hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

School News

April 18, 2012

Teachers to vote on Tilton School change

(Continued)

Maranto said a mock straw poll showed more than 90 percent of Tilton's teachers support the plan, while others have said "maybe" and are asking questions about it.

A key component of education reform legislation signed into law in January of 2010 by Gov. Deval Patrick was the creation of innovation schools, the first of which are now in their second year of operation. Innovation Schools operate with greater autonomy and flexibility in the areas of curriculum, staffing, budget, scheduling, the school calendar, professional development and district policies, and in trying different ideas to improve student achievement while keeping school funding within the district.

Maranto said despite improvements in both its math and English language arts MCAS scores last year, Tilton failed to meet its state mandated goals for improvement. She said it is time to try something different to help her school's 550 students, almost 70 percent of whom qualify for free and reduced lunch and many of whom are English language learners. One idea is for teachers to work with students in small groups, and from different classrooms, in order to focus on academic areas in which they are struggling, based on extensive assessment testing.

Superintendent James Scully said one facet of the plan is to build a school community within Tilton, and that it might include school uniforms.

Maranto's proposal was met by skepticism by some School Committee members. They asked what would be different than what is being done now and how the program would be evaluated. They also questioned the logic of implementing a school uniform policy.

"I'm going to be a hard sell," committeeman Scott Wood said about the proposal for uniforms.

He said he has yet to see any hard data showing that uniforms help to improve a school's MCAS scores.

Committee members would have the ability to modify the plan. Mayor James Fiorentini, chairman of the School Committee, said he had "grave concerns" and worried that the plan sounded too much like what has been tried before without success. He said going to school longer and studying more is what works, and suggested Maranto visit a KIPP school, which is a type of public charter school intended to help students in low-income communities. Fiorentini said they have a longer school day and a longer school year.

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