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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Follow-up Report on Two Level 5 Schools

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
November 18, 2016


Per the request of the Board during our October 2016 meeting, I am writing to provide additional information about two Level 5 schools, both in Boston. For UP Academy Holland, the Board requested an update on suspensions and an overview of the strategies that the school is utilizing to reduce suspensions. For Dever Elementary School, the Board requested a summary of current interim assessment data, particularly a comparison of how the most recent scores compare to last year.

UP Academy Holland

UP Academy Holland (UAH) is addressing its high rate of student suspensions through concerted work on prevention and building a strong and effective classroom culture throughout the school. This year (2016-17), the UAH leadership team has prioritized teacher development, the systematic use of routines for students' arrival, morning meeting, closing circles, and dismissal, and helping students develop self-advocacy and emotional self-regulation.

During the first months of school, the principal and directors of curriculum and instruction visited every classroom to conduct a baseline assessment of teacher practice related to classroom culture, using rubrics developed and designed by UP Education Network. School leaders are continuing to collect data through classroom observations, instructional rounds, and coaching sessions, and are providing feedback to all educators. The goal is to build a positive school culture of high expectations and joy where students are deeply engaged in the learning process. The school's professional development schedule for the year focuses on this goal.

In addition, UAH has partnered with Ramapo for Children, a non-profit organization that provides training to teachers and staff focused on best practices to support students with acute social and emotional learning needs. Ramapo for Children will partner with the school's deans to provide coaching around supporting students' social and emotional learning needs. In October teachers participated in a trauma-sensitive training session provided by this organization. UAH also has increased the number of staff dedicated to providing social-emotional supports to students, including a behavior specialist and a school psychologist.

School leaders are using data to look at patterns of behaviors across grades and times of day. The data are used to structure a variety of professional development opportunities for staff. For example, last summer teachers received professional development to become more effective at implementing the strategies from UAH's social-emotional learning curriculum toolbox, such as strategies to assist students build emotional self-regulation skills. In addition, the UP Education Network Director of Family and Community Engagement led a professional development session at the school focused on building trust and strong relationships with families. All teachers attended this session, which highlighted a variety of communication strategies and best practices. Finally, the principal reviews data regarding the extent to which teachers are communicating with families and provides job-embedded professional development to grade level teams to help them continually improve this practice. The overall impact of this work has been to strengthen school culture and reduce the use of suspensions. Suspensions at UP Academy Holland have been reduced significantly compared to the same period in school year 2015-16, with the number of suspension incidents (in-school and out-of-school) having decreased by 67% and the number of students suspended having decreased by 57%. In addition, UP Academy Holland is proud of progress it has made with high-needs students in the early grades; the suspension rate for this year's second graders has decreased by 81% year-to-date, compared to the rate for last year's first graders.


Dever Elementary School (Dever) is working to strengthen students' academic performance. Dever administers four interim assessments every year to monitor student progress and inform classroom instruction. These quarterly assessments are designed and administered by the Achievement Network (ANet), a Boston-based non-profit that works with schools across Massachusetts and the country. Each interim assessment tests a particular set of standards taught by teachers during the corresponding quarter. For example, Dever's 2016 first-quarter interim assessment results correspond to how well students mastered the standards that were taught at the school in September and October of this year. Teachers and school leaders review the results to determine which standards students have successfully mastered that quarter and which ones require further re-teaching. The quarterly interim assessments are, by design, not cumulative, meaning that standards that are taught and assessed on one interim assessment will not necessarily appear on subsequent exams.

Attached to this memo is an overview of Dever students' performance on the 2016 first-quarter interim assessment, administered in October. Because this interim assessment evaluated the same standards that were assessed on the 2015 first-quarter exam, Dever is able to compare results from year to year. In other words, the school is able to monitor how well students in third grade in 2016 mastered the same set of standards compared to third grade students in 2015. The 2016 first quarter assessment shows that more students mastered the quarter one standards in 2016 than they did in 2015.

Because ANet works with schools and districts across Massachusetts and the country, Dever is further able to compare its 2016 quarter one interim assessment results with schools across Massachusetts and the country that took the same exam. The attached data worksheet demonstrates how Dever's first quarter results compare to schools in Boston, in Massachusetts, and across the nation that took the same assessment. This offers the school a point of reference about how well its students are mastering standards when compared to other schools.

I continue to monitor the progress of our four Level 5 schools closely and will continue to update the Board about the monitoring and support my staff provide.

Last Updated: November 28, 2016
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