SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

March 14, 2014

Bentley teachers see hope, promise

SALEM — There are charts on the conference-room wall at Bentley School that tell a different story from the one presented by city leaders who are considering turning the struggling elementary school over to a nonprofit education management firm.

The charts show progress and competitive scores at Bentley, especially in the youngest grades, on tests given by consultants at schools across the city, according to Bentley teachers.

The results of recent testing at the lower grades, the teachers say, paint a different picture than the low, and sometimes declining, MCAS scores at the upper grades — scores that top school leaders cite as evidence of lack of progress at the Level 4 school in the second year of a state-mandated turnaround.

“Why use last year’s third-grade MCAS data to arrive at decisions about the model that’s in place now?” asked Dana Kleemola, a kindergarten teacher and member of the data leadership team at Bentley.

The scores of second-graders are especially encouraging and revealing, because those 50-or-so students entered the school around the time the turnaround began and new teaching methods were being put in place, she said.

“This is a group that’s going to be taking the MCAS next year,” Kleemola said. “I just think that’s extremely promising.”

The Bentley teachers hope to make a presentation at Monday night’s meeting of the School Committee, which will be considering a proposal to hire an education management organization for next school year, which would have the power to hire a new principal and teachers and make other changes at the 292-student, K-5 school.

Mayor Kim Driscoll, who chairs the school board and has spearheaded a possible partnership with a nonprofit turnaround organization, acknowledges that the Bentley staff has been working hard. But the mayor also notes that the school is in the second year of a three-year turnaround and not only isn’t making the progress it should, but had lower MCAS scores in some grades and subjects in the most recent tests.

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