Students in the Smyrna School District will start the 2014-2015 school year on Monday, Aug. 25. The first week of school will bring new classmates and teachers – but also many more changes in the district.

Smyrna School District Curriculum Director Dr. Sandy Shalk talked with the Sun-Times about what’s new including state testing, state standards, courses and career pathways, and high-tech help for students.

State testing changes

Of course the biggest item highlighted by Shalk is the implementation this year of the Smarter Balanced test. Gone are the days of DCAS tests. Now students will have one summative test in the spring to assess how students are learning the Common Core Standards.

State standards implementation

Just because the Common Core Math and English Language Arts Standards have been implemented, doesn’t mean the work is done. Shalk said the district will be looking at new science standards and visual performing arts (art and music) standards as well.

Shalk said the new science standards are done at the state level and the district is participating in training. A handful of staff members will look at how the new standards will be implemented; however some of the new changes are already being done in the classroom including engineering principals.

Shalk said the new arts standards haven’t been officially approved yet, but the district will have preliminary meetings with the state.

Curriculum additions

Smyrna High School students will have more classes to choose from with the addition of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and Allied Health career pathways. The STEM pathway will prepare students for careers in the ever-growing area of STEM. District administrators felt Allied Health made sense due to the number of health care providers in the area.

STEM was a class this year at the middle school.

The other career pathways offered at Smyrna High School are accounting, Air Force Junior ROTC, agricultural structures, administrative services, animal science, digital business communications, exploring childhood, family and community services, Jobs for Delaware Graduates, marketing management, natural resources and environmental science, performing and visual arts, plant science, professional academic, power and technical systems, and world languages.

Technology improvements

Shalk said the district is working on the instructional technology standards.

“Using Common Core and Smarter Balanced as a source of information about what standards need to be addressed, we are looking at what students need to be able to say and do using technology to support learning,” Shalk said.

One such technology improvement will be through the use of portable computers called Chrome books. The district is ordering 200 Chrome books this year. While each school will have Chrome books, the focus starting out will be in the elementary classrooms before expanding district-wide.

Shalk said students will have accounts set up through Google Docs in the Chrome books. Students will be able to log in to the program at school and home.

“Chrome books are a very cost effective approach in the schools to enable student learning,” Shalk said. “We are doing this for a number of reasons certainly to improve technology instruction, but also to prepare students for Smarter Balanced in getting the younger students more accustomed to what they need to do with Smarter Balanced.”