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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Chronically Underperforming Schools: Third Quarter FY2019 Reports

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Jeffrey C. Riley, Commissioner
Date:
April 12, 2019

In the fall of 2013, four schools were designated as chronically underperforming in response to their low performance and lack of improvement while designated as underperforming schools: UP Academy Holland (UAH) and Paul A. Dever Elementary School (Dever) in Boston, Morgan Full Service Community School (Morgan) in Holyoke, and John Avery Parker Elementary School (Parker) in New Bedford.

In order to continue to provide you with timely information about the chronically underperforming schools, I have included below the third of four FY2019 quarterly progress updates to the Board for each school, focusing on activities from January-March 2019. The final annual review for FY2019 will be presented in June 2019. We have also included FY2019 MCAS accountability targets for each school for your reference.

Paul A. Dever Elementary School, Boston, MA
Prepared by Michael Contompasis, Receiver

Successes:

  • For the last two years, the Dever leadership team has participated in training on culturally and linguistically sustaining practices (CLSP). As a result of this training, the team has centered on a school-wide theme of Rigor-Relationships-Reflection. This year, the leadership team has deepened their training through a Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) sponsored year-long professional development series titled, "Unpacking Cultural Proficiency." To bring these practices to teachers and other staff at Dever, the leadership team created a six-session professional development series. To monitor the school's progress, the Dever leadership team and teachers participate in a self-assessment three times per year on how well they are moving along the CLSP continuum. The goal of the professional development is for 100 percent of staff to be at Competency 3 by the end of the year. (See results below from self-assessments conducted in the fall and winter.)

     Competency 1: Awareness: Understanding one's lens and biasCompetency 2: Cultural learning/relationship buildingCompetency 3: Culturally linguistically sustaining practices
    Fall 201811 (26 percent)25 (60 percent)6 (14 percent)
    Winter 20190 (0 percent)30 (73 percent)11 (27 percent)
  • Over the course of the year, Dever and the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB) have developed a robust partnership centered on school improvement efforts. University of Massachusetts Boston is working in collaboration with the leadership team at the Dever to promote a "saturation" model, which will link the resources of UMB with the dedicated efforts of the educators at the Dever. University of Massachusetts Boston faculty will provide professional development for teachers while UMB students serve as tutors during extended learning time, to support teachers as they continue to increase instructional rigor. Although the partnership is still being refined, the four key areas of focus are: 1) project-based science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and English language arts (ELA) instruction aligned to the rigor of the standard, 2) early college and career readiness, 3) comprehensive social and emotional learning, and 4) evidence-based continuous improvement.

Challenge:

  • In the third quarter, fifth grade students experienced a dip in scores on formative assessments and spikes in out-of-class time. As a result, the Dever leadership team made strategic staffing pivots to increase support to students, including moving a reading specialist to a fulltime fifth grade teaching position. This shift, while ultimately in the best interest of the fifth grade students, has left a gap in the additional reading intervention support for the school. To address this gap, the math coach, who has been with the school since the start of receivership, has taken on an increased role and a Director of Academics has been hired for the remainder of the school year and next year. The leadership team is working to restructure the vacant reading specialist position to better meet the needs of the school.

    Paul A. Dever: FY2019 MCAS Accountability Targets

    Group2018 ELA # Included
    (3–8)
    2018 ELA Achievement Baseline
    (3–8)
    2019 ELA Achievement Target
    (3–8)
    2018 Math # Included
    (3–8)
    2018 Math Achievement Baseline
    (3–8)
    2019 Math Achievement Target
    (3–8)
    2018 Science # Included
    (5 & 8)
    2018 Science Achievement Baseline
    (5 & 8)
    2019 Science Achievement Target
    (5 & 8)
    All Students143491.6493.5144493.6495.25145.648.70
    Lowest Performing20471.3476.420474.1477.8   
    High Needs129490.8492.7130492.5494.54644.647.90
    Econ. Disadvantaged119491.2492.3120492.2494.04344.247.30
    EL and Former EL73489.1490.873492.7494.63040.843.90
    Students w/Disabilities23479.1481.224478.1480.49  
    Afr. Amer./Black32491.3493.033495.4497.48  
    Amer. Ind. or Alaska Nat.         
    Asian9  9  2  
    Hispanic/Latino94490.5491.994491.3492.73746.649.60
    Multi-race, Non-Hisp./Lat.4  4  1  
    Nat. Haw. or Pacif. Isl.1  1  1  
    White3  3  2  

