Thursday, May 29, 2014

Math Programs chosen for K-5 and 6-8
After several months of research, piloting of programs, and discussions, both the middle and elementary staff have chosen math programs to be purchased for FY15.  The Math Leadership Team for middle school chose Big Ideas which will be implemented in grades 6, 7 and 8.  The Math Leadership Team for the elementary level chose Eureka Math for all elementary grades.  Both programs align with the Common Core and have either workbooks, textbooks, and/or an online component. We will be purchasing portions of each program using funds from both FY14 and FY15.  This is an exciting time for educators in kindergarten through grade 8 and, I want to thank all of the members of both leadership teams for their hard work on this important endeavor.  

Saturday, May 24, 2014

This week, I had the opportunity to attend two meetings with other Superintendents from across the Commonwealth to discus both the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career) and MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) assessment systems.  Commissioner of Education, Mitchell Chester, took the opportunities to discuss the options that each school district will have in 2014-2015 concerning the continued implementation of MCAS or moving to PARCC.

This year, PARCC has been piloted throughout Massachusetts by over 81,000 students using both the paper/pencil versions of the exam as well as the technology version.  In year 2 of the pilot, all schools districts will have the choice to administer either PARCC or MCAS.  An issue that arose this year was that many students were double tested when they took both the MCAS as their true standardized state assessment and also the pilot version of the PARCC.  For 2015, there will be no double testing as each district will choose one assessment or the other.  

It has been helpful to hear what other superintendents have had to say about the implementation process associated with PARCC.  Although WRSD participated in PARCC for both paper/pencil and technology based pilot testing, I am still concerned about the issues associated with online testing as our technology infrastructure and support system does not currently have the capacity to take on such testing.  Both Burlington and Revere public schools volunteered to pilot the electronic version of the PARCC for all of their students but the tech capacity for both of those districts far surpasses what our current tech abilities are. ( For example, every student in the Burlington Public Schools is issued an iPad starting in grade 1.  Their capacity to take an online, or even cached, assessment is far greater than most districts, including WRSD.  The recommendation from DESE is that there is a 2:1 ratio of students to technology (desktop, iPad, Chromebook, etc) for the best implementation process for PARCC testing in the future.  Currently, the WRSD is not close to approaching the recommended ratio. 

In the end, there will be a new assessment that our students take, be it PARCC or an updated version of the MCAS.  School districts need DESE to understand that each district will need time and financial support from the state if they plan on a comprehensive rollout of any new assessment system.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Recently, Principal Mary Cringan of Thomas Prince School, was honored with the Teach Award by Wreaths Across America at their very first Educational Summit .  Mary and the Thomas Prince community had the opportunity to support Wreaths Across America this past December.  Mary, the staff and the students did an amazing job of welcoming the members of the convoy who were on their way to bring wreaths to lay on the gravestones of veterans at Arlington. This was a great honor for Mary and the entire Wachusett community!