North Reading School Committee Takes New Action
Trend analysis, middle school changes and the committee evaluates itself.
Do you ever wonder how your child's school compares with similar schools? For North Reading the comparisons are favorable. As Superintendent Kathleen Willis demonstrated at Monday night's school committee meeting the question, "How good is my child's school?" is now answered by using a new website feature offered by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Under "district profiles" the school community and the general public can access the District Analysis and Review Tool (DART).
Willis showed the committee how the DART site comprehensively lists every school district and a complete set of facts about each school in the Commonwealth. MCAS performance, per pupil expenditure, advanced placement participation and performance, technology, SAT performance scores and class size are a few examples of the kind of information that is available.
"It's really a wonderful tool to have," commented Willis. "Because DART lists historical information showing results for past years, we can easily look at trends that define our schools. We can use this analysis to chart new goals and monitor progress."
DART also facilitates the comparison of schools by geographic location. More importantly schools are grouped according to enrollment, special populations and grade span.
Willis presented a line graph analysis showing that North Reading exceeds both the state's performance in MCAS tests and the test results of other schools in its demographic grouping.
Middle School Changes
Principal Catherine O'Connell reported that she has found a way to cut the number of study halls students have each week. A new class block used for flexible scheduling will allow students to participate in a variety of programs and services.
"It has been the district's goal to reduce a student's time in study hall and use that time in learning and exploring new areas, said O'Connell. "Now we've found a way to do it."
According to O'Connell the plan is to restructure teacher time. Grade six will continue to have twelve teachers and a class size of approximately 19 or 20 students. Grade seven will have 10 teachers. By O'Connell's estimation their class size will see a slight increase but will remain a manageable number. Grade eight will expand its robotics program. General music and chorus will combine into a one teacher position. There will be no increase in the budget.
The proposal won praise from all committee members. They applauded O'Connell's success at creating more learning time and for giving students more options. Along with O'Connell, the committee plans to keep a watchful eye on class size.
As is their usual annual practice the school committee elected new officers. They voted Mel Webster their chairman. Cliff Bowers will serve as vice-chair with Michael Kushajki serving as secretary.
The professional development account will have $8,000 restored to its budget of last year. Though funds had been lacking last year grade four will begin a state of the art science program with the $18,000 available in its budget for the program's books and materials. Art will not be reduced at either the Hood or the Little School. Due to increased enrollments a .5 kindergarten teacher will be added as well as restoring a .5 pre-school position.