Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

ECC, PARCC/MCAS Results, SAT/AP Results, Budget Timeline, School Choice: October 25th School Committee

Spotlight was on the ECC at the start of this School Committee meeting! Staff has engaged in work with Dr. Nadja Reilly, a clinical psychologist and expert in anxiety and depression in children, exploring the causes and effects of anxiety in our youngest students. They have moved a number of classrooms to reduce the number of transitions that children make among before-care, school time, and after-care. They’ve also created a variety of visual aids that set expectations for the day’s agenda, etc. so, for example, children know the sequence of the day’s activities; and the Positive Behavior Intervention System provides consistency, teaching children how to take responsibility for their own behavior. Parent Mr. Greenberg noted that he could see the positive impact of these improvements, along with the ability of families to apply techniques at home for consistency.

The Spanish exchange was re-approved to include a tour of Barcelona for MHS students in February 2017.

Keynote: 2016 PARCC and MCAS scores provided by Asst. Supt. of Teaching and Learning Dr. Margaret Adams, Humanities Director Ms. Angela Singer, and STEM Director Jon Morris. Supt. Taymore introduced the presentation with the following successes: Horace Mann has improved from a Level 3 to a Level 1 school in two years; Hoover is a Commended School for the third year in a row; MHS remains a Level 1 school; and at MVMMS, all Algebra 1 students scored proficient or advanced. Dr. Adams presented a summary of challenges: PARCC and MCAS results remain primarily the same with some decreases in specific areas; some disparity exists between different schools at the same grade; and a gap continues in subgroups for high needs, low income, and students with disabilities. District-wide and school reviews are in the packet and school-based presentations will be held.

(As part of that discussion, I added that the College Board Integrated Summary had recently been posted on the MHS website: http://melrosehigh.melroseschools.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2016/10/2015-2016-Integrated-Summary.pdf. While we clearly have challenges, some successes include:

SAT: compared with last year, mean Critical Reading up 5 pts.; Math up 11 pts.; Writing up 17 pts.
SAT Subject Tests: 14% jump in participation from last year; particular success in Literature and Math Level 1 with consistently high Math Level 2.
AP: 9.8% increase in participation (530-582 tests taken including much greater participation by non-white students, meaning the district is focusing on including all students in AP opportunities while improving scores); 95% of Calculus AB & BC students scored 3-5.
Notes: All MHS students who enroll in an AP course are required to take the exam, unlike many schools who hand-select students who take the test but whose scores figure into the overall average. There is work to be done in some subjects and Supt. Taymore has indicated that those areas have been identified and are being addressed. Actions taken beginning two years ago (realized by the Mass Insight grant) have clearly had a positive effect on results, and those practices are being replicated and continued for the benefit of students.)

Discussion began around next year’s school calendar. It will be brought back to the next meeting with additional religious holidays added by the Supt.

A budget timeline was approved, having been discussed extensively in the October 15th retreat. The intent is “…to focus more on district priorities, make it more understandable to the community, and embed efficiencies of time and effort while creating a superior product aligned with the needs of Melrose students.” (ref: School Committee goals approved on 10/18).

Supt. Taymore proposed school choice openings as ten seats in Gr. 7, ten seats in Gr. 8, and five seats in Gr. 9. The public hearing on this topic is scheduled for the next meeting at 7:00 and the Committee is expected to vote later in the meeting.

Packet documents from the meeting can be found here: http://melrosecityma.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&ID=2673&Inline=True

Next meeting: Tuesday, November 15th at 7:00 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chamber of City Hall. Topics: current enrollment numbers, FY18 school calendar, etc. Packet documents are here: http://melrosecityma.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&ID=2683&Inline=True