The test scores at Saltonstall indicate that there is no proof that the extended year program is effective. While many people have argued that test scores are not everything (and I agree, by the way), our governing body, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), does. To simply ignore DESE and how they view the importance of MCAS would not be wise. They have the authority to come in and take over our schools and then they would decide what programs will be offered in our district.
When the district is in a period of limited resources, and given that there is no proof that the extended year program is effective, I believe that the money spent on an extended year would be better served by helping needier students. I get the argument that it is not clear that the other schools want it. My position has never been to force an extended year on our schools (although sometimes I wish we could). My position is to look at what we are currently doing with the Bell program, that is, have the principals and staff identify students at their respective schools who through using the data, would benefit the most from extended year/summer programming and recommend that they attend. Yes, I know there are students at Saltonstall who fall in this category and we would encourage Principal Carter to recommend students to the program.
People have asked me why I have changed my mind. I even had a parent identify a quote that I gave to The Salem News last year that said, “I could not in good conscience vote to discontinue something (Saltonstall calendar) that is clearly working.” I made that decision solely looking at MCAS scores because as many of you so clearly articulated, the district did not have good data. We have since taken major steps to remedy that problem and the data show that the MCAS scores at Saltonstall are not significantly better than the other schools in the district. The data also show the Saltonstall has the second-lowest population of free and reduced lunch students.