushing me to pursue my curiosities and my work. That’s the kind of teacher I am—I really am very excited about student work. I encourage them to do their best and find their voice because I really believe writing is so powerful and potentially life-saving. Reading and writing saved my life, and I want kids to be able to engage with that and express themselves. Being able to express yourself is the most important thing. I also really hope to reach students who aren’t super excited about ELA as a subject. I hope to figure out what is interesting and see if I can pull that out.

Ms. Lynn credits Mrs. Hope for setting expectations. ELA requires rigor, but it pays off in so many ways. She describes her students as very independent. “I’m very impressed with how independent they are at such a young age. They are a mix of types of learners, so I’m still learning how to get to everyone, but I’ve encouraged them to explore EdTech tools, little add-ons, to try to engage them differently.”

Although her writing has had to take a bit of a back seat currently as she’s teaching full time, she is still writing. As a creative writer, she writes poetry: “I self-published my thesis, which was my poetry debut,” she said, “and I had a few poems published this year.” Of late, she says her writing has taken more of an editorial, journalistic turn. As these pieces published in BmoreArt show, Ms. Lynn is a fan of the late Lucille Clifton, who lived in Baltimore for many years and was the Poet Laureate of Maryland. In fact, Ms. Lynn says Clifton is her inspiration.

A Writers Workshop is Coming to Lucille Clifton’s Baltimore Home

This update just published earlier this month.

Baltimore Residency Space The Clifton House to Launch February 2021 

And she also recently published a piece in the archival journal Black Archives.

This dovetails nicely with what her students are working on—personal narratives followed by expository writing. For the reading component, the theme this semester is historical nonfiction:

  • A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park: 5th grade
  • Path to the Stars, by Sylvia Acevedo: 6th grade
  • Every Falling Star, by Sungju Lee: 7th grade
  • Night, by Eli Wiesel: 8th grade

In class, they hold literature circles, do peer review workshops on each other’s writing, and enjoy the occasional pep talk from Ms. Lynn about doing their best on quizzes and tests. She has students write about their writing strengths and weaknesses as well as make a plan for improvement. She also meets one-on-one with each student to get to know them better.

“I am very excited to be a part of this community and learn from the students,” said Ms. Lynn. “Teaching has taught me so much, and I’ve learned something from my students every class. I don’t know if they realize how much I’ve learned from them.” Another important thing she wants the TNCS community to know is how much she wants to get to know everyone:

I’m excited to meet everyone’s parents. I’m disappointed that with this coronavirus year there will be some people I won’t ever meet in person or won’t for a long time. I wish I could have more of a relationship with both students and parent, but it’s just not what’s going to happen. I’m very much still open to talk, though! If parents want to reach out and just say hello, I would love that. Parent communication is very important here, so I’ll make sure I keep everyone in the loop and don’t exclude anyone.

Jalynn Harris at the beach in Cape Town earlier this year, a favorite spot of hers. She studied abroad there during her undergraduate friends and made a lot of friends. “I go back almost every year to soak up the sun and chill with my friends,” she said.

Epilogue

“This community is so awesome, I love how small the school is, the greenhouse . . . there are so many aspects of the school that are unique. I felt really invited and welcomed,” said Ms. Lynn.

We are so glad you are here, Ms. Lynn, and are excited to see how you help our children find their voices, as you have so wonderfully found yours!

Check-In with TNCS Curriculum Coordinator Adriana DuPrau: The 2020 Edition!

Through all of the pandemic-associated upheaval we’ve seen in 2020, The New Century School has stayed true to its mission to challenge students to realize their richest individual potential through progressive, multilingual education and meaningful participation in the world community.

That has been no small feat. TNCS administration, staff, and faculty rallied together and found innovative ways to keep TNCS open and its students flourishing. Many of those ways happen behind the scenes but are no less vital to TNCS’s success. One of these behind-the-scenes heroes is TNCS Curriculum Coordinator Adriana DuPrau, who has held this position since 2017. Although a lot has changed since then and also since we last checked in with her in early 2019, Mrs. DuPrau still describes her primary role as two-fold: teacher-facing and student-facing. However, this year she has also taken on a bit more of a parent-facing role as well.

Curriculum Coordinating: Teacher-Facing

Mrs. DuPrau acts as a communication liaison between TNCS teachers and Head of School Señora Duncan, filtering teacher requests and untangles snags they might be experiencing to allow them to focus on their day-to-day teaching. “The majority of my time is still working one-on-one with teachers, either coaching them, or figuring how to make their schedules work, or setting up virtual classrooms,” she explained. Speaking of the virtual classrooms, that’s obviously one of the biggest changes this year. “Teachers are working both virtually and in person, which is stressful for them. I can provide an outlet for them to talk it out.” She validates their feelings but also keeps the conversations constructive by steering them toward finding solutions.

