Improvement Plans completed, discussed at School Committee
|By Courtney Llewellyn|
Reminder Assistant Editor
EAST LONGMEADOW As the 2007-08 school year comes to close (last day for students is June 17), administrators of the East Longmeadow Public Schools looked back to review their School Improvement Plans and how their goals were reached during last Monday's School Committee meeting.
School principals first discussed their school improvement goals with the School Committee last October. All five schools in East Longmeadow identified three goals and discussed ways those goals could be met. At last week's meeting, the principals shared how successful their strategies and goals were during this school year.
East Longmeadow High
High school principal Richard Freccero and assistant principal Michael Knybel spoke with the committee first about their three goals: reviewing and revising the science curriculum, completing New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation requirements and increasing student scores on the math and English Language Arts (ELA) MCAS tests.
Knybel explained that the reason the science curriculum was expanded was because colleges look for students to have three full years of science now, instead of two. He added all freshmen will now be required to take biology so they are not overwhelmed with three "high-stakes tests" their sophomore year.
Sophomores are required to take math and ELA MCAS tests.
"At their March 30 meeting, the NEASC approved our five year improvement plan," Freccero told the committee. "That means we are accredited for the next five years, but we need to start pre-planning for their next visit in 2013."
The high school needed to complete 53 recommended actions by March 1 to maintain its accreditation.
To increase the test scores on ELA and math MCAS tests, the high school began additional instruction for 91 students who were identified as needing extra help.
Principal Kathleen Hill noted Birchland Park Middle School's three goals as bringing a strong focus on literacy and numeracy to students, focusing on school climate to provide a safe and healthy school environment and developing professional learning communities for staff.
To attain the first goal, Birchland Park provided afterschool and in-school math programs to help students who scored at or below a certain level on their math MCAS tests. Of the 42 enrolled in the in-school program, Hill noted an average of a 15 percent improvement rate, and the 37 who enrolled in the afterschool and in-school classes saw a 19.4 percent improvement rate.
One highlight of the goal to improve literacy included 350 students creating profiles using the Renzulli Learning software. The Web site, which can be accessed at school or at home, provides hundreds of interest-based materials to challenge and engage students, online field trips, critical thinking activities and much more.
Parents can take a tour of the Web site by visiting www.renzullihome.com/home/tour.aspx.
A reading inventory at the middle school found that during this school year, 86 percent of sixth graders, 79 percent of seventh graders and 87 percent of eighth graders had average or better reading skills.
Assistant principal Paul Plummer explained that 52 advisories (homerooms) were created to work toward the school's second goal. The groups met with advisors every morning for 20 minutes to discuss issues that concerned them.
"I think it went very well," Plummer said.
The school also hosted 15 school-wide learning projects this year, including collecting can tabs for the Shriners Hospital, starting a recycling program, hosting a gift collection during the holidays and more.
Anti-bullying activities were part of the second goal as well and while there were 10 percent more reports of bullying this school year versus the last school year, Plummer said he believed the program did help.
Hill explained how the creation of eight professional development communities in the school Hands-On Curriculum, Art Therapy, Local Field Trips, the Teenage Brain, SMART Boards, Building Technology, Young Adult Literature and Educational Literature Discussion Group gave her faculty the chance to expand what they already know.
Three members of the Mapleshade community principal Wayne Wilson and teachers Deborah Barry and Mary Toller spoke on their school's improvement goals.
Toller discussed how the school investigated strategies and models to identify and support English Language Learners (ELL) in the classrooms. She explained how teachers have been attending workshops to help them aid these students by providing "language rich environments" with focuses on vocabulary and learning using visual aids. She added that Mapleshade has also acquired reading books, kits and activity books to help these learners.
Wilson estimated there are between four and six ELLs at the school.
The principal went to cover goal two, improving Mapleshade's composite performance index for special education in ELA. He explained 15 students were identified as being eligible to take alternative MCAS tests for evaluation and that four participated.
Wilson added that the creation of a literacy closet with 100 new guided reading titles will help students master the ELA.
Promoting good character, community service and spirit was the goal Barry discussed. She said students and teachers worked on character education, created over 100 posters for the school's hallways, participated in events for Coats for Kids, Rachel's Table, Pennies for Meals and more, started recycling plastic in addition to paper and hosted five spirit days: Constitution Day, Favorite Sports Team Day, 100th School Day, Patriots Day and Sunny Day in the "Shade."
"These things make the kids feel so good," Barry said. "And sometimes they come in with their own ideas."
The biggest goal reached for principal Judy Fletcher and assistant principal Alaena Podmore was the creation of a "Peaceful Playground."
Podmore explained that the playground was organized and prepared through the efforts of school staff, parents and students. With the addition of 30 games to the school's playground, staff focused on teaching students different conflict resolution strategies.
"If anything, they're overusing 'Rock, Paper, Scissors' to resolve conflicts," Podmore laughed.
Fletcher discussed a goal to investigate pre-referral screening models for special education, stating the school looked at both national and state referral programs and compared them to East Longmeadow's. Six major areas that needed to be addressed in Meadow Brook's model included teacher accountability, staff training in scientifically based programs, access to programs, documentation of intervention success, follow-up meetings and direct instruction in areas of need.
"That new model has been created and we hope to implement it during the next school year," Fletcher said.
Meadow Brook's third goal was to develop a writing rubric for first and second graders. Fletcher explained that this is an ongoing project which currently lists 19 writing skills to be mastered by the end of first grade and 21 to be mastered by the end of second grade.
Bob Mazzariello, chair of the School Committee, said he could see the basic rubric being used up through the higher levels.
School Committee member William Fonseca said as a parent of a young student, he sees the rubrics as "very helpful."
Representatives of Mountain View Elementary were unable to attend the June 9 meeting of the School Committee, but Mazzariello said they would be present at the next committee meeting, which will be taking place June 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the School Committee Room in the high school.