hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

School News

January 11, 2012

Tilton tabbed as 'innovation school'

The city's public schools are looking not to just renovate their buildings in the coming years, but innovate their teaching methods as well.

School leaders said that by the fall, they plan to implement a new educational concept at Tilton Elementary School called "innovation" schooling.

Innovation schools implement their own curriculums, schedules and hiring policies, similar to the way a public charter school operates.

A charter school receives state money to operate and is allowed to develop a curriculum different from that of the rest of the community's school district. Charter schools also do not answer to the community's school committee.

Mary Malone, assistant superintendent of curriculum, said the district chose Tilton to pilot the innovation school program because of the school's low-income population, poor scores on the MCAS tests, and Principal Mary Beth Maranto's willingness to try the program.

Malone said Tilton's plan will focus on a redesigned curriculum and possibly a new schedule requiring longer school days and shorter summer vacations.

Parents of children at Tilton can opt out and send their children to another Haverhill school if they disagree with the changes, school officials said.

"We would hope everybody wants to come to this school," Malone said.

Mayor James Fiorentini, who is chairman of the School Committee, announced the Tilton innovation plan during his inauguration speech at the start of January.

"It's supposed to be every kid has the opportunity for success," Fiorentini said, noting the neighborhoods surrounding Tilton typically have students with low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds.

Raymond Serpina, a School Committee member and former Tilton principal, said the district should exercise patience before adopting big changes in education theories. Serpina said the popular "open concept" classrooms of the 1970s, implemented at Methuen High School and Greater Lawrence Technical High School, ultimately proved unsuccessful and forced expensive renovations decades later.

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