STONEHAM, MA - Not only do Stoneham public school students continue to perform well on MCAS tests, they also persist in widening the performance gap in many areas between themselves and their peers across the state.
On Thursday, School Superintendent Dr. Les Olson reviewed the results and analyses of Stoneham MCAS scores from last spring's testing.
"I'm very pleased with our overall results and the direction we are heading....All in all we have at least steady, if not increasing performance in all areas."
Of particular note is the great strides Stoneham Middle School has made in its math scores. Olson explained that in 2008-9, Middle School math scores actually dipped below state average, and ranked a level 3, which indicates the lowest 20 percent of scores in the state for a four year average. In 2009, the system began a new focus on math with adoption of a new math curriculum. Students adapted well to the new focus and curriculum, and for the last two years, Middle School math scores have risen to the rank of level 1.
"Our Middle School was one of only 48 schools in the entire state commended for its progress in MCAS scores," Olson said. "This reflects the tremendous work our staff has been doing and the excellent results our students have been achieving."
"Not only are our students doing very well, but we're also increasing our gap between our scores and the state average."
These latest MCAS analyses have been helpful in highlighting another area in need of renewed focus.
Olson reported that elementary English Language Arts scores have not been progressing to the same degree as the overall district, but that there is a good reason for this.
"Our entire focus over the past several years has been in reading, providing an excellent foundation to our students."
While Olson said that he is very pleased with the reading foundation elementary school students are receiving in Stoneham, writing has not received the same degree of focus.
"By and large, MCAS tests are becoming more writing based than reading based."
By the time students get to middle and high school, Olson maintained, the relative lack of focus on writing is more than compensated for as indicated by high MCAS scores at those levels. However, as the elementary scores reveal, a more balanced approach to reading and writing at that level is needed.
In addition to furnishing results for English Language Arts, Math, and Science & Technology testing, since 2010 the state also breaks down results in those categories for high needs students which includes any student on an Individualized Education Plan with identified special needs, is low income, or is a student for whom English is not his or her first language. Since the state identified this category three years ago, Stoneham is making good progress in this area as well, according to Olson.
In Other News
In other news, the School Committee voiced its concern over the need for clarification from the town on how to proceed with budget development for FY2015.
School department staff has begun planning their FY15 budgets but agreements between the town and the schools need to be reached and a direction set in order to proceed.
"I think we have to have a clarification on the budget as we proceed...I think we need to clearly articulate our position and I think they (the Selectmen) need to clearly articulate their position," said committee member Jeanne Craigie.
Committee Chair Shelly MacNeil agreed to reach out again to the Board of Selectmen to schedule a meeting between the two board.
"Fundamentally, it's all about working together," committee member David Maurer said.
Finally, Olson read a statement regarding the make up of school administrators for next year when the new Middle School opens and three, instead of four, schools take over the education of the town's elementary students (With the Middle School rebuilding project, the Central School building will no longer function as an elementary school and will instead be part of the new grade 5-8 middle school configuration).
"The most important work we'll do during the entire redistricting process will center on how we support the people involved," Olson said. "This is true when we consider the Kindergarten student....or a staff member."
For the 2014-2015 school year, the high school administration is expected to stay in place, and middle school Principal Chris Banos and Assistant Principal Sandra Fulmer will take the helm of the new middle school.
Colonial Park School Principal Maureen Burke recently announced her retirement at the end of this school year, Olson said.
"Maureen has dedicated 35 years to the education of Stoneham's children both within our public schools and at St. Patrick School."
South School Principal Sarah Hardy, who has played a key role in beginning to coordinate early childhood programs across the district, will move to the principal position at Colonial Park School, which will house the town's early childhood programs.
All of the Central School community will move according to a redistricting plan that is being worked on by the School Committee, including Principal Sharon Bird who will become principal of South School, which will be the largest elementary school in the district.
Robin Hood School Principal Alice Reilly, "who has provided steady leadership to the Robin Hood community for 11 years" will stay on as principal of that school.
© The Stoneham Independent