District Test Scores Rise Significantly, Says Marano
Bellingham School Superintendent Peter Marano
At the September 27 School Committee meeting, Bellingham District Superintendent Peter Marano announced "tremendous" advancements in this year’s PARCC and MCAS test results for all Bellingham schools. This improvement across the Board moved Bellingham from a level three- to a level-two district.
Previously, Bellingham ranked as a level-three district, according to Marano, because Stall Brook Elementary and the Bellingham Memorial schools were classified as level three; this was because of lower scores for subgroups such as students from low-income families and students with English as a second language (ESL). However, this year the scores went up significantly at those schools, enough to raise them each to level two.
Marano also reported that South Elementary School improved by 13% in English Language Arts (ELA) and by 14% in Math, bringing that school up to level-one status. The state will give South Elementary a special commendation for its progress.
Marano also said that he believes the scores at Bellingham High School also would allow it to be rated as a level-one school; however, the levels are affected also by the number of students who opt out of taking the test. Therefore, he said that it is imperative to communicate the importance of these tests to both the students and their parents.
The Superintendent also announced that several local school district representatives have asked to visit Bellingham to observe and discuss the district’s new model whereby grades 8-12 attend Bellingham High School and grades 4-7 attend Bellingham Memorial School.
Marano also announced an increase in the Residency Policy rate to $13,220. This is the amount that could be charged if a student is caught using a fraudulent address in order to attend a Bellingham school.
Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School (BVT) Superintendent Michael Fitzpatrick, BVT School Committee Representative from Bellingham Joseph Hall and Admissions Counselor Michele Denise addressed the School Committee regarding the newly revamped admissions policies at BVT.
Denise said that in the considering of applicants the current emphasis is based more on attendance factors and less on academics. She said that all employers know that attendance and attitude are key factors in job readiness. This new admission change will allow for more students with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Accommodation Plans.
The admission standards for all vocational technical schools are individual, according to Fitzpatrick, but each school is overseen by the state. He noted that there is no guaranteed ratio per the 13 member towns; however, the goal is to maintain the diversity.
Changes have also been made to the freshman year exploratory schedule. The school schedule is currently set up so that students have one week of academic classes followed by a week of “shop.” Previously, students spent an entire year trying different shops before declaring their choice. However, that schedule put students behind in different licensing tests for that specialty. Now, students are required to complete seven shop weeks in different shops, including both traditionally male- and female-oriented shops, lasting only the first half of their freshman year before concentrating in a specific area.
Hall noted that currently 1200 students attend BVT from 13 member towns with 63% of those students continuing on to a four-year college.
Bellingham Superintendent Marano reported on several educational initiatives the district is focusing upon for all grades, to close the gap between special needs and regular education students. These initiatives include literacy, math, professional development and the M3 (Making Money Matter) program.