Skip to main content

Instructional Leadership Newsletter: October 31, 2018

News from the Department of Curriclum and Instruction Support - Mrs. Melissa Comine, Chief Academic Officer

Stretch Your Thinking

October Coaching Workshops

October coaching workshops focused on Coaching for Your School Improvement Plan. As a participant you were able to refresh yourself on the habits and beliefs from Better Conversations by Jim Knight as you determined how to craft and sustain coaching conversations that are focused on school improvement goals.

School improvement and coaching go hand-in-hand.  Regular coaching is the means through which instructional leaders can monitor implementation and progress toward improvement goals. A coaching plan that is strategically aligned to the school's improvement and professional learning plan is a critical component in high performing schools.

As you seek to increase implementation and refine teacher practices that will move your school closer to improvement goals remember to focus coaching conversations on the selected strategies, and more specifically on the Success Criteria, written into individual school improvement plans. The Success Criteria should clearly articulate what learning should look and sound like once individual teachers have fully implemented the strategies written into the plan. While selected strategies will likely remain the same, leadership teams may need to adjust Success Criteria throughout the year in order to continue moving staff in a forward direction.

The October workshop provided three strategies that coaches can use to engage in focused coaching dialog centered around school improvement goals.

  1. Stay Focused - Coach only on one thing at at time. Base the focus and lens of your visits around your school improvement plan, and ensure teachers know the next steps he/she will need to take to improve his/her practice.
  2. Avoid Assumptions - Assumptions can make or break a coaching conversation. Identify your own assumptions before entering a conversation and consider asking probing questions to clarify situations and information.
  3. Ask the Right Questions - Enter the conversation aiming to listen more and talk less. Ask questions you are genuinely interested in hearing the answers to, and that are open ended. View the teacher as an equal conversation partner who has knowledge and experience to share.

Questions for reflection:

What next steps have you taken to ensure your coaching visits are focused on your school improvement plan goals?

How are you collecting and monitoring your coaching data to inform decisions about your professional learning plan and school improvement goals?

January coaching workshops will provide an opportunity for participants to reflect on how they have maintained a focus on school improvement through coaching, and then move deeper into how coaches can impact teachers' ability to reflect through coaching dialog.


Better Conversations, Jim Knight (2016)

Leading with Focus, Mike Schmoker (2016)

Academic Content Area Updates


The four priority goals from the K-12 Comprehensive Mathematics Plan for 2018-2019 are:

  1. increase teacher use of identified Best Instructional Practices of Mathematics in all classrooms
  2. engage teachers and instructional leaders in routine coaching conversations
  3. increase teachers collaborating among colleagues
  4. build the capacity of building leaders to implement and sustain a high-quality math program

The four goals are interdependent. When they are implemented with fidelity there is a synergy, with knowledgeable leaders coaching teachers who collaborate with each other to plan for, and implement best practices. Curriculum and Instruction Support is currently working with the research department to design tools for measuring progress toward these goals.

During August’s Curriculum Day growth mindset was a required session for all teachers of math. As a result, we have seen an increased focus on growth mindset in math, and across all disciplines. During the September Curriculum Day, the session focused on productive struggle. Principals and participants learned that students must be given opportunities to investigate mathematical concepts and persevere through challenging tasks. Productive struggle and mindset are closely tied together.

During the October Principal Meeting, math discourse was the focus. There is not a district Curriculum Day to present this information to teachers, so principals and building leadership are being asked to present professional learning in the area of math discourse. Feel free to use the CIS presentations and resources. You may also reach out to a member of the math team to support you in these efforts. Math will not present at the November Principal Meeting as Human Resources will be leading a session on teacher evaluation through the lens of math. In the coming months, professional learning for building leadership will focus on multiple representations and methods and providing opportunities to reflect and go deeper with all of the math focus areas planned for this school year.


Elementary teachers were provided multiple Literacy focused professional development sessions at both August and September Professional Development Days.  All teachers participated in a session focused on interactive read alouds at September Curriculum Day sessions. This learning opportunity provided great strategies for using our core reading resources to increase the rigor during whole group instruction by scaffolding instruction so that all students can access the grade level text. 

