The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 10, 2008

Carlisle’s CCHS freshmen deemed well-prepared

At its October 1 meeting, the Carlisle School Committee (CSC) learned that Carlisle freshmen meet the expectations of teachers at Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS). CCHS Superintendent Diana Rigby noted that “the question we are attempting to answer is: how well has Carlisle prepared their students for the high school? The answer is very well, thank you.” She introduced CCHS Principal Peter Badalament, who explained, “After looking at qualitative and quantitative data in the disciplines of English, social studies, science and math, we can find no significant differences between the students coming from Carlisle and Concord. Last year, overall, freshmen from Concord and Carlisle had identical GPAs [grade point averages] of 3.2.” About a quarter of CCHS students are from Carlisle.

Science

Dr. Michael Vela, chair of the Science department, said Carlisle students are every bit as prepared as the Concord students. As freshmen, students may take honors or college preparatory (CP) level classes. He said that 49% of Carlisle students are in honors classes, almost identical to Concord students, 50% of whom go into honors. He noted that in 2002 there was an imbalance of 82% of Carlisle students entering honors classes which resulted in some students struggling academically. The placement process was revised in conjunction with Carlisle eighth-grade science teacher Dr. Kathryn Marsh and now Vela sees no issues with the number of students entering honors classes. “We have identified any issues that have come up and have addressed them. We are on top of it,” he said. “Everything has been great for five, [or] six years.”

Vela noted that traditionally over half of the students in his Science Olympiad team have been from Carlisle. However, that may change, he warned, because Concord middle schools are creating their own Science Olympiad clubs, which may encourage more Concord students to join the club when they reach the high school.

Math

Math Chair John Bookis agreed with Vela’s assessment. “Carlisle students are certainly well prepared for the rigor and depth of our mathematics curriculum.” Of the four levels of freshmen math instruction, he explained, “Carlisle freshmen comprise 44% of the honors classes, 26% of our college preparation 1 classes, 31% of the CP2 classes and only 7% of our CP3 classes.” He noted the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) can be used as one measure of a student’s success. “Our creative methods of instruction and planned lessons which might include Problems of the Day, for example, offer a multitude of ways in which students learn from teachers and each other. This has led to success on the MCAS open-response questions, among others, for Carlisle students. However, we must be careful to not teach to the test. Instead, we explore the concepts we deem worthy of examination and application,” said Bookis.

One advantage that a few eighth-grade Concord students have had is to take an honors Geometry class at the high school four days a week. “Carlisle Schools do not, perhaps for philosophical, logistical or fiscal reasons,” Bookis said. “That said,” he continued, “I am pleased to report that if you were to visit any of our mathematics classes at the high school, you would be hard-pressed to be able to distinguish a Carlisle student from his/her classmates.”

Social Studies

Robert (“Doc”) Furey, chair of the Social Studies department, reported no discernable difference between Carlisle and Concord students. He explained that Social Studies classes are not divided into levels, but are heterogeneous. “There needs to be a time when students of all academic abilities can come together,” he said. Otherwise, students in a lower track would “spend the entire day with many of the same students,” he said. “Their learning disabilities would be reinforced in class after class.” He said this would create a school of separate social groups.

In discussions with the Social Studies teachers, Furey found that some said their Concord students performed better, while others said Carlisle students were on top. He suggested the CSC may want to do further analysis.

Conclusions

CSC Chair Chad Koski responded to the presentation. “We were not trying to compare Carlisle to Concord. What we really wanted to know is if our students are prepared....That’s all we were looking for,” he said.

“We were trying to address that,” replied Badalament. “It was difficult in some ways to make this presentation and talk about Carlisle students, which is really what we are trying to focus on, and not make the comparison between Concord and Carlisle and Boston. I hope we were able to provide you some answers to those questions because our general take on things is that they are very well prepared, extremely well prepared.”

“That’s good to hear,” said Koski. ∆


© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito