SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 14, 2012

More answers to Salem school questions

Kimberley Driscoll and Stephen Russell
The Salem News

---- — 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.

Can you elaborate on the districtwide model of instruction, please?

Research indicates that the teacher plays the biggest role in determining the extent to which students excel. The districtwide model of instruction that Salem schools are pursuing has several components.

First, regular collection of data (ANet) on a quarterly basis, and review of this data in a timely manner, with a focus on using what’s learned to adjust or adapt instruction to ensure that every child has mastered the material.

Second, use of the state’s Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Conditions for school effectiveness as the foundation from which to build professional development to improve instruction. While this may sound like common sense (and it is), a more explicit outline of the details involved is available on the schools’ website, www.salemk12.org.

Is there correlation between the turnaround program/team and after-school programs?

After-school programming, when planned to include academic, physical and motivational components, can be of value to students in supporting the turnaround efforts. The Salem YMCA, Boys & Girls Club, Campfire and For Kids Only after-school programs — among others — are focusing on the value their programs can bring to the turnaround efforts.

Are they on the community advisory board?

The Community Advisory Board is made up of many representatives throughout the city and includes some people who also serve on the boards of the after-school providers. One of the benefits of being in Salem is that despite being a city, we are smaller in size than many others. This serves as an advantage in promoting communication among various groups, and contributes to shared efforts and agendas — which in this case benefits children.

What can a kindergarten mom do to strengthen Collins Middle or Salem High (i.e., don’t make me move out of Salem in six years)?

If asked to name one thing that I would suggest to the parents of young children, I would encourage you to read to them. Establishing a regular routine, even for only 15 minutes a day, in which you read to them or have them read to you, will pay huge dividends. I would also encourage you to become involved in your own child’s school. These are the things you can control today that will be of most benefit to your child.

How can Salem State (or can Salem State) support our schools with tutoring to achieve a 2-1 ratio? Can we do this sooner rather than later?

We have a very strong partnership in place with Salem State University. Many of their students spend a great deal of time volunteering, serving as student-teachers and directly participating in the lives of our students. Just this past summer, our partnership led to the creation of a special program for English-language learners that led to huge gains in elementary student reading levels. We are interested in working more directly with Salem State and will be exploring ways to partner on tutoring efforts.

Where will the money for tutoring come from?

Honestly, we’re not sure. As we develop plans, we will need to prioritize spending. We value tutoring and the return on investment it can provide to our students and will be evaluating how best to implement a full-scale tutoring model within our schools.

Do we have a plan for small group tutoring? Who will do this tutoring and when?

During my visits to several schools, I witnessed older students working with younger students. Some of this tutoring involved Salem High School students and, in another case, upper-grade Bowditch School students assisting their lower-grade classmates. This is happening now on a small scale. We need to figure out ways to broaden these efforts and are exploring ways to do so.

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Kimberley Driscoll is the mayor of Salem, and Stephen Russell is the superintendent of schools. This is one of a regular series of columns from the Community Advisory Board for the Salem Public Schools.