Elementary teachers also had the opportunity to attend sessions focused on implementing a “Simple System” of independent literacy experiences that increase the amount of time students spend reading and writing. Feel free to utilize this presentation and the Elementary Look Fors, available in the Instructional Leadership SharePoint, as you support teachers in preparing to implement this system for the 2019-2020 school year.

Secondary English teachers continue to utilize and dig deeper into the Collections resources and materials.  Fall Curriculum Days provided opportunities to explore the inner workings of Collections to support the OPS A+ Curriculum Guides for secondary English courses.  Dr. Richard Cash also provided professional development on differentiated instruction for all learners.  A variety of other sessions focused on assessment, sentence construction and expansion, alternative methods for novel study, and "unconference" sessions where the participants determined and lead the self-selected professional development workshops within English Language Arts. 

Additional professional development for selected high school English teachers took place following a district-wide ACT Writing event for all high school juniors.  These teachers participated in a workshop on October 18th or 19th to learn how to score these papers and determine areas of need and focus for the future.  


Curriculum and Instruction Support continues its focus on providing building leaders and teachers with support on implementing the new College and Career Ready Standards for Science. Fall curriculum days focused on the implementation of the new science standards and equitable science instruction.  Other professional development opportunities included Science Matters Network Point of Contact workshops, Science Circle meetings, and lesson study.  Nineteen educators have engaged in Science Lesson Study to examine student learning coupled with the implementation of the new College and Career Ready Standards for Science.

Elementary professional development on introducing the new core science resource Elevate, navigating an Elevate science lesson, and how to incorporate Pearson Realize into daily instruction have all been provided at both the district and building levels.  Elementary teachers should utilize Elevate and grade level A+ Curriculum Guides to provide a guaranteed and viable curriculum for science. It is recommended that teachers begin each quarter teaching social studies and end the quarter teaching science in order to maximize instructional time and implement the guaranteed and viable curriculum for both science and social studies with fidelity.

At the high school level, we are pleased to report that students earning seven or more science credits has increased steadily.  In 2014, 50.84% of OPS four-year cohort graduates earned seven or more credits, as compared to 56.84% in 2017, OPS four-year cohort graduates who earned seven or more science credits.  This increase is especially significant as we consider that students are only required to earn six science credits in high school.

Not only are our students benefitting from more rigorous and engaging science instruction at the building level, we also have the honor of working with excellent science colleagues at the district level. Congratulations to Curriculum and Instruction Support’s Secondary Science Supervisor, Dr. Chris Schaben, who was named the 2018 Outstanding Leadership in Science Education Awardee. This national award recognizes and honors a National Science Education Leadership Association member, who, through professional work, has demonstrated outstanding leadership in science education at the school, district, county, regional, and/or national level.


Social Studies

Social Studies remains a vital curriculum area that benefits students in many ways, both educationally and developmentally, as we prepare students to be civically responsible. An excellent example of this preparation was demonstrated by American Government teachers who worked with the League of Women Voters to register all eligible high school seniors to vote in the upcoming election. Additional students that are eligible may be registered by visiting  See the link below for an article in the Omaha World Herald highlighting these efforts.

These teachers, along with all other secondary social studies teachers, spent fall curriculum days focused on the four components of the C3 Framework as they discussed how mindset impacts instruction and delved into an inquiry guided question, “What do we do with our diversity?”

At the state level, work has begun on the standards revision process for social studies standards. This effort is being led by the Nebraska Department of Education, and ten OPS educators and leaders have been selected to participate in this process. Meetings began in early October and will proceed through 2019.  The Omaha World Herald also covered this emerging work in a recent article linked below.

