Educational tools help school district align to new standards |

Educational tools help school district align to new standards

by Scott Neuffer

Two instructional tools targeted for early grades will help usher in increased standards in Douglas County schools, according to District Director of Curriculum Kerry Pope.

The district office has been introducing Thinking Maps and the Write from the Beginning program to elementary administrators, who in turn have been implementing them in classrooms over the last several years, Pope said.

She described Thinking Maps, a trademarked product, as a way for kids to organize their thinking and make better sense of information in any given content area.

According to Thinking Maps Inc., the product helps kids think about thinking by “creating a rich language of visual maps based on thinking processes.” Maps include sequential flow charts, cause-and-effect diagrams, and classification trees, among others.

For some schools, the maps are new. Others have been using them for yeas, such as Jacks Valley Elementary. The district has been offering training at both elementary and middle schools.

“It’s a site-based decision how much they’re rolled out,” Pope said.

Write from the Beginning stems from the Thinking Maps and includes “concrete rubrics” that help teachers see where students are at and what they need to work on, Pope said.

“It adds those objective pieces to writing,” she said. “As a parent, I’m thrilled my kids are going through the program. With just three months at school, I’ve seen a huge difference in their writing.”

Write from the Beginning also will help the district align its curriculum to the Common Core State Standards, which the Nevada Department of Education officially adopted in June 2010.

The new standards will replace all current English and math standards in Douglas County schools within the next three to four years, beginning in lower grades this fall.

According to the initiative’s website, Common Core State Standards is “a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.”

Forty-six U.S. states and territories have adopted the standards.

The school district currently is in the process of revising its competencies, those benchmark measures of proficiency first adopted in 1995, to better match the new guidelines. A working committee of teachers, reading specialists, administrators and school board members will be meeting 8-11:30 a.m. Nov. 21 in the Professional Development Center, 1617 Water St., Suite E, Minden, to begin revision of competency rubrics in K-6. The meeting is open to the public.

Under current proposals, the kindergarten rubric would change from requiring one complete sentence and matching illustration to requiring an opinion statement logically connected to the drawing.

By the sixth-grade, students in Douglas County schools would have to support an argument in writing. They would have to present their ideas in a logical fashion and backup specific claims with credible sources.

According to the Common Core State Standards, a sixth-grader must also “demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting.”

Pope expects competency revisions to go before the school board for adoption early next year.

For more information about the new standards, visit