Notes: Listening Meeting on Differentiation #1

On February 12, 2018, 14 parents gathered with School Committee members Dan Futrell and Paula O'Sullivan to discuss differentiation across the district. Below are notes from that meeting.

Summary

Parents are experiencing a lack of adequate differentiation for their kids, primarily in math, and are concerned that this is causing their child to lose a love of learning and to miss out on further growth. Parents want to see leadership at the district level (School Committee, Superintendent & cabinet) that expresses an explicit priority for differentiation and seeks to build a culture that prioritizes individual differentiation over meeting grade level standards. Parents want to know what teachers need to do this difficult job well, and what district resources would support this. Lastly, parents want to see the district develop some way to measure and communicate progress on differentiation.

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Obama administration calls for limits on testing in schools

Reposted from New York Times, October 23, 2015  -  by Kate Zernike
 
Allison Pitt, a third-grade teacher in Columbus, Ohio, helped Charles Swank last month at West Broad Elementary School. Photo by Andrew Spear for the New York Times.

Allison Pitt, a third-grade teacher in Columbus, Ohio, helped Charles Swank last month at West Broad Elementary School. Photo by Andrew Spear for the New York Times.

Faced with mounting and bipartisan opposition to increased and often high-stakes testing in the nation’s public schools, the Obama administration declared Saturday that the push had gone too far, acknowledged its own role in the proliferation of tests, and urged schools to step back and make exams less onerous and more purposeful.

Specifically, the administration called for a cap on assessment so that no child would spend more than 2 percent of classroom instruction time taking tests. It called on Congress to “reduce over-testing” as it reauthorizes the federal legislation governing the nation’s public elementary and secondary schools.

“I still have no question that we need to check at least once a year to make sure our kids are on track or identify areas where they need support,” said Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, who has said he will leave office in December. “But I can’t tell you how many conversations I’m in with educators who are understandably stressed and concerned about an overemphasis on testing in some places and how much time testing and test prep are taking from instruction.”

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Somerville Public Schools Maintains Sustained High Growth on MCAS for Third Consecutive Year

Significant improvements in Math help pace district’s continued upward trajectory
 
svillemcas.jpg
Shown at a special math-oriented afternoon hosted by the East Somerville Community School,
fourth graders discuss the concept of parallel lines with teacher Emma Mrozicki as they prepare
to make art with quadrilaterals. Photo by Delia Marshall, Somerville Journal

Somerville, MA – A third consecutive year of sustained high growth across the District in both English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics, according to Spring 2015 MCAS results released today by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, helped Somerville Public Schools maintain its lead among urban districts in the Commonwealth. The continuing high growth trend was matched by a notable improvement in the percentage of students moving out of the Warning/Needs Improvement categories, as well as an increase in the percentage of students scoring Proficient or Advanced, particularly in Math. The continuing upward trends point to the hard work of teachers across the District implementing instructional practices that meet the needs of Somerville students at every level.

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