UP Academy Holland (UAH), Boston, MA
Prepared by UP Education Network, Receiver

Successes:

  • This year, a major focus for the UAH team has been increasing the cognitive engagement skills of students. To measure this engagement, the team created a cognitive engagement skills (CES) rubric which highlights six discrete, complex and high-leverage teacher skills known to be connected to cognitive engagement, a factor in getting students to master content. These skills are:

    • Aggressive monitoring: teacher uses an exemplar to provide on the spot feedback to as many students as possible during the lesson;
    • Stamp the learning: teacher chunks the lesson and uses checks for understanding to help students synthesize the content;
    • Observable thinking job: a thinking job is a way for students to demonstrate their thinking in writing or verbally;
    • Pacing: the intentional timing of questions;
    • Strategic engagement: intentional use of turn and talk, choral responses and calling on specific students; and
    • Target the error: the majority of the lesson is spent on content students have not yet mastered.

    To date, classroom observations demonstrate strong implementation of the skills outlined in the CES rubric as measured by frequent instructional rounds, vision setting sessions, and individual teacher check-ins.

  • Staff retention is key for school success, and UAH is on track to retain 80 percent of their staff for the SY2020. For the last two years, retention has been consistent at 80 percent. Contributing to this retention are the many targeted conversations the leadership team has to encourage staff members to stay. These "stay" conversations illuminate reasons why staff members choose to stay at the school for another year and areas which could cause their departure. By holding these conversations, the UAH leadership team is attempting to ensure that all staff feel valued and heard, ultimately leading to the staff member's choice to return the following year.

  • Due to unforeseen circumstances, there were several staff vacancies in January. Despite this challenge, the UAH team was able to handle each vacancy with as little disruption to students as possible. For each vacancy, the leadership team created transition project plans which detailed the steps required to fill the position, including recruitment, interviewing, and planned coverage for any gaps in staffing. A final step of the plan included scheduling the new hire to receive consistent coaching from a leadership team member in an effort to increase success in the new role.

Challenge:

  • As a result of the school's year-long professional development series on Guided Reading and phonics instruction, UAH has improved several components of the literacy curricula. However, this focus on literacy has unearthed several literacy needs in early childhood, and the team is now working to improve their early childhood literacy curricula. To address this challenge, Principal Casson consulted experts in the field of literacy, including Department's Director of Literacy, and engaged in problem-solving with the early childhood team. A working group was developed that is focused on researching a number of early childhood literacy curricula for SY2020. The goal of the new curricula is to provide a frame for increased comprehension, the use of themes, and more authentic reading experiences.

    UP Academy Holland: FY2019 MCAS Accountability Targets

    Group2018 ELA # Included
    (3–8)
    2018 ELA Achievement Baseline
    (3–8)
    2019 ELA Achievement Target
    (3–8)
    2018 Math # Included
    (3–8)
    2018 Math Achievement Baseline
    (3–8)
    2019 Math Achievement Target
    (3–8)
    2018 Science # Included
    (5 & 8)
    2018 Science Achievement Baseline
    (5 & 8)
    2019 Science Achievement Target
    (5 & 8)
    All Students355492.1493.1356490.1491.711067.370.00
    Lowest Performing52465.3470.452458.4462.1   
    High Needs321491.2492.6322489.0490.510066.069.50
    Econ. Disadvantaged279490.5491.5280487.7488.89165.168.50
    EL and Former EL168493.4494.4168492.5494.45266.368.90
    Students w/Disabilities87477.8479.687473.3475.12247.751.00
    Afr. Amer./Black146490.3491.8147487.3489.64162.867.00
    Amer. Ind. or Alaska Nat.         
    Asian24507.0508.324510.2512.310  
    Hispanic/Latino169491.2492.3169489.2490.65367.570.40
    Multi-race, Non-Hisp./Lat.12  12  6  
    Nat. Haw. or Pacif. Isl.         
    White4  4     

Morgan Full Service Community School, Holyoke, MA1
Prepared by Superintendent Zrike, Receiver

Successes:

  • Morgan leaders and teachers continue to implement a strong and consistent instructional data cycle. This quarter, the leadership team focused on professional learning, coaching, and feedback to build the skill of teachers to implement re-teaching plans while also differentiating core grade-level skills to close identified gaps for students. Although professional learning attends to all content areas, student data suggests a greater emphasis on mathematics is needed. Therefore, during classroom observations, Morgan leaders and the Instructional Leadership Team (ILT) have focused on providing feedback to teachers on the use of instructional time during the mathematics block in an effort to keep pace with grade level content skills (using the Schedule for Assessed Standards provided by ANet) and re-teach skills that the students need to progress.

