EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 15, 2013

Principals discuss improvement plans, achievement results

By Paul Tennant

---- — NORTH ANDOVER — All seven of the town’s school principals told the School Committee on Wednesday night about what they and teachers are doing to improve learning.

Greg Landry, leader of Atkinson Elementary School, said his building has the “highest concentration of ‘high needs’ students” — children whose families have lower than average incomes or for whom English is a second language. He indicated that factor will not be an excuse for low academic performance.

For example, only one out of 24 students in one class at Atkinson gave the correct answer to a question on volume in September. By January, 22 out of 24 pupils had the correct answer, he said. In September, 10 of those 24 pupils were rated as proficient in math. Come January, the number rose to 18.

Like his fellow principals, teachers at his school are collaborating and comparing strategies, Landry said. He also said he intends to make better use of the Title I teacher assigned to his school.

Title I is a federally funded program that provides additional resources to schools where 40 percent or more of the students come from lower-income backgrounds.

Over at Franklin School, Principal Mary Lou McCarthy said she and her teachers work on data collection, data analysis, instructional planning, training and progress monitoring. She said one of her school’s goals is that at least 80 percent of second-graders will demonstrate 90 percent proficiency in addition and subtraction by the end of the school year.

Fifty percent of the students have reached that standard, she reported to the School Committee.

At Kittredge Elementary School, Principal Richard Cushing said he has allotted four , 45-minute periods every month for each of his teachers to analyze assessment data on students.

“The results are encouraging,” Cushing said. As an example, 18 percent of first-graders at Kittredge needed intensive instruction on letter-naming fluency in September, he said. By January, only 4 percent required such help, he said.

Cushing told the School Committee it’s exciting to hear “teachers talking about instruction.”

Dr. Edward Foster, head of Sargent School, said after-school help has helped his students progress. To cite on example, 58.6 percent of fifth-graders tested as proficient in writing at the beginning of the academic year. That number has climbed to 75.8 percent, he said.

Lorena Marx, who began her duties as principal of Thomson Elementary School in September, said that by providing extra help where needed, her teachers have led third-graders to greater proficiency in reading.

At the halfway point in the school year, 63 percent of the third-graders have reached profiency in reading, she said.

North Andover Middle School Principal Joan McQuade said 44 percent of eighth-graders have achieved proficiency in math while 50 percent of them are writing at a proficient level.

At North Andover High School, Principal Carla Scuzzarella said one of her goals is to “improve the school culture through the actions of adults and students.”

For example, the high school recently observed National Compliment Day, she noted. On the learning front, teachers make use of “daily collaborative time for looking at student work,” she said.

Teachers recently discovered that some juniors didn’t know how to write a topic or thesis statement when doing a research paper, she said. The educators corrected that deficiency, she said.

School Committee member Christine Allen thanked the principals for “wonderful presentations.”