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Yarmouth schools hope to enhance curriculum

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Yarmouth schools hope to enhance curriculum

YARMOUTH — With Maine's summer coming to close and Labor Day around the corner, Yarmouth schools – public and private – are ready for another school year.

This year, the schools look to make some changes in the classroom to improve curriculum and advance area students.

The Yarmouth School District is starting several new programs and projects, which Superintendent Judy Paolucci hopes will prepare students for new state requirements beginning in 2014.

"We've been working hard to incorporate Common Core state standards into our curriculum," Paolucci said, explaining that the new state standards, which have been adopted by 48 states, are more rigorous than before, stressing writing and mathematics. 

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an opportunity for states to collectively develop and adopt a core set of academic standards in mathematics and English language arts, which includes literacy in social studies, science and technical subjects, according to the Maine Department of Education. The standards were released in June 2010.

One of the programs they have been developing to meet these standards is the science program, where they have been making the curriculum more writing intensive and implementing inquiry-based units with hands on experiments, Paolucci said.

"Teachers have added a lot of science writing and continued to work on that this summer," she said. "It's interesting to see elementary students doing experiments and using incredible scientific vocabulary. They did a great job, that's going to continue."

She said they will continue to refine the course work, although they will have the opportunity to measure the effectiveness this November when the new national science standards are published.

Enrollments have increased steadily over the last few years with more than 1,400 students in the district this year, Paolucci said.

Grades four and six saw the largest increase in enrollment, adding about 18 students, Paolucci said. To help manage the increase, the district hired new teachers for those grades and moved some around from different grades without as high of enrollment to accommodate.

"Sometimes we'll just get a bubble of one class that might be too big," she said. "But, we've been able to handle it by moving staff, so things are looking really good."

Paolucci said she is not sure of the reason for the increased enrollments in those grades, but said most of the new students are from families new to Yarmouth.

This year will also be the first year the school district has an all-day kindergarten.  Paolucci said they have added three teachers for the new grade. 

North Yarmouth Academy

The private school, North Yarmouth Academy, is also adding to its curriculum and taking a more "globally-focused" approach to teaching.

This year, the preparatory school is introducing a new language, Mandarin, and making an addition to the French program, which administrators hope will help accomplish part of the school's goal of making students world citizens, Head of School Brad Choyt said.

The Mandarin program brought a Chinese teacher to Yarmouth and will eventually coordinate with a sister school in China. The French-mastery program will give students the opportunity to not only improve their handle of the French language, but will also have history and social studies courses taught in that language.

The school is also switching from the trimester system to semesters. This will allow students to have more time in intensive elective classes, such as, interdisciplinary economics, which teaches both the mathematics and social components of economics, Choyt said.

"We hope that these programs bring out the best in our students," he said. "We are building on the longstanding tradition of the school, which is to prepare students for their lifetime and prepare students for life's challenges whether they stay in Maine or go elsewhere."

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or wgraff@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.