SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

February 4, 2014

State praises Salem school department for progress

(Continued)

While initiatives are underway systemwide, officials are especially targeting high needs students — a group that includes children with limited English skills, low-income students and special needs students. More work has to be done to close the academic achievement gap between this group and other students, officials said.

The school system was commended for the partnership it formed with Achievement Net, a private, nonprofit company that is testing students and working with teachers to improve instruction.

After hearing from state officials, Driscoll said: “It feels to me like we’re really hitting our stride with ANet.”

State officials also lauded the greater role principals are taking in implementing the school systems accelerated improvement plan. As busy as they are, it is essential for principals to be leaders in this effort, an official said.

“There’s a cultural shift underway,” said Patricia Williams, the state’s plan monitor for Salem.

There was a note of caution, however, in a report that accompanied last night’s presentation.

“Heightened expectations for principals are clear, although the capacity of all principals to respond to these expectations is not yet clear,” it stated.

Williams praised Superintendent Stephen Russell for implementing and participating in “instructional rounds,” or visits to classrooms by a team of educators to monitor instruction. Through the fall, the team had observed about 100 classrooms across the district.

Williams said she has seen “promising results” in the effort to improve student attendance.

While systems are in place and progress is being noted, it also was clear that Salem has a long way to go to raise test scores and other chronically low benchmarks.

“The work is underway,” a DESE report stated, “although a great deal remains to be done.”

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.

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