Tuesday, March 19, 2013

In like a lamb

A quiet month so far:

Pupil Services Committee meeting:

Committee members in attendance: Chair Linda Raileanu, Susan Tiernan, Maria Pimley
Non-committee members in attendance:  Board President Vince Murphy, Vice President Karen Miller, Ed Coyle

Review of WCASD alternative education program
An overview of this program, offered by Transformational Education Academy housed at Melton Center, was presented at October 2012 Pupil Services meeting. What Dr. Ranieri provided at this meeting was a  follow-up assessment of whether or not the District has met the original goals, set by earlier task force,  concerning alternative education in the district:  
  • bring students back to the district (Least Restrictive Environment)
  • increase graduation rates of students in AE programs
  • provide quality program utilizing district curriculum - if AE students are being taught district curriculum, it is much easier to transition them back into district schools.
Board VP Karen Miller questions why the District still uses some outside alternative education providers. Dr. Ranieri explains the types of AE, noting that not all services can be provided through TEA/District.  For example, a student may be injured, requiring him/her to spend prolonged time in the hospital.  In such a  case, the district is responsible to educate that student and it obviously cannot be done “in house”.  Dr.  Ranieri  explains another situation where students may have been involved in the same incident and  need to be schooled in separate environments.  Both Ed Coyle and Linda Raileanu suggest that the District and Mr. Van Vooren (TEA director) co-author a survey to assess parent/student satisfaction with TEA.  Mr. Van Vooren states that he did distribute a survey last year and received only 2 responses, but both were positive and he will be happy to work with Dr. Ranieri on future surveys.   The Board unanimously approved  the 3 year renewal of contract for TEA to be housed at the Melton Center (the District pays rent to the Center).

March Education Committee meeting:

Committee Members in attendance;  Chair Maria Pimley, Susan Tiernan, Linda Raileanu
Non committee members in attendance:  Board President Vince Murphy, Vice President Karen Miller, Ed Coyle

Kindergarten update
Dr. Missett reports that Kindergarten registration was successful.  Over 500 families registered for a total of approximately 673 kindergarteners.  Such a good turnout for early registration allows WCASD to better prepare for staffing.  This year, students will be assessed in June so the District can make informed placements and children will know their teachers before the start of school.  Families who register June -August will be assessed in order to be placed before start of school.

A Child’s Place, the District’s before/after care provider will pilot a half-day program to offset kindergarten.  The program will run at Starkweather, East Bradford and Fern Hill and will reinforce the WCASD curriculum. The child will not be graded on work completed in the Child’s Place program, but a portfolio will be kept.  Child’s Place has hired a supervisor for the WCASD and certified teachers will run the program at all 3 schools.  The classes will hold a maximum of 25 students for AM and PM and placement will be based on a lottery system to ensure fairness.  Dr. Missett states there are currently about 50 children signed up.  The children will eat lunch at school with the first grade. In addition, students will be using school playgrounds, but Child’s Place employees will be responsible for oversight. She clarifies that building principal and staff will not be responsible for this program and the district will not provide transportation to/from the participating schools for students attending from other District elementary schools-  that remains the parent’s responsibility. A Child’s Place leases facilities from WCASD and parents pay tuition directly to Child’s Place, thus it is a revenue-producing venture.  

Chester County Family Academy Charter renewal

This K-2 charter school, located on East Gay Street,  was one of the first in PA, originating in 1997.  It offers a year round 8AM-4PM program for approximately 60 children.  By admission, Family Academy offers “responsive support to low income challenges”.  Dr. Scanlon and Dr. Missett have asked for the school’s annual report and are planning a visit. The Board will ultimately vote to renew charter or not by April board meeting.

Update of PA School Performance Profile

Dr. Fraser reported on this evaluation tool at February Education Committee, promising to give more detail this month.  In light of the fact that PA Dept. of Education has postponed the School Performance Profile until fall 2013, opting to use 2012-13 data instead of 2011-12 data, Dr. Fraser has elected to postpone his analysis.   He does elaborate on one of the data elements of the profile, “Closing the Achievement Gap”. As discussed last month, this  particular measure will be cumulative, with “success” defined as closing one-half of the gap for “all students” and “historically underperforming students” over a six year period.   Dr. Fraser also explains that, in an effort to  identify  “gaps”  more efficiently,  PA has lowered the minimum number of students to be considered:   From PDE:

 “To include more students in the accountability system, Pennsylvania has lowered from 40 to 11 the minimum number of students to be considered (known as n size) for both reporting and accountability purposes. The State combines historically underperforming students into a gap group to increase accountability. For example, a school with only five students with disabilities, three English Language Learners, and three economically disadvantaged students will be counted in the historically underperforming students with this lowered n count of 11; thus, this change will help to identify existing gaps in more schools.”

At this point, there is a question from Linda Raileanu concerning the composition of these smaller "gap groups".  She cites particular ethnic groups, noting they are likely to be in the "historically underperforming" group, and verifies with Dr. Fraser they would be accounted for in the new system.  While one is confident that Ms. Raileanu was indeed simply attempting to clarify "gap groups"  and confirm those students are included,  some in the room heard, and sadly took away,  the opposite of her query.

Dr. Fraser feels there will be additional changes to the Profile and will keep us updated.  He also informs us that PA has officially submitted an ESEA flexibility request (NCLB waiver) to US Department of Education and there are no surprises: Common Core/Keystones, teacher evaluation and PA Performance Profile are included.  Confused as to exactly how these systems correspond to Pennsylvania’s request for flexibility?   Simply put, a state waiver asks for “flexibility” in meeting the “federally-defined principles” of NCLB:  college and career readiness, supporting effective leadership and state accountability.  The Common Core/Keystone assessments claim to support college and career readiness, the state’s new teacher and principal evaluation system proposes to support effective leadership and the PA Performance Profile serves as an accountability system. The waiver was submitted on February 28 - a summary can be viewed here. For the complete version, visit PDE,  click Forms and Documents on left menu and enter “ESEA waiver” in Forms Search.

 Adoption of Middle School Math Textbook
Math Supervisor Ian Kerr reports on the selection of Math In Focus textbook by textbook selection committee, per WCASD Policy IFAA.  Mr. Kerr tells us the book is both concrete and pictorial, emphasizing  “multiple representations of numbers” and will align nicely with Common Core standards.  Mr. Kerr commends Dr. Pimley, who served as the Board representative on the selection committee, for allowing changes to the selection rubric, making it more “math-specific”.  For Dr. Pimley , this was the first time she served on a textbook selection committee and she expresses her enjoyment of being involved, not only as a “math nerd”,  but as a parent with a child entering middle school.  She also notes the positive feedback she has received from teachers.  Along with the adoption of the new textbook, the Board suggests the District offer parent “help” sessions in order to support the textbook’s home use.  Mr. Kerr agrees that the District could provide orientation sessions for parents.  Math in Focus was unanimously adopted by committee.

Before it is over, please remember March is Women’s History Month! 
If you have not done so already, please take some time to remember, honor and celebrate women in history.  Visit the online exhibits at the National Women’s History Museum  http://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/

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