  • During the second quarter, the Morgan team noted the year-to-date (YTD) aggregate (September-January) for student attendance was reduced as compared to the previous year, thus requiring a specific action plan to address attendance. As a result, Morgan staff reconnected to families of students who were regularly absent, and school and district staff have held weekly attendance meetings using a case management model to address chronic absentee issues. As a result of these efforts, in Quarter 3, the gap between YTD aggregate (September-March) pre-K-4 attendance in SY2019 and SY2018 was reduced (see data below). The Morgan team recognizes while closing the YTD gap between school years signifies some success, much work still remains to increase overall attendance. This quarter, Principal Moguel and staff have enhanced relationships with outside community agencies. Principal Moguel now attends the monthly meetings of the South Holyoke Neighborhood Initiative (SHNI), a longtime partner, and has regular contact with the staff there. This connectedness has resulted in a focus on increasing Morgan students' attendance. Together, they have planned Family Fun Nights at Morgan; SHNI has provided prizes (bikes, gift cards, program enrollments) as attendance incentives; and SHNI has been an influential and strategic partner in linking Morgan staff to other local agencies to help problem-solve some of the most chronic attendance issues. Enlace de Familias has also been a long time Morgan partner and, similar to SHNI, they have focused and refined their work together to improve attendance by supporting parents and families in the community.

     SY2018SY2019
    Quarter 2 YTD aggregate attendance (September–January) 94.7 percent 91.5 percent
    Quarter 3 YTD aggregate attendance (September–March) 90.4 percent 90.7 percent
  • Morgan leaders and staff have refined the systems they have in place for family and community engagement with the goal of accelerating student outcomes. The transition from a pre-K-8 school to a pre-K-4 school with expanded pre-K classrooms has driven much of this work. Family home visits continue to be an established practice at Morgan School, valued by all stakeholders. Ninety-one percent of the Morgan teachers have completed three home visits this year while 52 percent have completed four or more. This year Morgan teachers are including an academic update/focus area into these visits. To date, 47 percent of all home visits involved some discussion of an academic update and/or academic area of focus with 38 percent specifically focused on mathematics progress, concerns, or strategies to increase support at home.

Challenge:

  • Recruiting, hiring and retaining teachers at Morgan School continues to be an ongoing challenge. Staff turnover impacts the momentum of instructional improvement and redirects the focus of Morgan leaders who must pivot from the intended school priorities to recruit, hire, and orient new staff members throughout the year. During the current school year, seven teachers and one paraprofessional have resigned from the school. Currently, Morgan School has four vacancies (three pre-K paraprofessionals and one English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher).

    This spring, Morgan leaders are working to balance their focus on classroom instruction to complete this year while also recruiting an effective and diverse staff for SY2020. They are working closely with the district's Human Resources office and leveraging the office's structures, resources, and partnerships for recruitment. Principal Moguel has established a hiring team consisting of teachers and leadership team members. Together, this team has established hiring procedures, a Morgan School candidate profile, and a process to screen and interview qualified candidates. Human capital work will be an urgent priority of Morgan leaders for the remainder of this school year and into the early summer to ensure complete and effective staffing for the start of SY2020.

    Morgan Full Service Community School: FY2019 MCAS Accountability Targets

    Group2018 ELA # Included
    (3–8)
    2018 ELA Achievement Baseline
    (3–8)
    2019 ELA Achievement Target
    (3–8)
    2018 Math # Included
    (3–8)
    2018 Math Achievement Baseline
    (3–8)
    2019 Math Achievement Target
    (3–8)
    All Students76487.2489.176479.7481.3
    Lowest Performing      
    High Needs73485.9487.873478.5480.5
    Econ. Disadvantaged72486.1487.272478.8480.6
    EL and Former EL37480.9482.637476.8478.7
    Students w/Disabilities23481.5483.623470.4472.7
    Afr. Amer./Black4  4  
    Amer. Ind. or Alaska Nat.      
    Asian1  1  
    Hispanic/Latino71487.0488.471478.8480.2
    Multi-race, Non-Hisp./Lat.      
    Nat. Haw. or Pacif. Isl.      
    White      