She spent the beginning of the year making sure teachers had the curriculum that they need. She researches all of the offerings out there and tries them out to see if a certain program is a good fit. One example is Word Voyage Vocabulary Builder that is designed to help students in Grades 4 and up build and strengthen their vocabulary. Another is Discovery Education, that enhances global studies and science lessons. In past years, watching the webinars and speaking to the company representatives was something of a shared task between Mrs. DuPrau and the teachers, whereas this year, she took on the responsibility of onboarding these new programs to save teachers’ some time. For their part, they were happy to let Mrs. DuPrau make those decisions this year, even though normally their input is such an important part of the process.

Even with all of the advance vetting she does, adopting something new can still be difficult for teachers. “I’m learning that teachers are already so stretched this year that tacking on new information almost seems like dumping. I’m finding that it’s just a different year in general.”

Another new aspect of the curriculum this year is the social justice component, which everyone is excited about. “I’m finding resources to use and organizing them. I’m taking a really fun course to keep my teaching certification up-to-date, where I’m actually able to learn about these new tools and figure out ways to help the teachers without overwhelming them,” said Mrs. DuPrau.

“I also still try to be in the classrooms,” she said. “Not as frequently as I have in the past because I’m trying not to mix in too much with the cohorts, but I’ll jump in on a zoom meeting or be there in the classroom. We have some new teachers, and I want to be present to see in person what’s happening. In this new learning environment, if I want to be able to make suggestions and advocate for teachers, I actually need to see the difficulties, not just hear about them.”

Curriculum Coordinating: Student-Facing

TNCS students, too, are feeling the stress inherent in pandemic-influenced academic life. By and large, though, those resilient youngsters have adapted remarkably well to all of the changes thrown at them. After some initial student hiccups at the beginning of the year, such as with technology, Mrs. DuPrau has lately been able to concentrate on her real passion–working with students who need extra support. “Whether it be giving them more work or figuring out how to help them keep up, I try to help with all dimensions of student life. How can we work with these kids to make sure they are getting what they need?”

One way she has always helped outgoing 8th-graders is by researching schools—going to information nights or signing up for admissions tests—and ensuring that students make all of the associated deadlines. She also spearheaded creating a virtual hangout for them to share their experiences of applying to high school.

As part of what she calls “student life,” the school store is also up and running, and Mrs. DuPrau says she felt that getting more Spirit Days on the calendar would be a boost for students. (TNCS has t-shirts and accessories on sale for our students, teachers, and families at this link!) Such community events are wonderful ways to maintain student engagement, as are the invitations for safe, on-campus activities for virtual learners to optionally participate in and spend some time in person with their cohort.

Another brand-new initiative Mrs. DuPrau just launched is the K–8 Community Classroom, where all sorts of fun things will take place (via the Google Classroom platform), including a Thanksgiving recipe exchange. The recipes shared here may even be compiled in a TNCS cookbook—stay tuned for more updates on that.

The recipe exchange is intended to bring some holiday fun for students to share with their families, but the forum will offer ongoing community-building activities designed to engage all students.

Curriculum Coordinating: Parent-Facing

As mentioned, somewhat of a new role Mrs. DuPrau has adopted this year is acting as a messenger between parents and teachers, sitting in on meetings, for example, and again always trying to be solution based.

“Parents are also feeling stressed and that stress comes in to play in the way they are feeling about how everything’s going,” said Mrs. DuPrau. Normally trivial problems like a technical glitch can bother us to a different degree. “So, in general, I try to keep everybody positive and looking for the good and making sure everyone’s flexible.”

Bringing It Home

With all of the work Mrs. DuPrau does to support TNCS teachers, students, and families, it’s easy to forget that she, too, has a life! This school year has presented challenges for her also. “I think the biggest challenge for me honestly has just been trying to keep everybody’s morale up,” she said. She finds little ways to provide “pick-me-ups” like passing out Halloween candy to teachers (shhhh . . . our little secret) or offering to cover classes. Having been a teacher for many years, she can certainly sympathize with the difficulties they face during this year of hybrid teaching, but she strongly believes that a solution-based attitude is necessary. Again, though, that’s in itself pressure. “My biggest challenge this year has been trying to keep everybody’s spirits up.” Mrs. DuPrau says her husband and dark chocolate provide the pick-me-ups she needs. A “good morning” would also do wonders to start her day off on the right foot!

Mrs. DuPrau sees the education-during-a-pandemic situation from multiple perspectives. She is sympathetic to teachers (some of whom are understandably concerned about returning to school after the Thanksgiving holiday, when students may have traveled or been exposed to more people than usual), as mentioned, but she also thinks TNCS is overall very lucky to be open. Her husband, who is a teacher, would love to be seeing his students in person, but is instead teaching from home and has a 3rd-grader simultaneously learning form home. Here again, she is also extremely sympathetic to overworked parents in similar situations.

“We’re all on the same team,” said Mrs. DuPrau. “We continue to find new ways to celebrate the TNCS community as we look to the future.”