SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

February 28, 2014

Driscoll: Commitment to Salem schools continues

(Continued)

Our ongoing Middle School Success Initiative is deeply connected with the AIP. This initiative was launched to improve Salem’s middle schools and prepare all our students for continued success in high school. The Middle School Task Force has researched successful middle school models and reviewed survey, focus group and interview data from the community. They are developing a clear vision for what critical components will create an enhanced middle school model in Salem and a set of recommendations to present to the School Committee in March.

The findings of the surveys, focus groups and interviews revealed key themes that will inform those recommendations. There is strong support for choice and consistency across our schools. Community members rightly see our teachers as one of our schools’ core strengths but believe there must be more rigorous expectations and higher academic standards for our students. There is a need for more differentiated instruction for both advanced and struggling students. Parents want to be more involved but sometimes feel unwelcome. Latino families, in particular, feel our schools should focus more on cultural competency for educators.

We believe that by strengthening our middle schools, we can really move the needle on achievement overall. The final report from the task force will identify three to five recommendations under each of the AIP’s focus areas. Each recommendation will include actionable implementation strategies, specifying who is responsible for the recommendation, along with budget estimates.

Overall, parental and community engagement remains a top priority, as does extended learning time, increased teacher collaboration and robust summer learning opportunities.

Finally, we are pursuing increased achievement levels at Bentley School. We are at the midway point of year two of the school turnaround plan at Bentley, and we will undertake a robust evaluation of the work underway to ensure the best possible outcomes for students and families.

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