John Avery Parker Elementary School, New Bedford, MA
Prepared by School and Main Institute, Receiver

Successes:

  • This quarter the Parker team observed a significant improvement in the quality and consistency of academic discourse occurring in classrooms as evidenced by classroom observations and walkthroughs. Due to effective and targeted professional development, support for planning, and use of innovative resources, student reasoning, sharing of thinking, problem solving, and debating are becoming embedded regularly in instruction. This increase in academic discourse benefits all learners in learning content and building academic language.

  • This quarter the Parker team introduced a safety net program designed to support the school's most academically fragile students, the lowest 25 percent cohort. This program, called "Captain's Club", provides additional targeted small group tutoring for students during the school day (four times during the week for 30 minutes), an after-school component that pairs students with UMASS Dartmouth college students for extra support (two times during the week for one hour), and a parent communication and support piece. So far, ten students participate in tutoring regularly. UMass Dartmouth tutors are provided through the Federal Work Study program, "America Reads America Counts," and all tutors are linguistically and/or racially diverse to ensure they match the diversity of the Parker students. In addition, the team recruited three male tutors to partner with male students. Many of these students, some of whom also exhibit behavioral challenges, have gained confidence as they've increased skills in both English language arts and mathematics.

  • A continuing area of success for the Parker is the development of a comprehensive social and emotional support plan for students. Based on the belief that students thrive when positive relationships are established, Parker is at an all-time low for students needing assistance within the classroom. In October 2018 the school identified 18 students who experienced 4 or more office referrals in a week, totaling 112 weekly office referrals. In December, seven students were identified, totaling 46 weekly office referrals; and in March, only five students were identified, totaling 36 weekly office referrals. The Parker team attributes the reduction in office referrals to their efforts employing asset-based approaches such as student check-ins and walkthroughs, assessing students through a lens of strengths and lagging skills, designing specific plans that support students to self-regulate, and enlisting parents as partners in the work.

Challenge:

  • While the Parker team has noted improvement in overall classroom instruction, there is still much work to do in order to ensure all students are meeting grade level expectations. To support this goal, the Parker leadership team is focusing on building teachers' capacity to use data and tiered supports to close learning gaps and increase academic growth. Staff will need more time and professional development to unpack learning trajectories in core content areas, support in using formative assessments to identify where a student falls within a given learning trajectory, and then how to design lessons (whole and small group) that develop students along those learning trajectories.

    John Avery Parker: FY2019 MCAS Accountability Targets

    Group2018 ELA # Included
    (3–8)
    2018 ELA Achievement Baseline
    (3–8)
    2019 ELA Achievement Target
    (3–8)
    2018 Math # Included
    (3–8)
    2018 Math Achievement Baseline
    (3–8)
    2019 Math Achievement Target
    (3–8)
    2018 Science # Included
    (5 & 8)
    2018 Science Achievement Baseline
    (5 & 8)
    2019 Science Achievement Target
    (5 & 8)
    All Students102490.3492.2101482.5484.13754.157.20
    Lowest Performing21479.9485.021467.4471.1   
    High Needs91489.3491.290481.4483.43451.554.80
    Econ. Disadvantaged80489.4490.579481.1482.93151.654.70
    EL and Former EL46486.8488.546482.2484.119  
    Students w/Disabilities20480.8482.920472.0474.38  
    Afr. Amer./Black14  14  5  
    Amer. Ind. or Alaska Nat.         
    Asian1  1  1  
    Hispanic/Latino44489.0490.443482.3483.719  
    Multi-race, Non-Hisp./Lat.8  8  2  
    Nat. Haw. or Pacif. Isl.1  1  1  
    White34492.9494.434486.9488.79  

 

Note:


1 In the fall of 2018, the grade-span for the Morgan School changed from serving grades Pre-K-8 students to Pre-K-4 students, as two new middle school options were opened: Veritas Prep Holyoke and Holyoke STEM Academy. More information on the district's middle school redesign efforts.



Last Updated: April 16, 2019
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