The Comprehensive Needs Assessment Report on the middle school has now been posted on the ARPS website (http://www.arps.org/node/1235). I'd encourage everyone to read through it in depth, and to watch the ACTV broadcast of the summary of this report by Dr. Beers. I'd like to again note that we have this evaluation of the middle school thanks to a set of goals adopted unanimously by the Regional School Committee last fall, and to the leadership of Dr. Rodriguez in finding Dr. Beers (and to me points out the real value of a set of outside eyes looking at our schools). I've also pasted the summary of this report below.
By all indications, Amherst Middle School is a good school that could be very good or even great. The teachers are competent, hard working, and caring. The administrators are respected by the staff for their dedication and support. With few exceptions, students are well behaved and come to school each day for the purpose of learning. The setting at Amherst Regional Middle School is more than suitable for academic excellence to occur.
However, many characteristics of highly effective schools are not observable at Amherst Regional Middle School. Highly effective schools have data-driven school improvement plans that are developed annually. Teachers are required to develop daily lesson plan which contain the elements that are developed by the instructional leaders with input from teachers. Classroom observations are frequent and followed by conversations designed to promote professional growth. Most, if not all, departments have common assessments which guide instruction. In highly effective schools, the characteristics of effective instruction are clearly defined and communicated in writing to stakeholders. Although teachers make daily instructional decisions based on the needs of their students, consistency is the norm. Parents receive frequent updates regarding student achievement data. Policies and procedures are known by all and applied on a consistent basis.
The curriculum leaders and administrators have recently been receptive to the challenge of increasing expectations in an effort to improve student achievement. However, this is going to be a long journey. Many teachers have become accustomed to “doing it their way.” Some teachers choose to collaborate with their colleagues, but this is not the norm. It can be expected that there will be resistance to the standardization of some practices. The success of the recommended changes will depend on the willingness of the faculty to institutionalize “best practices.” In addition, the leaders of the school must be able to guide the change process and develop the capacity of the faculty to implement the changes.
To paraphrase Jim Collins in “Good to Great,” the right people are on the bus (assuming an instructional leader is hired as principal). It is now time for everyone to get on the same bus even though their seats are different.
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.