hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

School News

December 9, 2010

Despite state report, teachers say Haverhill schools are improving

A report issued late last month by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education gave a scathing warning to the Haverhill Public School System: Either shape up or face the state's intervention.

School officials and teachers, however, said they've already begun making corrections and should be on the right in track for the foreseeable future.

"Education is an evolving profession," interim Superintendent James Scully said. "We're dealing with human beings who learn at different rates. Most of our people work hard and most of our parents care."

The report, titled "Haverhill Public Schools Level Three District Review," details several critical deficiencies district-wide in instruction, staffing and organization.

The study was conducted during a visit to the district from May 3 to May 6. The report says the six state staffers spoke with parents, teachers, the administration of former Haverhill Superintendent Raleigh Buchanan, School Committee members and several city employees. The state deemed closer inspection of the district necessary after Haverhill schools failed to make progress for the third year in MCAS scores among certain groups of students.

School districts are classified at "level 3" status if they place among the lowest 20 percent of schools throughout the state in MCAS scores. If a district fails to make progress towards MCAS goals for four years running or places among the lowest 10 percent of the state, it faces a level 4 classification and state intervention.

State investigators found that Haverhill people interviewed complained of "dysfunctional" School Committee meetings, inefficient and overburdened administrators, curriculum plans ignored by educators and lackluster teacher assessments.

Scully said the report does make valid points about the district's failings, but added that since he has taken over as superintendent, most of these failings have either been addressed directly or will continue to improve in time.

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