SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

December 28, 2012

Column: More questions, answers on Salem schools

At the community meeting on the Salem Public Schools held at Salem State University in September, audience members submitted questions. It was not possible to answer all questions that evening. Below are final unanswered questions with answers.

We saw a lot of improvement in a short period of time at Bentley over the summer. Will we see the same increase during this school year?

One of the advantages that the Bentley/Salem State University program enjoyed during the summer was staffing levels that allowed for a great deal of small groups (three or four students to one teacher). While not affordable on a broader scale, we do believe many of the “lessons learned” about how best to organize instruction and work with English-language learners are transferable. Staff, students and families are working hard at Bentley School, and we hope to see their improvement continue.

In your experience/research, have you found that parents in the community sent messages to their children that would undervalue education? If so, was it enough to have schools with high expectations to improve, even if some community members did not share those expectations/values?

Dr. Fryer’s research has shown that this is possible given high expectations, academic support and not accepting (or making) excuses for why students aren’t performing well. Many of the students he and his staff have worked with have succeeded despite the obstacles they face in their daily lives.

What percentages of students, districtwide, are failing MCAS? What percentage were minority or low-income?

The fall 2012 MCAS results (for this past spring) with a target of 75 show all students achieving an average of 56. Those in the high-need groups, 54, and low-income, 53.

How can we solve the class-size issue at the elementary level? Witchcraft Heights Elementary School has 24 kids in second grade, and other schools have a lot less.

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