Board member Howard asked whether, if Board members were to look at these plans and deem them to be inadequate, they should vote “no.” Chairman Reville said the Board needs a constructive plan on what to do, including resources. The chairman noted that a lot of work went into these plans, the districts have to move forward, and the Board in the near term needs to send a signal to them. Chairman Reville said the Board could shape a new vision with the Commissioner in the future.
Commissioner Chester said this is about reciprocal accountability, and he is committed to improving the system as we go forward. The commissioner said that by approving the plans, the Board is not signaling that the work is done. The Board and the Department will continue to monitor these schools and districts. Board member Howard said that if the work the Department is doing does not result in dramatic improvement in the rate and speed of schools coming off the underperforming list, it is just an exercise. Commissioner Chester agreed, and said this has to be about action and results. Chairman Reville said it is important to remember that this is a redesign of a previous process, and that the Readiness Project is also looking at these issues.
Ms. Kaplan said she thought the Board would be hearing from superintendents. Chairman Reville said the Board cannot do an in-depth examination of every school; the Board’s role is to set the framework and have confidence in the commissioner and staff to carry out the work. The chairman said the superintendents have each gone through the state review process. Ms. Kaplan said that at some point she would like to hear from a few superintendents and principals as part of feedback.
Ms. Kaplan also asked whether recent interim report on Reading First would have any impact on these districts. She added that when she visited a school in Lowell, the principal told her the school doesn’t teach science and history because of double blocks of reading and math.
Dr. Stotsky said that most of these schools have declining populations. She requested an update from the Department on general school enrollment trends. Dr. Stotsky said the math strategies and programs used in these elementary schools are found unsupported in research by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. Dr. Stotsky suggested the use of an anonymous teacher survey to get feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the math programs they are using.
Board member Mohler-Faria said this is the epicenter of the achievement gap, and this work is what will elevate us as a Commonwealth. Chairman Reville agreed that this is top priority work. Associate Commissioner Dow said that in each of the past two years, the Board has asked for $30 million for targeted assistance for schools and districts, but that level of support has not been available.
Ms. Kaplan asked about the teacher survey in New Bedford. Associate Commissioner Foisy said those results were made available to the leadership team and that New Bedford commented on the use of the analysis in their planning. Ms. Foisy said the Department advises districts to take the surveys seriously. Ms. Kaplan asked about individual school