Hoosac Valley Regional School District, Cheshire, MA
I spent this summer interning with Kristen Palatt, the director of curriculum, instruction and professional development at the Hoosac Valley Regional School District (HVRSD). HVRSD is a PK-12 district in western Massachusetts with approximately 1,000 students. The high school competes with two other nearby high schools to retain students going into ninth grade, and they have recently adopted a new curriculum for the first time in nearly 20 years. Over the course of the summer I worked in tandem with another intern on projects focused on maximizing learning opportunities and student achievement for children of all grade levels at HVRSD, specifically with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
To begin the summer, I worked with another intern to draft a district-wide homework policy. Similar policies are already in place in many districts across Massachusetts and the nation, although HVRSD lacked one. Furthermore, surveys of teachers at HVRSD demonstrated that homework assignments varied significantly from teacher-to-teacher. A homework policy would begin to standardize the quantity and quality of homework across the district, while also ensuring the homework assigned by teachers was aligned with current best practices. I read homework policies from individual HVRSD teachers as well as other school districts inside and outside Massachusetts, along with the relevant research on homework and to what extent it impacts student outcomes. I presented a first draft of a homework policy to the superintendent of the district and learned the steps that a potential district policy must go through before becoming an official policy.
Another project I tackled was developing a DEI instructional playbook that makes use of research-based best practices and strategies that are empirically proven to maximize student learning for all students, regardless of their background or identity. This playbook includes checklists that turn the latest research into easy-to-understand steps teachers can follow to guarantee their classroom is as inclusive as necessary. The instructional playbook is a tool that will be used in the professional development of teachers at HVRSD going forward.
A third project I worked on was comparing the learning modules that were a part of a new HVRSD curriculum to Massachusetts state standards for science and social studies. This work was crucial for identifying the strengths of these specific learning modules as well as the areas that are not covered by these parts of the curriculum, assisting HVRSD in ensuring their students are meeting or exceeding state standards.
This internship was incredibly formative, providing me with insight into the professional world of education and the many moving parts that come together to support teachers. The extensive research and writing I did will help me thrive both inside and outside of the classroom. Similarly, understanding DEI best practices will assist me in ensuring all spaces I inhabit, both professionally and personally, are as inclusive and culturally proficient as possible. I cannot thank the Class of 1972 or the ’68 Center for Career Exploration enough for enabling me to take part in this amazing internship.