The full Board of School Committee met on Aug-14 and approved a recommendation to standardize the districts standardized testing. That’s not a misprint: For years, the Manchester School District’s formative assessments were an inconsistent Frankenstein’s Monster that soaked up far too much classroom time and delivered precious little instructional value to teachers. That will change in 2017, thanks to the work of an Assessment Committee chaired by Beech St. Elementary Principal Christine Brennan.
This new approach will deliver two substantial benefits to the district:
- The overall time spent on assessing students will decrease, resulting in more instruction time.
- Results will be standardized, meaning that middle schools will finally have a clearer picture of the strengths and weaknesses of incoming students.
This is an important and welcome development for the district. A June 2013 Curriculum Audit determined the following with regard to student assessments:
- Student assessment and program evaluation planning is not comprehensive and centrally-directed to provide guidance for district-wide decision making.
- The scope of assessment is inadequate to monitor student progress, evaluate student achievement in all areas of the curriculum and at all grade levels, and provide feedback for district planning processes.
- Overall academic performance in the Manchester School District has not shown a steady pattern of improvement over the past four years, and performance among schools varies substantially. Performance disparities among student subgroups are not moving toward parity.
- The use of data in decision making is emerging in some areas, but a systemic approach to the use of data in all critical functions is lacking.
The audit makes 10 recommendations, one of which is to “Design and implement a comprehensive student assessment and program evaluation plan that directs a process for the collection and use of data to monitor the effectiveness of the district’s work at all levels, from the academic progress of individual students to the long-term effectiveness of district-wide programs.”
Four years later, the BOSC has finally addressed this particular recommendation thanks to the leadership of the Curriculum & Instruction Committee and Dr. Vargas and the hard work of the Assessment Committee.
Other votes during the meeting included:
- A motion to join the School Boards Association at a cost of $7,000 was approved with At Large Committeeman Girard and Mayor Gatsas opposed.
- An anonymous letter from a teacher regarding the elementary math curriculum and a concern about getting honest input from teachers was forwarded to the administration.
- A motion to develop a civics curriculum as required by state law was passed with opposition from Ward 6 Committeeman Bergergon.
- A motion to eliminate healthcare benefits for future BOSC members was defeated, with Mayor Gatsas, At Large Committeeman Girard, Vice-chair Beaudry, Ward 2 Committeewoman Langton, and Ward 5 Committeewoman Freeman in favor.
- A motion to require teachers to provide parents with syllabi on a quarterly basis was sent to the C&I committee, with Ward 6 Committeeman Bergeron opposed.