The following is a transcript from the Oct. 6, 2014 Westford School Committee meeting. For other parts of the transcript, click here. For a video recap, head to westfordcat.org
8:24 p.m. – Assistant Superintendent Kerry Clery then gave an update on the new standards based report card.
It’s at second and fifth grade levels and it reflects new standards for Math and English Language Arts.
There are now more things discussed and these are sent out three times a year. There are expectations given out at the end of the year with benchmarks met reported three times a year in an online setting.
The students are graded on a 4,3,2,1 scale, which will take time for parents and has required professional development for teachers.
A letter went out for parents and there will be an informational night for any parents wanting further clarification.
Kohl asked if there is any mechanism for teachers to provide additional feedback to parents. Clery was unsure.
Kohl then asked if this was an increase in the number of items evaluated, looking at the organizational evidence, was this an organizational problem as well as a burden in other ways.
Clery answered, saying this does not require additional teaching, it was only a change in documentation.
Harkness thought it was better when everyone got As, but they were only approaching the standard. However, she noted that Math and Language Arts have 16 criteria while some other subjects like Social Studies only have two.
Clery said that in Social Studies the standards were outdated while there had been updates to Math and Language Arts.
Science is transitioning to new standards.
Murray then asked if this was only being used at certain grades, Clery said it was. Murray praised the new report cards to go away from grades to a focus on progress. She then asked for Clery’s thoughts on more grades in the system gaining this approach.
Clery said it was a paradigm shift and Elementary Schools lend themselves better to this format. Some high schools have used this, although colleges are not prepared. There have been some middle schools as well.
She said she believes in the philosophy behind it, although she urged caution on bringing this to the middle school or a hybrid grading system for now.
8:35 p.m. – Clery then thought it would be helpful to share some of the Professional Development activities so far this year.
Mainly it’s the new standards and the District Determined Measures, which show the impact on learning among what is being taught.
Clay then asked about future Professional Development.
Clery then said that much of it is tying up loose ends from state mandates and things that principals feel strongly in implementing, but one thing that is felt strongly is the use of technology.
That will be discussed among educators on Oct. 14, with approximately 60 workshops that will help support digital learning plans.
Murray asked about the District Determined Measures and how they are coming together.
Clery said there’s a committee looking at the logistics, and google forms will be one avenue to gather the data for the DDMs.
Murray’s other question was regarding followup on opportunities to use the information from DDMs.
Clery then said that specialists are providing support with teachers on day to day use rather than speakers who come in once and go away.
Murray then made a comment about how immediacy is needed regarding help on implementation.
Olsen then said that tech teams would also help as needed.
Ryan then asked about the logistics of the Oct. 14 event, Clery said all of the workshops will be at Westford Academy and provided details on the schedule.
Kohl then asked about data on the new report cards and asked who would be looking at them.
Clery said that the DDM would be driving assessments, only that they would highlight certain things with teachers.
Kohl also praised the Oct. 14 event and praised Clery for the work needed for this and provided more comments.
8:47 p.m. – Olsen then provided an enrollment update. There is now 5,173 students, down approximately 30 students and a little bit less than projected, but not much less.
Olsen said he will talk with George Murray and Dennis Rhona of the Finance Committee to talk about future projections. Murray has been doing demographic analyses for the district for almost 30 years.
Benoit asked what the turnover rates were and asked that if at the beginning of each school year if there could be a new parents’ information night in addition to a parents’ night.
He said that Westford is different than other towns by not sending a million pieces of paper home and he talked about a night to talk with one particular teacher and that looking at data for turnover rates would be helpful.
Olsen said he’d talk to the leadership teams about it.
In that light, Murray said there might be some help that could be provided for parents since it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the data and there could be a roundtable for new parents.