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MCAS Scores, Payment, and Comm Systems Discussed at School Comm. Mtg.

Dec 10, 2014 03:04PM ● Published by Lynn Ulsh

The Bellingham School Committee held a meeting on November 18 to discuss MCAS test score trends, as well as a new parent information system, and the establishment of an online fee-payment system.  In light of the MCAS scores which had been released earlier this fall, School Committee Chairman Dan Ranieri asked for a report on how students from each elementary school compare in scores after a few years in middle school. This request was made in the wake of Stall Brook Elementary School experiencing a 12 point drop in scores this year for the subset of students identified as “high needs,” bringing the school to a Level 3 status.

Curriculum Director Matthew Bolduc studied the progress of 4th grade students from 2010 through their 8th grade scores in 2014. He noted that students from all three elementary schools experienced a huge improvement in their English/Language Arts scores while struggling to keep up in Math scores.  Bolduc stated that there was no significant trend that students from any elementary school had an advantage or disadvantage from the elementary school they attended.

Bolduc further explained that the status change at Stall Brook came from a drop in scores from the high needs subset. In last year’s 4th grade class at Stall Brook high needs students made up 50% of the population as compared to 20% at the other schools. Bolduc noted that the scores for the entire Stall Brook class experienced a 4 point drop. Therefore, if there was a 12 point drop for high needs, the other half of the population pulled up the scores. These students are now in 5th grade at BMMS, where they are receiving “significant remediation resources.”

Superintendent Edward Fleury noted two steps that were implemented a few years ago that they feel will eventually increase student performance. The first is providing free full day kindergarten to all students. Fleury noted that the classes where all students attended full day kindergarten are still in grades K, 1 and 2, too young for MCAS testing.

The other program implemented is the THINK Math instruction in grades K-5. This math instruction emphasizes areas where students have historically shown weaknesses, such as number sense.

Bolduc noted that there has been inconsistency in Math instructors at the Middle School. In each of the past few years, at least one Math teacher in 6th and 7th grades had moved from a different grade or taught a different subject and often it takes a year to settle in to teaching math at that particular grade level.

Parent Mark Flannery noted that with the school reconfiguration next year, it is imperative to have teachers knowledgeable in the THINK Math program installed at the Middle School levels in 4-5th grades. Also, he suggested hiring Math coaches and providing professional development specifically in THINK Math so the instructors are experts at teaching it.

Fleury assured the School Committee that the administrative team has been meeting regarding the school reconfiguration and they are specifically prioritizing the placement of teachers in subject areas where they are most proficient.

Technology Director Michael Garofano addressed the School Committee regarding the establishment of an on-line bill pay system for families to pay bus fees, athletic fees, student dues, lunch money and building/field usage fees. The School Committee agreed that they need to have a system in place as soon as possible with the new bus fees being implemented next year. Garofano will work with a subcommittee to research the options and bring the choices back before the School Committee in January.

Garofano also identified the need to look for a new parent information and communication system. Currently, parents can log into IParent, which is part of the IPass system. Garofano noted that the company that ran IPass sold the system to Harris Computers. Since that time, customer service and tech support has declined significantly. School Committee member Kim Jennings stated that as a parent the current IParent site is definitely “not parent-friendly.

Garofano noted that the system is also used every day by administrators, secretaries, teachers, special education and medical staff and there have been numerous problems with the system. He stated that it takes 6-9 months to put a new system in place so they need to start the process immediately.
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