While we look forward to new social studies standards, we continue to support teachers as they provide relevant and engaging social studies instruction utilizing the current standards. A new supporting resource available to all teachers is the Making Invisible Histories Visible documentary project focused on Omaha’s hidden musical history which is now available for use during classroom instruction at Elementary teachers can also access “Giganto” floor maps of Nebraska and the United States to enrich instruction. Nebraska atlases for each student and new lesson plans to accompany the atlases are also available. Please contact your elementary supervisor for more information on how to access giant floor maps or Nebraska atlases.

English Learners Office

The EL Office continues to focus on the use of academic language to increase language proficiency by extending and deepening academic conversations through the use of oral and written communication. The EL office will also continue to provide instructional support and coaching of the ESL Best Practices outlined in Tab 13 of the Best Instructional Practices Handbook.

The ESL Fall Conference took place on Saturday, October 20 at the OPS TAC building. Over 450 people participated in professional learning geared toward increasing academic outcomes for our English language learners! Almost 60 sessions were offered covering topics centered around cultural discussions, newcomer support, reciprocal teaching, text structures, writing, literacy mindset and Academic Conversations. Participant feedback was overwhelmingly positive:

"Thank you for this opportunity each year! It is very well organized and I get such great ideas each year that can be implemented with students."
"EL department sets the standard for the district's professional development."
"I absolutely loved all of the presentations. I also like having such a large variety of them to choose from. This was highly enjoyable and I feel like I came away with a wealth of knowledge!! Thank you so much!!"  

"The cultural sessions are fascinating.  Keeping current with the refugees who are coming to Omaha is important." 

"I attend every year!  And I'm not an EL teacher!  It's great!"




The Special Education Division if focusing on the following items for the 2018-19 school year:

  • Providing authentic inclusive opportunities and experiences for students with disabilities
  • Increasing staff capacity to implement positive behavior supports for students with challenging behaviors, especially focusing on students with Autism
  • Increasing staff capacity to support students with academic needs who receive special education services by focusing on high leverage strategies such as explicit vocabulary instruction

Please let us know how we can continue to help your building in enhancing outcomes for students with special needs.


Important Dates

November Important Dates

December Important Dates

Comprehensive Math Plan

Math Professional Learning Plan

Comprehensive Math Plan - Your Turn

Which of the four priority goals for mathematics have you best been able to implement?
Increase teacher use of identified best practices: 7 votes (50%)
Engage teachers and leaders in routine coaching conversations: 4 votes (28.57%)
Increase teachers collaborating among colleagues: 2 votes (14.29%)
Build the capacity of leaders to implement and sustain a high-quality math program: 1 votes (7.14%)
Total Votes: 14

Instructional Leadership News


  1. Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum
    • A+ Curriculum Guide
    • Learning Goals
      • What will the student learn? (indicator)
      • How will the student show the teacher?
      • Verb choice dictates the level of learning. (rigor)
  2. Instructional Framework
    • Checking for Understanding
      • Simple formative assessments
      • Descriptive Feedback
      • Adjustment to instruction or re-teaching
  3. Reading and Writing Across Content Areas
  4. Mathematics
  5. Coaching
  6. Data Use

Contact Us

Mrs. Melissa Comine, Chief Academic Officer

Mrs. Susan Christopherson, Director of Secondary Education

Mrs. Donna L. Dobson, Director of Elementary Education

Mrs. Tina L. Forte, Director of Title I

Mrs. Kara R. Saldierna, Director of Special Education

Omaha Public Schools does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, age, genetic information, citizenship status, or economic status in its programs, activities and employment and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups. The following individual has been designated to address inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Superintendent of Schools, 3215 Cuming Street, Omaha, NE 68131 (402-557-2001).

Las Escuelas Públicas de Omaha no discriminan basados en la raza, color, origen nacional, religión, sexo, estado civil, orientación sexual, discapacidad , edad, información genética, estado de ciudadanía, o estado económico, en sus programas, actividades y empleo, y provee acceso equitativo a los “Boy Scouts” y a otros grupos juveniles designados. La siguiente persona ha sido designada para atender estas inquietudes referentes a las pólizas de no discriminación: El Superintendente de las Escuelas, 3215 Cuming Street, Omaha, NE 68131 (402-557-2001).