The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 20, 2008

School Council presents School Improvement Plan

The School Council presented its yearly update on the School Improvement Plan to the Carlisle School Committee (CSC) on June 4. Features of the plan include new attention to gifted students, after-school programs and cultural awareness activities.

Each Massachusetts public school is required to have a school council which must be comprised of a school principal, parents, teachers, and community members. Members on the school council are: Co-chair, parent Alex Krapf, co-chair, Middle School Principal Jim Halliday, Elementary Principal Patrice Hurley, community representative Ann James, Librarian Sandy Kelly, parent and CSC member Louis Salemy, parents Kris Tocci and Tracy Sands, and teacher Linda Vanaria.

While there are no specific requirements that schools follow the improvement plan, Krapf later commented that a big value of the process is, “You have parents and teachers together. If you choose to discuss the difficult subjects, that’s where you can make progress, assuming that both sides are seriously into it.”

Report supports diversity awareness

The plan includes two broad goals addressing school climate and curriculum. Under each main goal there are subgoals with suggested action steps, implementation strategies, how to evaluate success, and action timelines. For instance, in order to foster school climate and respect, the plan suggests a focus on student leadership to decrease bullying and teasing as well as supporting differences. Strategies for fostering pro-social behaviors include maintaining the student advisory and Open Circle programs and promoting cultural awareness activities such as the Chinese New Year’s celebration, or the City of Lowell partnership program. The plan also recommends tracking the numbers of students participating in the after-school programs, possibly to expand STEM (science and engineering) classes.

How best to support

gifted students?

The curriculum achievement implementation strategies have been updated to include gifted students. In the past the plan focused on increasing the achievement of students with special needs, Krapf noted. The plan now seeks “to increase the achievement of students with various needs.” Language has been added which refers to challenging “all students at all levels on the academic spectrum.”

Professional development on the topic is recommended in the plan. “When you are dealing with the distribution of ability, how do you do it?” asked CSC member Wendell Sykes. If advanced students are continuously challenged, he questioned whether gifted students will become “well ahead of the other end? Can you use the gifted ones to help the other ones?” Kelly noted that differentiation of instruction would be used to give advanced students creative challenges. “We do not want to lose sight of the child in the middle,” she added. “It’s an age-old education problem” to challenge all types of learners, she explained.

Additional exposure to Spanish?

The two final goals have to do with assessing the elementary Spanish program, and the writing curriculum. The writing goal includes improving basic grammar skills and expanding the types of writing being taught.

Currently the Spanish program is offered once a week to students in grades K – 5. The plan calls for increasing the learning time, currently by using material on the teachers’ website. Hurley explained that each week the teachers send information to parents about what students can do on the internet. CSC member Bill Fink asked if there was a proposal to expand instructional time for Spanish. School Committee member Dale Ryder said that through feedback from parents she has learned that the website was “a good start, but probably not as consistently used across the board to have an impact.” ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito