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Report spells out state of AHS

Town residents gather in Old Hall as Assistant McCarthy explains.     Town residents gather in Old Hall as Assistant Principal  William McCarthy (checked shirt) explains during a Dec. 7, 2013, tour of the high school.

In advance of a special School Committee meeting to hear reports about state of Arlington High School, schools' Superintendent Kathleen Bodie has pointed the public to a report calling for an update of all major systems at Arlington High School.

In an email to the community Tuesday, March 4, she wrote that the 100-year-old school has had no "major renovation since the late 1970s. Repairs have been made over the years as needed."

Last year the engineering firm On-site Insight was hired to evaluate all of the mechanical, electrical and infrastructure needs of the building. The report indicates that all of the high school's major systems need updating, she wrote.

In their 20-year schedule for repairs, the vast majority of the repairs would need to be completed in the first year. The complete report can be found on the district website here >>

Every 10 years, the high school participates in an accreditation process with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). In its letter dated Sept. 11, 2013, NEASC placed the high school on warning status for the state of its facilities.

In December, the architectural firm of HMFH, architects for the new Thompson Elementary School, was hired to analyze the programmatic needs of the high school, including the impact of the current building on teaching and learning.

Architect Lori Cowles will present her report to the School Committee on Thursday, March 6, and to the Board of Selectmen on Monday, March 10. Both will be broadcast on ACMi.

In addition, she will present her report to parents and community members on Wednesday, March 12, in the auditorium of the high school from 7 to 8 p.m. There will be an opportunity to ask questions.

A number of people have requested that the administration offer for tours of the building so that people can see firsthand what the needs are. Tours of the high school were held on the following dates and times:

Saturday, March 15, 9 to 10:30 a.m.

Tuesday, March 18, 4 to 5:30 p.m.

Thursday, March 20, 4 to 5:30 p.m.

If you are interested in participating in a tour, RSVP through this link >>


Dec. 23, 2013: Unprecedented process underway to reshape Arlington High


The school's building history reflects a piecework approach, a lack of overall, long-term design. The graphic below shows how. Follow the letters on the image from Google Earth:

Google Earth view of Arlington High School with letters indicating its buildings.A. The original building, off Schouler Court, now called Fusco House, was built in 1914 and had some renovation in 1981.

 B. The current main office was built 1938 and underwent some renovation in 1981.

C. The section called Collomb House was built 1938 and had some renovation in 1981.

D. Lowe Auditorium, the school's performance space, was also built 1938 underwent some renovation in 1981.

E. Toward Peirce Field, Downs House was built 1964 and has had no significant renovation.

F. The Links Building, which connects Downs and Lowe, went up in 1981 has not been renovated.

G. Offices and the cafeteria were built 1960s.

H. The Red Gym went up in 1981.

I. The Blue Gym and its locker rooms were built in 1960 and were renovated in 1981.


This story was published Tuesday, March 4, 2014.

New Dallin principal coming from Berkshires

Dallin School logo

Thad DingmanDingmanUPDATED, Feb. 25: Thad Dingman, a principal in western Massachusetts, has accepted the top job at Dallin Elementary School and assumes his responsibilities July 1, the public-school administration announced Monday, Feb. 24.

Since 2010, Dingman has been principal of the Muddy Brook Elementary School, an EK-4 school in the Berkshire Hills Regional School District, in Great Barrington.

"I couldn't be more excited to join the community and staff at Dallin Elementary," Dingman told YourArlington Feb. 25.

"From the time I¹ve been able to spend with staff and families, it is clear that there is genuine pride for the school and it's students.

"I also realize there is lots to learn and lots more relationships to build. I thrive off of challenges and am confident that this is the beginning of a wonderful experience for all of us.

"Best wishes to the Dallin community as they finish this year. I am eager to begin my transition in as the new principal for the 2014-2015 school year and to introduce my family to our new home."

Under his leadership, Muddy Brook has been awarded a $225,000 federal 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, a $60,000 grant for the development of an early literacy program and a $25,000 award to implement the Full Option Science System® (FOSS) curriculum.

"We are very pleased to welcome Mr. Dingman to Arlington. Thad brings energy and enthusiasm about teaching and learning to the Dallin Elementary School," Dr. Kathleen Bodie, superintendent of schools, said in a news release.

She said Arlington attracted 69 applicants for the position and had "three strong finalists."

From 2004 to 2010, Dingman was a fifth-grade teacher in the Boulder Valley, Colo., School District. He has also held positions as an assistant director of a preschool and as a teacher at the preschool level.

Dingman received a bachelor of fine arts in industrial design from Rochester Institute of Technology. He received his teaching license and a master's of elementary education from Regis University in Denver.

Additionally, Dingman is a graduate of the University of Colorado Denver’s Program on Administrative Leadership and Policy Studies.

In an email to parents and guardians, Bode thanked those who participated in the parent forum and on the search committee.

Apart from Dingman, the finalists Angela Kimble, principal of the North Street School in Tewksbury; and Karen Hunt Dwyer-Tower, assistant principal at the Blanchard Memorial School, a K-6 school in the Boxborough School District.

Search delayed last year

The search for a permanent principal of the Dallin School was put on hold last April after one of three finalists withdrew. In response, Dr. Eileen Driscoll Wood, the interim principal for the current school year, agreed to stay on for the 2013-14 school year.

For this plan to work, Woods must receive a retirement waiver form the state.

Last May, Tara Rossi announced she was leaving as Dallin principal after three years. In June, Bodie said Woods, who was principal of the year in 1998, would take over. Woods retired from the Andover public schools in 2008 after a long career there.


This story was published Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, and updated the next day.

How 10-year-olds turned tide on Peirce flood

It’s our last year here, and we wanted to help."

Megan Anderson, fifth grade

Fliers made by Peirce students seeking books.Involved from left are Anyleliz Germosen, Cheryl Kohl, Meghan Anderson, Vivian Ruiz (facing away) and Louisa Baldwin.

A three-story frozen waterfall can be a beautiful thing, but not when it starts in the third-floor art room and ends at the ground-floor library.
 
A burst pipe at the Peirce Elementary School, rebuilt 12 years ago, sent cascades of water through the second-floor reading and language rooms and flooded the library.

It was Sunday, Jan. 5. The next day, school was scheduled to reopen after a severely cold winter break. The destruction could have instilled a feeling of gloom into the New Year. Instead, a group of 10-year-olds turned this calamity into a triumph.

Dog walker called police

An early morning dog walker noticed the ice and called the police. Town and school officials were notified. Within a few hours, the maintenance and custodial staff were on-site, completing essential repairs and using specialized machines to vacuum the two inches of water that had flowed through the ceiling and drenched the library carpet.

Later that afternoon Karen Hartley, the principal, and Jane Torregrossa (“Mrs. T”), the librarian, arrived to assess the damage.

The first thing they noticed was that they could not see out the windows. Sheets of thick ice had completely covered all the panes on the southwest side of the building.

They did see water dripping from the ceiling into buckets, walls with blistering paint and two commercial garbage bins filled with soggy wet books.

Later, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie told the School Committee that an early damage estimate was put at $50,000, but it was likely to go higher.

400 books destroyed; students keep pushing

If it weren’t for a group of fifth-grade girls, the story would end here.

The insurance claim would be filed; repairs completed; walls repainted, and new carpet installed. The 400 destroyed books would have slowly been replaced. Back to business as usual.

Fifth grader Megan Anderson was the first student to learn of the flood and the ensuing damage. Within minutes, she told classmates Cheryl Kohl, Anyleiz Germosen and Louisa Baldwin.

Before the holiday break, the girls had started working together on a class project. They were "graduating" in June and planning a bake sale to raise money to purchase commemorative T-shirts.

It’s unclear who was the first to come up with the idea of helping to restock the library, but Germosen recalled saying, "You can wreck a T-shirt and fix it, but you can’t wreck books and fix them."

So much for T-shirts ...

They dropped the T-shirt idea and initiated a book drive for the library.

They made posters and recruited kids from other grades to do the same. When they had a stack of more than 40 signs, they realized that they had forgotten something important.

Not wanting to get into trouble, they decided that, before doing anything else, they needed to get permission for the book drive. They spoke with Hartley and Mrs. T; both encouraged them to keep going.

And so they did. They taped placards on the walls throughout the school. They created fliers and made sure every student in the school took one home. Friends and relatives were notified and the girls published an appeal in The Bugle, the school newspaper.

1,387 books collected

Then the books starting arriving: brand-new or hardly used volumes; old classics and more recently published works; picture books, chapter books and reference books; and hard covers and paperbacks.

Collected in all were 1,387, along with cash to purchase more and credit at the local bookstore.

Donations arrived from other public schools and some private ones, and from parents, grandparents and other relatives. Former Peirce students, now in college or now parents themselves, made contributions.

They had so many volumes that Mrs. T was able to give 200 duplicate titles to teachers so that they could replenish their classroom libraries.

"I came down the hall with a cart stacked with books," she said. "It was like Christmas."

Helping feels good

When asked what they learned from leading the book drive, Kohl and Anderson responded, "The importance of working together."

Germosen agreed: "It’s better to help the community than to be greedy."

Baldwin added: "Doing something good feels good."

Mrs. T noted how long and hard the kids had worked and that she was "overwhelmed by the generosity of these girls."

Asked why they were so willing to give of their time and energy, Anderson said, "It’s our last year here, and we wanted to help."

Kohl added: "We want to have an impact on the kids who come after us."

As they all nodded their heads in agreement, Anderson summed it up, “We love reading, we love the Library, and we love Mrs. T.”


The author, Barbara Goodman, is a retired teacher and a former member of the Arlington School Committee. This story was published Friday, Feb. 14, 2014.

STAND donates $1,000 to Save the Children, Syria

Donation logo

From the proceeds of January's Battle of the Bands, held at the Regent Theatre, the STAND club at Arlington High School will donate $1,000 to Save the Children, specifically to benefit child refugees of the Syrian conflict.

Since launching the Battle of the Bands fund-raiser years ago, STAND has raised more than $15,000 for humanitarian aid and education in trouble spots around the globe.

Past beneficiaries have included the International Rescue Commission and the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation.

This year's STAND club agreed to shift focus to Syria given the scale of the conflict and the urgency of the refugees' needs.

The club members are grateful to all of the performers who graciously provided the talent, to the chaperones who helped make it possible, and to all those who have supported the event in body and/or spirit over the years.


This story was published Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014.

Unnamed candidate for special-education director met public

Special-education logo

Arlington public schools are for a third time seeking candidates for a permanent director of special education, and parents and guardians are participating in the screening committee.

Interviews got underway the week of Feb. 3, Two meetings were held, but the names of candidates have not been made public, though meetings have been held in public.

Parents, community members and School Committee members were invited to meet with as-yet-unnamed candidates Tuesday, Feb. 4, and two days later, from 4:15 to 4:45 p.m. in the School Committee room, sixth floor, Arlington High School.

One of those candidates has been invited a second round of interviews set for Monday, Feb. 10, after having interviewed with the search committee Thursday, Feb. 6, Superi ntendet Kathleen Bodie said in an email Feb. 8.

Parents and community members are invited to meet the candidate at 4 p.m. Feb. 10, in the School Committee Room. "You will have the opportunity to ask questions and give written feedback," she wrote.

YourArlington is trying to learn who the candidates are, but those involved, including the superintendent, decline to say.

Last April, Kathleen Lockyer, who has been interim director for special education since 2012, agreed to serve for another year in that role after the second search in two years for a permanent head hit a roadblock.

The committee will include four parents/guardians, as well as teachers, curriculum leaders and district administrators. The deadline to apply was Monday, Jan. 6.

In an email to parents and guardians Friday, Dec. 20, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie wrote that one of the parent representatives will be appointed by The Arlington Special Education Advisory Council (SEPAC).

The other parent representatives will be selected to best achieve representation for all grade levels (prekindergarten through grade 12), as well as placement (in-district or out-of-district).

The commitment to serve on the screening committee will involve four to six late-afternoon or evening meetings in January and early February, as well as time to read resumes in the schools' human resources office during regular hours.

If you are not selected to participate on the committee, there will be other opportunities for you to participate in the process.

Once the committee interviews and recommends finalists, the administration will be the host for forums so parents can meet the candidates. Comment sheets will be available at forums.

If you are interested in serving on the Director of Special Education Advisory Screening Committee, send an email or letter of interest to Rob Spiegel, Human Resources Officer, 869 Mass. Ave., Arlington, MA 02476 or rspiegel at arlington.k12.ma.us by Jan. 6.

If emailing your application, put “Director of Special Education Screening Committee” in the subject line.

Please include the following information:
 
Name
Email Address
Phone Numbers – home and cell
Current grade(s) of son(s)/daughter(s)
Background or experience that is relevant to the work of the Committee

Volunteers will be notified by the end of the day on Jan. 9 as to whether you have been selected to participate on the Committee.

In the second search, last year, Bodie said three finalists were chosen, two of them withdrew and she recommended one to the School Committee.

Lockyer retired from her last position, in Watertown, so approval for her to continue requires a waiver from the state.

Bodie told the School Committee  in April 11 that the search for a permanent special-education director would resume in the fall.

She said it is important to have a permanent director in the light of a major administrative restructuring of special-education services set for the next school year.

Mark Ryder, who directed the department for three years, announced he was leaving in March 2011 for a nonprofit in Maine. He was paid $110,000 a year.

Plans for a search for a full-time director were announced in November 2011.

The first search, in early 2012, was unsuccessful -- a situation that led to criticism from SEPAC, the parent group that represents special-education interests.

A story last April titled "Failed special-ed search sparks more questions -- and an appeal to consider limited pool" reported, "As a special-education group says Arlington is missing out because its search for a top administrator has failed, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie expressed frustration about the limited pool of candidates squeezed by 17 districts seeking heads of special ed."


This story was published Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, and updated Jan. 31, Feb. 6 and Feb. 10.

Three finalists for Dallin principal named

Dallin School logo

Three finalists for Dallin Elementary School principal were announced Wednesday, Feb. 5, by Superintendent Kathleen Bodie. They are:

Thad Dingman, principal of the Muddy Brook Elementary School, an EK-4 school in the Berkshire Hills Regional School District; Angela Kimble, principal of the North Street School in Tewksbury; and Karen Hunt Dwyer-Tower, assistant principal at the Blanchard Memorial School, a K-6 school in the Boxborough School District.

Candidates to meet public Tuesday

Each candidate will visit the district to meet with teachers, staff and administrators for one half-day Friday, Feb. 7; Monday, Feb. 10; and Tuesday, Feb. 11.

Parents and community members are invited to meet with the candidates on Feb. 11 at the Dallin library at these times:

6 to 6:30 p.m.: Thad Dingman

6:45 to 7:15: Angela Kimble

7:30 to 8: Karen Hunt Dwyer-Tower

Candidates' background

The administration provided this further background:

Under Dingman's leadership, Muddy Brook has been awarded a $225,000 federal 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, a $60,000 grant for the development of an early literacy program and a $25,000 award to implement the Full Option Science System® (FOSS) curriculum.

He received a bachelor of fine arts in industrial design from Rochester Institute of Technology and a master's in education from Regis University in Colorado, has also held positions as an assistant director of a preschool and a teacher at the elementary and preschool level.

During her tenure at North Street, Kimble has implemented school-based data and Response to Intervention (RTI) teams, the Open Circle social emotional learning program, and a community-based after-school arts and enrichment program.

Prior to coming to North Street, she was the assistant principal at the Peter Fitzpatrick Elementary School in Pepperell and the Hawthorne Brooke Middle School in Townsend. She was awarded a bachelor's in history from Texas A & M, a bachelor's in elementary education from the College of Santa Fe and a master's in educational administration from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

Before entering administration, Kimble taught at the middle and elementary school level in Massachusetts, California and New Mexico.

At Blanchard, Dr. Dwyer-Tower coordinated all staff professional development, provided leadership in literacy, and coordinated the Response to Intervention (RTI) supports within the school.

Before coming to Boxborough, she was literacy specialist for the Chelmsford Public School district and a Dean of Academics and literacy specialist for the Woodward School for Girls in Quincy.

She was awarded a bachelor's in English from Tufts University, a master's of education in reading and language from Harvard University, a master's in teaching from Tufts University and a doctorate of education in literacy and language from Boston University.

Search delayed last year

The search for a permanent principal of the Dallin School was put on hold last April after one of three finalists withdrew. In response, Dr. Eileen Driscoll Wood, the interim principal for the current school year, agreed to stay on for the 2013-14 school year.

For this plan to work, Woods must receive a retirement waiver form the state.

Superintendent Kathleen Bodie, in an email to Dallin parents and guardians on Saturday, April 13, explained the situation:"I want to bring you up-to-date on the Dallin principal search. As you know, we began the search in late November and it has remained open until now. During February, the Search Committee interviewed a number of candidates and was prepared to forward three finalist candidates to me. The next phase of the process would have been to invite the candidates to a day-long visit at Dallin to meet with teachers, staff, administrators and parents.

"Unfortunately, one of the candidates withdrew. The search remained open because the Search Committee was unable to recommend three or four finalists, which had been my charge to the Committee.

"Having only two finalist candidates is very risky and, therefore, unacceptable because of the possibility of a candidate withdrawing. Appointing the remaining candidate to the position because s/he is the remaining candidate is not an ideal situation. It is also a difficult position for the candidate to be in should s/he not be chosen while being the only candidate remaining. We have had that situation in Arlington and I do not want to repeat it, if possible.

"Since February, we have been reviewing applications that have continued to be submitted, though the number has dwindled considerably. Most of the recent applications have been for the Hardy principal position, most likely because it was a relatively new posting. So far, we have not found any applicant in the recent pool of applications to send to the Search Committee for their consideration.

"We are not sending the same candidate to both Search Committees (Hardy and Dallin). It was the strong feeling of the Hardy Search Committee that we not do that. I also think that "sharing candidates" in two district searches is not a good idea.

"It is an option to keep the Dallin search open, but my feeling is that it would be preferable for the Dallin community to have closure on leadership for next year. I have asked Dr. Woods if she would be willing to continue in her interim role next year and she has agreed to do that -- and she would be happy to continue. She has enjoyed her year at Dallin very much.

"Appointment, however, is contingent on obtaining a retirement waiver from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). While we have met DESE's requirements for applying for a waiver, it is possible that they may ask us to re-open the search and defer action until we determine if a new search is successful. The application process should take several weeks. I will let you know the outcome.

"It was my intention from the beginning to have a successful search, while not compromising on the strength of the candidate we chose as the next leader.

"I want to thank Dr. Woods for her willingness to continue as principal. And, I also want to thank the Search Committee for the many hours they spent interviewing candidates and for their thoughtful review of each candidate's qualifications for the position. The parent representatives were Julia Schilling, Lauren Boyle and Michael Connell."

Last May, Tara Rossi announced she was leaving as Dallin principal after three years. In June, Bodie said Woods, who was principal of the year in 1998, would take over. Woods retired from the Andover public schools in 2008 after a long career there.


This story was published Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014.

Unprecedented process underway to reshape Arlington High

Town residents gather in Old Hall as Assistant McCarthy explains.Town residents gather in Old Hall as Assistant Principal William McCarthy (checked shirt) explains during a Dec. 7 tour of the high school.

In January, 100 years after construction of the original building at Arlington High School began, the school administration plans to seek state funds to pursue a project unprecedented here -- reshaping the Mass. Ave. landmark.

"There has never been a major top-down, whole-school renovation," the school administration says in a flier circulated this month.

On-site Insight, a Boston company that the schools hired for the $20 million Thompson School project, estimates a cost of replacing Arlington High's aging infrastructure at $35 million. This is the cost to repair all systems that are past their usable life. It will not address the educational, safety and enrollment issues in the building.

The total amount of money needed is a matter for future discussion, but town leaders know they must act.

"We don't yet know what the project will cost," Principal Matthew Janger told YourArlington. "The first step is the feasibility study, which will give us our options."

Winchester voters this month approved a tax increase to help pay for a $129.9 million overhaul of the town's high school.

High school on 'warning' status

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), the body that evaluates schools, has placed AHS on "warning" status for school accreditation. Its report, released last summer, included a warning letter in September. It cites inadequate classrooms, science labs and technology infrastructure, affecting the overall learning environment of the school's students.


Dec. 23: Punch list from accreditation report


To address the issue, the Arlington public-school administration plans to takes its first key step next month -- submitting a statement of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to move toward rebuilding or remodeling the high school.

To provide a firsthand look, two tours of the high school were held in December. On one of them, Saturday, Dec. 7, 21 people heard Assistant Principal William McCarthy, carrying an iPad, offer "play by play" and Principal Janger provide "color."

Dec. 7 tour offers inside look

Here are snapshots from two hours of meandering through the AHS maze, where participants saw the results of years of delayed maintenance and heard the hopes of school leaders for a 21st-century education here.

Walking through the school that serves 1,350 students, you see the chaos.

Named this year one of the top high schools in Massachusetts by Boston magazine, at No. 40, you wonder how.

The school's building history reflects a piecework approach, a lack of overall, long-term design. The graphic below shows how. Follow the letters on the image from Google Earth:

Google Earth view of Arlington High School with letters indicating its buildings.A. The original building, off Schouler Court, now called Fusco House, was built in 1914 and had some renovation in 1981.

 B. The current main office was built 1938 and underwent some renovation in 1981.

C. The section called Collomb House was built 1938 and had some renovation in 1981.

D. Lowe Auditorium, the school's performance space, was also built 1938 underwent some renovation in 1981.

E. Toward Peirce Field, Downs House was built 1964 and has had no significant renovation.

F. The Links Building, which connects Downs and Lowe, went up in 1981 has not been renovated.

G. Offices and the cafeteria were built 1960s.

H. The Red Gym went up in 1981.

I. The Blue Gym and its locker rooms were built in 1960 and were renovated in 1981.

"The tour can't show everything," McCarthy told all gathered. He vowed to hit the high points -- structural issues, room size, technology, heating.

Bringing 1914 school into the 21st century

Behind all of details presented hovered a larger theme -- How do we make the school ready for 21st-century education?

Doing so means improving security. AHS has 32 exterior doors, any one of which could be propped open with a rock.

Doing so means providing sufficient space in a number of areas. McCarthy pointed to the guidance office, to the right of the lobby: "Not all can fit there." Some counselors have to use offices near the media center.

We climbed the Fusco stairs to the fifth floor, where a wall with an orange and blue map of the continents signals world languages.

Flourescent light pokes through a fifth-floor wall.But the world on the fifth floor is broken up: A fluorescent light, shown at left, extends through a hole high in a wall.

This area "has been cut up multiple times," McCarthy said, as rooms were subdivided, and room 503 became two rooms, A and B.

"No phones in this room," McCarthy said of 503B, raising an issue about what to do in an emergency.

Selectmen Dan Dunn and John Maher, building committee member, in the room where the light come through.Selectmen Dan Dunn, left, and building committee member John Maher in the room where a flourescent light pokes through a wall. Janger explained how AHS got to this point: "Years of deferred maintenance."

Desks crowd the subdivided rooms. In one, 25 or so desks squeeze into a 400-square-foot triangular space. The average class size at AHS is 25.

"What's the optimal size of class?" asked Finance Committee Vice Chairman Alan Jones.

"Build four or five larger than you expect," commented School Committee member Bill Hayner.

State building authority rules call for 850 to 950 square feet for a standard core classroom and 1,250 square feet for a science lab.

Impact of Internet on education

Apart from classroom size, many of the rooms themselves were built before the Internet and its resulting culture.

Janger noted the difficulties of installing effective Wi-Fi at AHS. The nodes, which relay signals, are in every other room. That means "in-and-out" wireless service.

"It goes from wonderful to none," Janger said.

That doesn't just mean that online games tune out; it also means that the numerous students who use phones for taking notes or research hit roadblocks.

At Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor, Maine, where Janger was principal until last July, he said all students got laptops, a program that begins in sixth grade there. If that happened here, he said, the load on the network would "crush our system."

We walked to the single elevator, which accommodates three people. We didn't take it; we took the stairs and wound around until we emerged at Old Hall, a cavernous, desk-strewn space used as a study hall (a 2009 feature story explains). In the background, the thump and drum music accompanied a Saturday wrestling practice.

McCarthy pointed to a row of windows overlooking Old Hall -- offices and special-education classrooms, all exposed to the noise below.

Example of crumbling school

In a visit to room 303, one of the school's largest classes, McCarthy said two sections of plaster fell from the ceiling in the spring of 2012. One was roughly one foot across; the other was two feet across.

"We’re lucky no one was injured," he told the tour. "... The building is crumbling."

Amid deafening music, we passed wrestlers slipping, sliding and slithering in the "Pit."

We walked to the loading-dock area, at ground level near Schouler Court. The exit is near doors to the Red Gym. In newer high schools, McCarthy said, loading docks are installed in areas where students do not have access.

In the Red Gym, we saw the only space at AHS large enough for assemblies for 1,250 students. Lowe Auditorium holds 950.

We walked to the equipment room behind the Blue Gym, where people "break in all the time to work out," McCarthy said. In the summer, he said he has seen 30 to 40 people from town who decided to come in and use the equipment. All were not authorized to be there.

We wended our way to Downs House, where at one end, far from classrooms, sits the only bathroom.

Waffle-shaped ceiling

In one of the classrooms, the waffle-shaped ceiling does not permit the direct hanging of a projector, and so the cost to do that is $1,800.

Asked how many windows at AHS are energy-efficient, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie said: "I don't know of any." The windows date from the 1960s.

McCarthy notes that the school's heating system results in room temperatures that range from 40 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

As for Downs in general, built nearly 50 years ago, Janger said: "Not many features of this building are worth keeping."

Could the tour go lower? Yes, it could.

We descended into the basement of 1938-built Collomb House and headed for the woodworking shop. It has not been active for some time but is reopening to students in January.

Both Janger and Bodie said the schools "need to keep this space" to continue hands-on learning.

Sets for "Dead Man Walking," performed at Lowe in November, were made here. Because of access issues, they had to be taken to the theater in pieces. The design of newer schools has a direct path from woodworking to a theater.

Nearby, we walked to where the auto shop once was. The space is now used to store shells for the joint AHS-Belmont crew team. It is known to flood, a situation that gives rise to jokes about how the shells might float to Spy Pond.

We passed room 105, locked per order to town Health Department, a reminder of environmental issues underlying AHS: In 1914, it was built on a filled-in swamp that became polluted by industrial operations located where the Town Yard is.

Nearby are the town/school IT department, its phone operators, the comptroller and retirement offices: AHS shares its space with a number of other functions.

Three boilers; one 'derelict'

In a large basement grotto, we saw three huge boilers -- all gas, with one pushing out heat. Mark Miano, the town/school facilities manager, called one "derelict," and is used only on the coldest days of winter.

Back into the light of midday, we saw the cafeteria, which can accommodate 350 people. McCarthy called it "a tight fit."

Besides providing space for lunch, the cafeteria also used for the community education program, dances and faculty meetings.

From the cafeteria's windows, we peered down at the courtyard at what an environmental class has accomplished in that trapped green space. In that context, Janger called the challenge to make a revamped high school comply with goals of sustainability an educational opportunity.

Continuing to look at the broader picture, the principal talked about how the library/media center might change after we walked upstairs and gathered there.

He said the design for a digital future points to "multiple levels" -- that is, at least two stories -- which could include a learning commons.


Who took tour Dec. 7

Among the 23 people who toured the high school that Saturday were members of the:

Finance Committee (Allan Tosti, Charles Foskett, Alan Jones);

School Committee (Kirsi Allison-Ampe, Judson Pierce, William Hayner, Paul Schlichtman);

Board of Selectmen (Dan Dunn, Steve Byrne, Joseph Curro Jr.);

Town Meeting (Chris Loreti);

Permanent Town Building Committee (John Cole, John Maher, Alan Reedy, Mark Miano, town/school facilities manager)

State Rep. Sean Garballey

Administration (Superintendent Kathleen Bodie, high school Principal Matthew Janger, Assistant Principal William McCarthy)


This story was published Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.

Foundation sends $22.9K to schools for innovation

AEF logoLargest amount in grant category

The Arlington Education Foundation (AEF) has awarded $22,950 in "Innovations in Education" grants to the Arlington public schools – the largest amount ever awarded for this grant category. Nine such grants were awarded in December, touching students at all levels:

    Listen Edition! To Bolster Critical Thinking Skills: Listen Edition!, which curates public radio stories, will enhance critical listening and thinking skills in middle and high school history and science.

    Creative Nonfiction Writing:  Nonfiction author Nicola Davies will link creative and nonfiction writing.  Bishop students will use informational and fictional texts during the writing process.

    Imagine, Program and Share with Scratch Animation: Headsets will facilitate multi-media computer programming as part of introductory programming at Ottoson Middle School.

    Let the Children Play!: The school blacktop will be enhanced with recess game graphics and a map of the U.S., to help make recess a positive experience for all Hardy students.

    Weather Station: A wireless weather station will enrich the Stratton fourth-grade weather curriculum and provide students with data to use in science, math and English language arts.

    Online Learning Cohort: The high school will offer an online course in sound engineering through Coursera, as part of a pilot to test potential online learning models.

    World Language Advanced Placement Vertical Teaming: Professional development will strengthen collaboration, align the 6-12 curriculums, and better prepare Advanced Placement students.

    Digital Imaging Workstation: A professional digital imaging workstation for the high school visual-arts department will enhance digital photography, film and animation courses.

    Making Thinking Visible: Technology for Digital Humanities: A minilab in the high school media center will support critical thinking, metacognition and collaboration in humanities classes.

"As a result of an increase in community donations, we are thrilled to award the largest amount for ‘Innovations in Education’ grants in AEF’s history," said Rebecca Steinitz, president of AEF, in a news release issued Jan. 16.

"This set of grants includes a wide array of projects; from playground programs, to innovative teaching strategies, to new technology offerings. AEF is proud to bring these innovative programs to the Arlington Schools."

For the past three years, community donations have enabled AEF to award $100,000 annually in grants to the Arlington Public Schools. AEF works to support and advance public education in Arlington, Massachusetts and funds system wide initiatives and creative new projects to enhance the educational experiences of Arlington’s teachers and students. For more information on AEF’s current and past grants, or to donate, visit www.arlingtoneducationfoundationma.org.


This story was published Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014.

Backup failure leads to burst pipe, library losses at Peirce

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Recent frigid temperatures led to a computer failure in the backup heating system at the Peirce School and a pipe burst, resulting in an estimated $50,000 damage to the school library.

Superintendent Kathleen Bodie told the School Committee Thursday, Jan. 9, that the "surprise" was discovered by a neighbor who was walking by on Sunday, Jan. 5, and saw a "wall of ice" at the school. She said the damage estimate was preliminary.

She said that had the neighbor not spotted the problem and reported it, there would have been much more damage.

Peirce was rebuilt in 2002 and opened 11 years ago this month.

Meanwhile, Peirce fifth graders are seeking help to replace more than 300 library books lost to water damage.

The Peirce website tells how to help:

Donate books:

Check the list of lost books and sign up to replace one or more of them.

Donate age-appropriate books that are not on the list; if Mrs. T cannot use them, we can take them to The Book Rack for credit.

Feel free to drop off books during school hours at the main entrance on Blossom Street; Thursday and Fridays are the easiest days for Mrs. T to sort through donations. Peirce families can place books in one of the donation boxes that are located around the school.

Go to the Book Rack or call the store at 781-646-2665 and buy a gift certificate for the Peirce Library or, if you have credits there, donate some of them to the Peirce Library account.

Write a check, payable to Peirce PTO and indicating that it’s for the book fund, and send it to Peirce Elementary School, c/o Library: Mrs. T, 85 Park Ave. Extension, Arlington, MA 02474.


This story was published Friday, Jan. 10, 2014.

Report's punch list: How AHS building holds back education

Quality instruction is being delivered by teachers in spite of the impediment of a crowded and deteriorating building.

-- from the NEASC report

Balloons at graduation exercises in 2012.Balloons at AHS graduation exercises in 2012.

The NEASC report about Arlington High School is 69 pages of praise and concern. Based on it, in September, AHS was placed on "warning" status for accreditation by the New England Association of Schools & Colleges (NEASC).

Educational concerns

The report cited the following educational concerns, according to an administration flier as well as the report itself:

    -- Poor condition of the facility limits staff's ability to implement curriculum; and

    -- Insufficient number, size and layout of classrooms;

    -- Insufficient size and poor design of science labs crowding in science labs creating hazardous conditions need for increased availability of a full range of technology closure of a classroom due to environmental concerns.

In addition, the following areas impede the School District's goal to deliver a high-quality, 21st-century education:

    -- 30 percent of classrooms are inadequate and interfere with instruction (too small, poor configuration, poor acoustics, visual obstructions);

    -- Lack of large collaborative student workspaces;

    -- Facility not conducive to faculty collaboration (no meeting spaces, widely dispersed classrooms);

    -- Specialized spaces insufficient in size and configuration, some entirely absent (band room, visual/performing arts studios, gymnasiums, media center/library, auditorium); and

    -- Facility construction limits the ability to install technology (costly Wi-Fi, inadequate electrical needs).

Menotomy Preschool also has educational concerns:

    -- Poor classroom configuration impedes collaboration and service delivery lack of windows and ventilation in therapy rooms building structure not designed for preschool use: sizes of bathroom fixtures, shared entrance, difficulty for parents to access location.

Building components

At this point, many crucial systems and building components are at or beyond their expected service life. Systems at or beyond their expected service life or in need of extensive repair include:

    -- Main heating system (most boilers, temperature control, steam plumbing, heat ventilators, etc.);

    -- Hot water (storage tank, distribution);

    -- Ventilation/cooling systems (building exhaust fans, rooftop air units) Building power wiring (many classrooms have only one outlet, some have none, wiring inadequate for load);

    -- All exterior doors, all windows, steeple and balcony, elevator;

    -- All interior fire doors, interior steel doors, vinyl tile throughout buildings;

    -- Auditorium heating, ventilation and air conditioning system;

    -- Auditorium carpeting and seating; and

    -- Science labs Classroom cabinetry, shelving Restrooms and locker rooms.

For full replacement of these and other smaller components, On-site Insight estimates a cost of $35 million. This does not include any additions or changes to the classroom layout.

Additional building needs

    -- Improved building security (over 30 doors in unsupervised areas);

    -- Enhanced ability for supervision of students;

    -- Improved handicap access (only 1 elevator for entire complex);

    -- Improved egress routes;

    -- Enhanced maintenance of essential facilities, school building shows significant signs of wear;

    -- Better choices to minimize long term maintenance costs (flooring and other surfaces, mechanical room equipment); and

    -- Better energy conservation and reduction of heating, cooling costs increased on-site parking.

Next steps

    -- Arlington Public Schools will submit a statement of interest to the state School Building Authority in early 2014 to start the process of rebuilding/remodeling the High School;

    -- If the statement is accepted, the school district will perform a feasibility study; and

    -- Eventually, the town will need to commit to fund renovations to the school.

At the School Committee meeting last June 13, member Paul Schlichtman said: "This is one of the most exemplary reports I've seen" as a committee member.

He noted it was "highly critical of the facility" but noted that teachers were "going the extra mile."

He added: "I can't imagine [AHS] being accredited 10 years from now," unless it is improved.


From the report:

p. 56:

Arlington High School is a complex of three buildings. The space for programs and services is crowded and show signs of age, wear, and inadequate maintenance. There is insufficient classroom and lab space to support the curriculum. Quality instruction is being delivered by teachers in spite of the impediments of a crowded and deteriorating building. Although students and teachers have pride in the programs at AHS, the advanced age of the building shows significant signs of wear and tear. Science labs are not sufficient in size or design for some classes that have larger enrollments.

Columns and posts in rooms obstruct student vision and movement. Media center renovations have created a space for student collaboration and the use of technology and the facility is used extensively before, during and after school. The school has significant gym and workout space with a variety of programs available. Classrooms are insufficient in number and size especially in science and art classrooms, where class size exceeds the number of available stations in some classrooms. Students are able to achieve educational goals and objectives in spite of a facility with significant needs. (facility tour, classroom observations, teachers).

The school does not fully maintain documentation that the physical plant and facilities meet all applicable federal and state laws and are not in full compliance with local fire, health, and safety regulations. Deficiencies in science laboratory safety, handicap entrance and egress, and fire drill procedures exist as a part of the physical plant. Science laboratories either have no or limited access to eyewash stations/ showers or eyewash stations/ showers that have no documentation of inspection.

Gas shutoffs are not located within each room and safety equipment such as fire blankets is missing. Handicap entrance and egress is inadequate for the building, and facilities such as the auditorium and "the pit" are not up to current ADA requirements. Po stings of fire drill procedures are not evident in every classroom or common spaces such as cafeteria, media center, and the "old hall." Student and staff safety and security is compromised which affects students’ ability to achieve the school’s learning expectations. (facility tour, classroom observations, teachers).

p. 58:

Commendations

1. The community which raises funds to support programs and services
2. The pride exhibited by students and the community in the high school and its programs despite the age and condition of the building
3. The media center renovation which provides students with the opportunity to achieve 21st-century learning objectives
4. The efforts of school staff to actively engage parents and families as partners in each student's education

Recommendation

1. Develop and implement a long-range plan, with a timeline for completion and a source of funding, to completely address school facility needs
2. Address overcrowding in classroom settings in which the use of lab and studio equipment presents potential safety hazards
3. Addressed all health and safety issues including science labs, egress plans for evacuation, and handicap accessibility
4. Develop a budget that provides dependable revenue without reliance on grants and fundraising to consistently support programs
5. Develop funding plans for long-range planning, technology, and capital improvements
6. Develop and implement a plan to improve the overall cleanliness of the facility
7. Increase partnerships with area colleges to provide students with additional opportunities
8. Ensure that the families of all students are receiving report cards and other school communications regardless of Internet access and/ or language barriers
9. Ensure that all teachers and building administrators are part of the budget development process
10. Ensure equitable distribution of school resources to support learning

Sources for this information
    -- NEASC report (June 2013)
    -- NEASC warning letter (September 2013)
    -- On-site Insight report, (green capital-needs assessment and replacement reserve analysis, August 2013)

This story was published Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.

Bodie passes third public evaluation

Overall, superintendent shines; individual comments reflect hopes

Superintendent Kathleen Bodie has again received high overall marks from the School Committee, after its third public evaluation.

Seven School Committee members offered their performance reviews at the Thursday, Nov. 14, meeting. Overall, all were positive, though shades of difference are evident among individual members. To read separate evaluations, see the links at the end of this story.

Last year's evaluations were also positive overall.

Here is a brief summary of comments from each committee member's evaluation:

Judson Pierce recommends that the superintendent continue to educate the community about what a 21st-century education in Arlington should look like. What it will take, what we already have in place and what we will need.

He wrote: "Dr. Bodie is proficient and meets expectations and goals. I am pleased that last year’s numerous and ambitious district goals were over 92% completed."

Bill Hayner gave no overall rating. He wrote: "I continue to believe that Dr. Bodie is a caring educator who acts in the best interest of the children, staff and the entire school community."

He commended Bodie for:

    1. Thompson School coming online smoothly on time and under budget
    2. Application of the redistricting program and I did not get one phone call
    3. Negotiating and implementing the new teacher and administrator evaluation program
    4. Keeping the School Committee informed in a timely manner on all the pertinent issues of the Arlington School System
    5. Making herself available to members on a timely basis
    
He recommended:

    1. Continue with the Statement of Interest for the High School and other facility projects
    2. Work with the Committee so that both sides are clear on the evidence supporting the standards and goals for the future.
    3. Continue keeping the Committee informed about continued increases in student enrollment
    4. Strive to have a successful search for the Special Education Director that the entire School Community will support
    5. Complete the survey of Arlington residents to evaluate the two-way communication of APS.

Cindy Starks wrote: "Overall this has been a good year for the Arlington Public Schools and I feel that Dr. Bodie finally has the staff she needs to successfully run the district. With a wonderful team of administrators, teachers, and staff, Dr. Bodie has led the Arlington Public Schools to a more open and cohesive school system.

"More than ever, things are being handled proactively instead of reactively, allowing the time needed to think through and handle issues and concerns that may arise. Dr. Bodie has fostered a positive working relationship with the unions, which not only allows there to be discussion and creative thinking around anything that may need attention, but also means a productive relationship that moves forward."

Jeff Thielman said the district "is generally high performing, and the Superintendent’s leadership is a critical component of this success."

He offered two major recommendations:

    o Focus on areas of teaching and learning where we are not doing as well as we should. By focusing our energy in these areas, we’ll improve outcomes for high-risk students, and all students will benefit from a better learning environment.

    o Keep your eye on the goal of rebuilding the high school – major, multiyear project.

Paul Schlichtman rated Bodie proficient in all four goals and views her overall performance as proficient.

Among his overall comments:

"Given the transition to the new educator evaluation system, I scored the superintendent on the high leverage indicators in which evidence was apparent at the school committee and community level.

"Superintendent Bodie has had a successful year leading the Arlington Public Schools. The rollout of the new teacher evaluation system is exemplary, and a model for the entire state. Given that Arlington was not a RTTT district, and had more relaxed deadlines for developing and implementing the new system, the fact that other districts (including RTTT districts) looked to Arlington for leadership is an exemplary outcome ....

