The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 2, 2010

CCHS revises School Improvement Plan for 2010-2011

The new School Improvement Plan for the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) targets four major goals for the coming school year. They are: to align CCHS as a 21st-century learning environment; to pass a Warrant Article for the renovation of the school; to continue to address the achievement gap between segments of the student population; and to find ways to reduce student stress. Most of these goals are multi-year efforts that have been carried over from previous years. The plan is revised annually by the CCHS Advisory Council, a group composed of four teachers, five parents, two students, one member of the school support staff, one member of the community-at-large and the principal. At the Regional School Committee (RSC) meeting on June 22, CCHS Advisory Council member Stephanie Eisenstat described the new goals and summarized progress toward last year’s goals.

Goal 1: 21st-century learning

Eisenstat said the students will augment 21st-century learning skills by increasing digital literacy and global awareness. In addition, they will learn team-building skills through projects which promote social responsibility.

Another part of the goal is to review the technology being used in the class, to determine which technologies are most useful and how best to integrate technology into the curriculum. CCHS teacher June Patton is the high school technology liaison working on this. Eisenstat said teachers Steve Lane, Andy Sapp and Joshua Eisenstat have developed a pre- and post-technology survey which will be administered this coming school year to help the faculty and administration identify and establish guidelines for use of technology in classrooms.

RSC member Fabian Fondriest commented, “I don’t want a student to step back and let technology speak for him.” Fondriest felt presentation skills, such as articulating ideas, are critical. Eisenstat said that teachers and students would agree. “They want technology to compliment learning.”

Eisenstat said of the Virtual High School Internet courses offered to CCHS students, “These courses are great for students who were closed out of CCHS classes, for those who want to explore areas beyond the CCHS curriculum and those whose learning style is enhanced by online teaching tools.”

In the fall, there will be a professional development program around 21st-century learning. Professor Tony Wagner, co-director of the Change Leadership Group, from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, will focus on rigor, relevance and relationships to create improved learning environments in the classroom.

Goal 2: Renovate CCHS

Now that both towns have voted funds for a feasibility study and schematic design for a renovation of CCHS, the second goal revolves around supporting the building committee in that process. The goal is to make sure all constituencies have inputs into the process and information is fully disseminated out to both communities.

RSC member Jerry Wedge asked that the School Advisory Council take the lead in this endeavor.

Goal 3: Close achievement gap

Eisenstat said the school has shown steady improvement in this area, which has been an on-going goal. The objective is to help lagging students boost their grade-point averages and MCAS scores.

Over the last several years, the school has started the Freshman Orientation Day which focuses on meeting classmates and team building. “Be the Change,” a program to help students realize others’ situations and be more understanding has been another initiative. In addition, a subcommittee has been focused on “strengthening the interface between the department chairs, the METCO director and the METCO parents group to promote more coaching, communication and professional development to enhance teaching strategies,” said Eisenstat. In addition, the school has been evaluating and increasing the rigor of some core courses.

A new initiative for the fall is the Freshman Advisory Program, which will be lead by CCHS teacher Brian Miller and student leaders. This pilot program will facilitate upper classmen peers mentoring freshmen. “It’s a leadership opportunity for upper classmen,” said Eisenstat. “This kind of student leadership initiative allows freshmen to have a better understanding of the learning resources available to them.”

RSC member Peter Fischelis commented on how important it is for students to have connections to adults at the high school. CCHS Principal Peter Badalament quoted the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey. He said 96% of students have a close relationship to at least one adult at the high school. “I’m concerned about the other 4%. That represents 48 kids, a significant number of people.” He hopes that the advisory program that will be piloted this year will be expanded to all students so more student-faculty connections can be made. Badalament said the high school has a number of small and medium-sized programs for kids at risk. “We are working on these kinds of things.”

Goal 4: Reduce student stress

In light of the two suicides of CCHS students this past year, the Student Advisory Council conducted a student survey on stress. Designed by council parent representative Karen O’Toole, Coach Kevin Capone and senior Tommy Veitch, the survey identified stressful times of the school year. Because of the survey, there will be a review of the homework policy and a discussion on a strategy for coordinating and modifying tests and homework around times of high stress, such as SAT testing. In addition, the survey results concluded that students need to be taught strategies for better time management and they need to learn how to balance competing priorities.

Suggestions for programs include: mindfulness training, more offerings such as yoga classes and learning relaxation techniques and meditation. Also, the survey results suggest that students could make better use of their time in school and therefore would have more time for eating, exercising and sleeping when they leave school.

Eisenstat said, “There was a presentation recently by CCHS alumni who are presently in college to speak about life at college, the transition from high school to college and how best to prepare for college.” The panelists suggested ways to manage students’ workload to be more efficient and maintain perspective. “There is a plan in place to expand this forum and have college alums come back on a more regular basis to discuss how to constructively manage stress,” concluded Eisenstat.

RSC member Louis Salemy thanked Eisenstat, the Advisory Council and Badalament for all their hard work.

Advisory Council members serve two-year terms and act in an advisory capacity to assist the school principal in adopting educational goals, identifying educational needs of students, reviewing the annual school budget and formulating a school improvement plan. Meetings are open to the public and held once a month.

Progress toward last year’s goals

Last June, the goals were similar: foster 21st-century learning, make the school more energy efficient and climate conscious, review CCHS graduation requirements in light of the new MassCore recommended guidelines, increase student achievement for all groups of students and discuss ways to reduce stress during high stress times for juniors and seniors.

The goal for improving 21st-century learning was achieved in a variety of ways. One skill is to be more globally aware. The Global Literacy Certificate Program was established. Students have to show proficiency in foreign language and do community service, preferably in a foreign country. Virtual High School (VHS) classes are now offered at CCHS, which give students access to curriculum online that is not offered at CCHS. Chemistry teacher Cricket McCaffery-Clark taught other teachers how to use Moodle, a web-based tool to enhance communication between a teacher and students of a specific class.

The school is using less paper. Attendance reports, the Program of Studies and the awards descriptions are now available online. Attendance reports will soon be made accessible to students and parents online. The expectation is that the renovated high school building will be as “green” as possible. These initiatives promote energy efficiency.

Graduation and college requirements were reviewed. Early graduation and credit for internships are now allowed. Eisenstat said the bullying policy in the student handbook was reviewed due to the new Massachusetts law and recent public cases.

Students’ grades are being reviewed quarterly. Teachers will be given more training on how to differentiate teaching styles. The administration and faculty continue to work to decrease the achievement gap.

The prom policy was also reviewed. Eisenstat said the junior and senior proms will be combined in two years with the expectation that students will contribute the money saved to community service.

Bus purchase approved

In other business, the RSC voted to buy a new bus. The regional school district will replace a 2000 bus with a trade-in value of $3,500. The replacement will be a 75-passenger bus with a luggage compartment. The net cost will be $100,724. Deputy Superintendent John Flaherty said, “We have 36 buses.” He explained that 26 run daily and said, “We hold on to spare buses.” They are used for many activities, including sports. There are five METCO buses. When asked if this bus was much more expensive than previous buses, Flaherty replied there are tighter emissions regulations now and they drive up the cost of a bus by roughly $9,000. ∆

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