SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

December 7, 2012

Column: Answering parents' questions on the 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 some of the unanswered questions with answers. Additional ones will be answered in subsequent articles.

How does our designation as a gateway city influence our decision process for school change?

Salem’s designation as one of the commonwealth’s 24 Gateway Cities increases our eligibility for grant funding. For example, working in conjunction with Salem State University and the North Shore Workforce Investment Board under Mayor Driscoll’s leadership, we have submitted two Gateway City grant applications for the creation of a summer English Language Learners Program and a Career Academy at Salem High for training in health care services.

Dr. Roland Fryer said Salem is at the level of baby steps. What should we be doing to take giant steps?

Some of the key aspects of Dr. Fryer’s work in the city of Houston’s lowest-performing 10 urban schools involved greater use of data to inform instruction, the hiring of tutors at a five-student-to-one-tutor ratio, the replacement of a substantial number of administrative and teaching staff within the schools, and additional time added to the school day and year, as just some examples. Given the significantly smaller scale of issues to contend with in our schools and the greater role our educators take on both within our schools and our community, not to mention much stronger collective bargaining legislation in Massachusetts, it would not be practical to utilize the exact same approach in our school improvement plans. However, we are working with Dr. Fryer and implementing reform measures that make sense and are more constructive in a smaller city like Salem. Some examples of efforts and priorities that will enable us to take “giant steps” include: the increase in the use of data to inform instruction with A-Net; the addition of time to the school day; more focused training and supports for teachers/administrators, along with higher accountability through implementation of the new educator/administrator evaluation tools, addition of tutors and/or intervention blocks for students.

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