"The superintendent’s leadership, interacting with NEASC, helped Arlington to get a report that truly reflects the current state of education in our high school. The commendation of our teachers and students reflects the substantial work involved in making the high school a great place to learn. She is using the NEASC findings as evidence to demonstrate the urgency of making substantial improvements to the Arlington High facility ....

"Superintendent Bodie has also alerted us to the challenges we will be facing due to steadily increasing enrollment."

Leba Heigham wrote under business and finance that "Dr. Bodie has shown growth in this area. Schools are completed on time and buildings and improvements are being planned for the future. Dr. Bodie, in conjunction with her staff, have built community confidence in the district’s management of funds."

As for recommendations, she suggested considering long-range planning that focuses on the direction of the district and not on the available funding.

Kirsi Allison-Ampe commended Bodie on her collaborative leadership style, adding: "But I remind her that at the end of the day, she is still the one responsible for ensuring that the district moves forward. I would like to see more analysis of data and results, whether we are discussing new pilots, new initiatives, or future planning. I would also like to see improved communications, with an emphasis on targeted, clear, and concise reports and presentations.

"Finally, the Superintendent is the one who should be bringing a bigger picture view to the table, for both education aims and for thinking about the future. I would like to see more of this in the coming year. Although I greatly appreciate the hard work the Superintendent has shown, I feel improvement is always possible, and offer these suggestions in hopes we can bring the district to the next level of achievement."

Bodie has served as superintendent since October 2008, when she was named interim.

In July, she began a new three-year contract that increases her annual income from $167,260 to $181,500. The salary increases are $5,240 in fiscal 2014; $3,500 in fiscal 2015; and $5,500 in fiscal 2016.


May 1, 2013: New contract boosts pay 

Nov. 18, 2012: 2012 evaluations


This story was published Monday, Nov. 18, 2013.

State school group honors Thielman

School Committee member Jeff Thielman has been named to the Massachusetts All-State Committee, an honor given "in recognition of [his] support for children and public education in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."

Jud Pierce announced the honor at the Nov. 14 School Committee meeting. It was conferred at the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) annual meeting Nov. 7-8 on Cape Cod.

Thielman has served on the Arlington School Committee since 2003. During the ceremony, he was recognized for his leadership on a number of issues, including his work on the Thompson School Building Committee and curriculum improvements.

He is the president of Cristo Rey Boston High School, in Dorchester, and exclusively serves low-income families.  

During his years on the Arlington School Committee, Thielman has served on the MASC statewide Advocacy Committee and is the MASC representative to Accountability and Assistance Advisory Committee of the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.


This story was published Thursday, Nov.  21, 2013.

Arlington public schools among 33 on advanced-placement honor roll

Arlington public schools rate College Board’s 2nd annual AP Honor Roll

School awards

Arlington public schools is one of 33 districts in the state named to the College Board's 2013 AP District Honor Roll for expanding access to advanced-placement curriculum and maintaining or improving the percent of students scoring 3 or higher.
 
The College Board said Massachusetts had the fifth most number of school districts earning a spot on the honor roll. Pennsylvania had the most districts recognized with 40. A total of 477 districts across the U.S. and Canada were selected for the fourth annual AP Honor Roll.

The information was reported by the office of Superintendent Kathleen Bodie based on a news release issued Nov. 6 by the state Department of Education.


Nov. 21, 2012: Arlington rates 2nd annual AP honor roll


"Massachusetts teachers continue to help pave the way for the Commonwealth's successes in education," Education Secretary Matthew Malone said in the release. "I am proud that the Patrick administration’s continued investments in expanding access to high-quality educational programs is boosting student participation and performance on AP exams that will help prepare them for success both in the classroom and ultimately, in the workforce."
 
Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester added in the release: "Each of our districts honored today, along with many more across the Commonwealth, are providing students with a rigorous course of study that will prepare them for success in college and careers."
 
The Patrick administration is implementing a number of initiatives to ensure that students are prepared for success beyond high school and have the necessary skills to fill open jobs and compete in our increasingly global economy. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is implementing a set of recommendations proposed by a task force of the state's leading educators, employers, and academic labor experts to ensure that every student graduates from high school ready to pursue the next steps on the path to a successful career or postsecondary education.
 
Schools across the Commonwealth are also implementing the state's new college and career ready standards in English language arts and Mathematics, which incorporate the Common Core State Standards. The Department is developing online resources tools that educators can use in the classroom. Massachusetts is also a member a 20-state consortium that is building a next-generation assessment system, called PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), to provide a better signal of students' readiness for college and careers.

Arlington is among the districts involved in PARCC this school year.
 
The College Board bases inclusion on the AP District Honor Roll according to the following criteria:
 
Increased access to AP courses by at least:

-- 4 percent in large districts,

-- 6 percent in medium districts and

-- 11 percent in small districts.

The percentage of African-American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native students taking AP exams must not have decreased more than 5 percent for large and medium districts and 10 percent for small districts.

Performance levels were maintained or improved when comparing the percentage of exams scoring 3 or higher from 2011 to 2013.
 
The following Massachusetts school districts were named to the 2013 AP Honor Roll:
 
Arlington Public Schools (1)
Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School District
Dighton-Rehoboth Regional School District (1)
Diocese of Fall River
Dudley-Charlton Regional School District
Franklin Public Schools (1)
Freetown-Lakeville Regional School District
Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District (1)
Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District (1)
Hampshire Regional School District
Hanover Public Schools
Hingham Public Schools
Hopedale Public Schools
King Philip Regional School District (1)
Leominster Public Schools
Ludlow Public Schools
Medfield Public Schools (1)
Medway Public Schools (1)
Monomoy Regional School District
Needham Public Schools (1)
Newton Public Schools
North Attleboro Public Schools (1)
North Middlesex Public Schools (1)
Northbridge Public Schools
Norwood Public Schools
Plymouth Public Schools
Swampscott Public Schools
Triton Public Schools
Wachusett Regional School District (1)
Waltham Public Schools (1)
Webster Public Schools (2)
Westford Public Schools
Whitman-Hanson Regional School District
 
(1)   District has achieved the honor for multiple years.
(2)   District has 30 percent or greater enrollment of students who qualify for free/reduced lunch.
 
AP is a rigorous academic program that offers more than 30 courses in a wide range of subjects and college-level assessments developed and scored by college and university faculty members and experienced AP teachers. According to the College Board, a score of 3 or higher on an AP exam represents the score point that is predictive of college success and college graduation.
 
For additional information on AP, visit the College Board's website at www.collegeboard.org.


This story was published at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013.

Errors corrected, school rating upgraded

MCAS logo

The state has improved the rating of Arlington public schools and Ottoson Middle School to Level 2, from Level 3, after errors were corrected.

In a news release, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie said the improvement followed a successful appeal to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The errors were reported last month.

The brief Oct. 11 news release said the reporting technicality was corrected. The Oct. 7 letter from the state says what the errors were and when they might have been corrected.

