SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

February 1, 2013

Column: 'Try hard and learn a lot'

The motto of Carlton School is to “try hard and learn a lot.”

After a year of planning, we are now several months into our journey as an Innovation School, and that motto has held true for both students and staff. We are working hard to establish a learning community with high expectations while encouraging kids to be curious about the world around them and to try their best in everything they do.

The Carlton School opened this fall as a Massachusetts Department of Education Innovation School. We were lucky enough to kick off our school year with a visit from Gov. Deval Patrick, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray and Education Secretary Paul Reville, who came to see our plan in action. It was quite an honor and made for an exciting start to the school year.

Our new model is based on the idea of continuous progress. This means our focus has shifted from teaching classes of children to teaching individual children who learn at different rates and in different ways. Instruction is geared toward small groups of children working on the same skill or concept, rather than an entire class learning the same skills and concepts at the same time and in the same way. Frequent assessments and record keeping ensure that teachers are monitoring growth and are aware when a student’s skills are not progressing.

The goal is to move all of our students along a continuum of learning in all content areas. This continuum is based on the skills outlined in the Massachusetts Common Core. We have also developed a continuum for personal and social growth. Our students are able to move through the curriculum on a trimester basis rather than a yearly one. As students master grade-level skills, they would be able to move ahead before the end of a school year when students are typically promoted. Conversely, students can spend an additional trimester in a grade in order to master the skills needed to move on without repeating an entire school year. Moving a child on would require a meeting with the student, the parents and all of the teachers who work with the child, as well as documentation that shows the child has mastered the content and skills. This process places emphasis on the student to be equally responsible for their learning.

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