By MICHAEL MORRIS
Published on November 13, 2009
In an article published in the Bulletin on Nov. 6, data was presented about Crocker Farm's relative performance on the statewide MCAS exam last year. Is this data the whole story? No, it is not.
A more comprehensive look at the data tells a significantly different story. Instead of looking at the aggregate performance of our elementary schools, which have been well-publicized for having disparate populations of students, it is more useful to look at the subgroups and compare their achievement. When this analysis is done, Crocker Farm's scores are above the district average in some areas (for instance, special education students in math and white students in English/Language Arts, among others) and below the district average in some other areas. This increasingly complex picture may be more challenging to report but that makes it no less relevant when a comparison of how our schools are doing is published. Are we at Crocker Farm content with our results? No, we are not.
That is why we are working hard to improve the achievement of every single student in our school. For instance, we worked with the national literacy organization LitLife last spring to develop a coherent, rigorous and consistent reading curriculum in each grade level in our school, which is being implemented this year. We are addressing the performance of last year's fourth-grade students (referenced in the article last week) by increasing the number of "sections" in math at this grade level, so that every student is taught in a small group (the largest section is 11, with an average group size of less than eight).
Like the other schools in the district, we have started an Achievement Academy, with more than 30 upper-grade students receiving additional support after school three days a week. All students who did not receive a proficient or advanced score on the MCAS exam in mathematics last spring are receiving 90 minutes of daily math instruction, which is significantly more than we have offered in the past. We have a group of teachers meeting monthly to participate in the cutting-edge "Instructional Rounds" process, observing each other to identify and consistently implement the best instructional practices. A Crocker Farm teacher won an "Emerging Teacher-Leaders in Elementary School Mathematics" grant from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and is organizing professional development for our staff to improve expertise in specific mathematics content aligned with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. Six of our teachers will be trained this year in the Renzulli Differentiation System, a tool used to ensure that all students are challenged in the classroom. Yet, are MCAS scores the only thing driving our work with children? No, they are not.
We care about the whole child, as it is our belief that we want our students to have a wide range of experiences consistent with their intellectual and social development. That is why we are expanding last year's pilot program, Wednesday Enrichment Clubs, to include more weeks this year. That is why when budget cuts forced a delay in our students' opportunity to start instrumental music instruction in school, we started a program in the classroom music setting in which our third-grade students learn to play recorders, so they wouldn't have to wait until fourth grade to learn to play an instrument in school.
That is why our staff puts in incredible amounts of time to work with students to create talent shows and other school-wide performances and assemblies where our students shine. Is there another side to the Crocker Farm story? Absolutely.
I am proud of our school and how hard we work every day to improve and enrich the educational experiences of our students.
Michael Morris is the principal of Crocker Farm Elementary School.
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.