SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

February 4, 2014

State praises Salem school department for progress

SALEM — The School Department is making solid progress implementing a long-term plan to improve teaching and raise student achievement, but still has a long way to go.

Those were among the conclusions of mid-year reports presented last night to the School Committee, which is closely monitoring progress in a Level 4, under-performing district ordered by the state to make a number of changes.

School leaders were praised for work done to align school curriculums with state academic frameworks, to use test data to analyze student performance and to improve teaching, and to attack chronic problems like poor attendance.

A top state official also lauded Salem officials for welcoming input from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and for working with a number of outside groups.

“We feel like this is a partnership that has been real strong,” said Eva Mitchell, an associate commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“This is very encouraging,” said Mayor Kim Driscoll, who chairs the school board.

In a cautionary note, testing done during this school year shows that some schools and grades are not making sufficient progress in math and English, two key areas on the high-stakes state MCAS exam.

The progress reports were made on the eve of a community meeting tonight on the School Department’s “Accelerated Improvement” or turnaround plan. Driscoll and Superintendent Stephen Russell will provide updates at a 6:30 p.m. meeting at Nathaniel Bowditch School which is open to parents and the general public.

The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has given Salem three years to raise test scores and make other improvements throughout the system following the Bentley Elementary School’s designation as a Level 4 school based on low scores in the MCAS exams.

This is the second year of the turnaround plan.

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