The letter from Lynda Foisy, senior associate commissioner of accountability, partnership & assistance for the state agency, says:

"Ottoson Middle School was classified into Level 3 at the beginning of this school year due to a 73 percent participation rate for English language learners (ELLs) and former ELLs on the 2013 ACCESS for ELLs test. Your appeal contested the classification on the grounds that 15 students who were marked absent for the ACCESS had previously exited Limited English Proficiency (LEP) status and were therefore not required to participate in ACCESS in 2013.

"Using data provided by the district, we adjusted our file to include 14 of the 15 students in the school's 2013 ELA MCAS participation rates. In rerunning the school's calculations, the participation rate for ELLs and former ELLs changed from 73 percent to 98 percent.

"Participation rates for all groups now exceed 95 percent and the school will be classified into Level 2 due to a Progress and Performance Index (PPI) of 66 for the high needs students group.

"As a result of the change in Ottoson Middle School's accountability and assistance level from Level 3 to Level 2, the Arlington Public School District will also change from Level 3 to Level 2."

The letter Added a caution: "Please note that the Department provided an opportunity for all districts and schools to review their MCAS and accountability data for accuracy and to report potential errors in their preliminary data before it was released to the general public. The incorrect classification of your school's ELL and Former ELL students should have been reported during the MCAS discrepancy reporting window in mid-August.

"In addition, districts have the opportunity to update their Student Information Management System (SIMS) data in October, March, and June to accurately reflect student-level information, and it is the responsibility of the district to certify this information after each submission. As such, appeals of this nature will not be considered in the future."

The state agency’s website explains the ratings: All Massachusetts districts and schools with sufficient data are classified into one of five accountability and assistance levels, with the highest performing in Level 1 and lowest performing in Level 5.

In general, a district is classified into the level of its lowest performing school, unless the district was classified into Level 4 or 5 as a result of action by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Massachusetts uses the Progress and Performance Index (PPI) to assess the improvement of each district and school toward its own targets.

The PPI combines information about narrowing proficiency gaps, growth, and graduation and dropout rates into a single number. All districts, schools and student subgroups with sufficient data are assigned an annual PPI based on two years of data and a cumulative PPI between 0 and 100 based on three annual PPIs. For a district or school to be considered to be making progress toward narrowing proficiency gaps, the cumulative PPI for both the "all students" group and high needs students must be 75 or higher.

At the Thursday, Oct. 10, School Committee meeting, Assistant Laura Chesson provided a lengthy update about Arlington's MCAS data.

Among numerous points, she said, 80 percent of districts statewide are rated Level 1 or 2.

Linda Hanson, of the Arlington Teachers Association, pointed out that in 2001 Arlington's MCAS scores in English language arts were at 67 percent. By 2012, they have risen to 93 percent.

She added words of caution about interpreting the numbers, adding that all involved need to keep monitoring the numbers reported.

Arlington public schools continue their strong performance on MCAS achievement tests as demonstrated by the 2013 scores, according to ranking at Boston.com.

Referring to the district’s overall achievement level, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie said in a news release Tuesday, Sept. 24, "We are very proud of our students and teachers whose effort and hard work is reflected in this year's results. We are fortunate to have highly qualified teachers who are dedicated to their students and their success.”

Bodie said the highlights include:

     * Hardy Elementary School is first out of 879 schools in grade five English Language Arts (ELA).

     * Bishop Elementary School is fifth out of 879 schools in grade five ELA. Bishop students were taught by Bishop and Thompson teachers in blended classes with Thompson students.

    * Brackett Elementary School is 13 out of 955 schools in grade three ELA, placing it in the top 1 percent; grade five ELA is in the top 2 percent, at 17 out of 879 schools.

    * Grade five in all Arlington elementary schools scored in the top 12 percent in science.

    * Those schools in the top 10 percent in grade-five science include:

        o Hardy is three out of 879 schools;

        o Brackett is 11 out of 879 schools;

        o Bishop is 15 out of 879 schools; and

        o Peirce is 37 out of 879 schools.

    * Thompson Elementary School third-grade students -- who were taught by Thompson, Stratton, Bishop and Hardy teachers in blended classes -- scored in the top 7 percent in ELA and top 5 percent in math.

    * Stratton grade five is in the top 7 percent in ELA, at 62 out of 879 schools.

    * Hardy grade three is in the top 4 percent in ELA, at 41 out of 955 schools.

    * Bishop grade three is in the top 6 percent in ELA; grade four is in the top 9 percent in ELA.

    * Dallin Elementary School is in the top 10 percent in grade-three3 ELA and math and grade-four math.
    * Brackett grade three is in the top 5 percent in math; grade 4 is in the top 7 percent in ELA and top 8 percent in math.

    * Bishop, Brackett and Hardy all scored in the top 8 percent in fifth-grade math.

 Ottoson Middle School

    * In the top 12 percent in grade 8 math, top 13 percent in grade 7 math and top 18 percent in grade 6 math;

    * In the top 14 percent in grade eight ELA’ top 16 percent in grade seven ELA and top 12 percent in sixth-grade 6 ELA; and

    * Eighth-grade science scored in the top 9 percent.

Arlington High School

    * In the top 20 percent in ELA, 21 percent in math, and, 17 percent in science; and
    * The passing rate for grade 10 ELA is 99 percent, math 98 percent and science 99 percent,

"The hard work and commitment of both students and teachers are reflected in these 2013 MCAS scores," Bodie wrote.


State Department of Education 2011 MCAS results
Boston.com listing of Arlington results
Oct. 17, 2012: Top scores in 2012 MCAS


This story was published Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013.

2013 MCAS: Hardy, Bishop, Brackett, 5th grade stand out

MCAS logo

Arlington public schools continue their strong performance on MCAS achievement tests as demonstrated by the 2013 scores, according to ranking at Boston.com.

Referring to the district’s overall achievement level, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie said in a news release Tuesday, Sept. 24, "We are very proud of our students and teachers whose effort and hard work is reflected in this year's results. We are fortunate to have highly qualified teachers who are dedicated to their students and their success.”

Bodie said the highlights include:

     * Hardy Elementary School is first out of 879 schools in grade five English Language Arts (ELA).

     * Bishop Elementary School is fifth out of 879 schools in grade five ELA. Bishop students were taught by Bishop and Thompson teachers in blended classes with Thompson students.

    * Brackett Elementary School is 13 out of 955 schools in grade three ELA, placing it in the top 1 percent; grade five ELA is in the top 2 percent, at 17 out of 879 schools.

    * Grade five in all Arlington elementary schools scored in the top 12 percent in science.

    * Those schools in the top 10 percent in grade-five science include:

        o Hardy is three out of 879 schools;

        o Brackett is 11 out of 879 schools;

        o Bishop is 15 out of 879 schools; and

        o Peirce is 37 out of 879 schools.

    * Thompson Elementary School third-grade students -- who were taught by Thompson, Stratton, Bishop and Hardy teachers in blended classes -- scored in the top 7 percent in ELA and top 5 percent in math.

    * Stratton grade five is in the top 7 percent in ELA, at 62 out of 879 schools.

    * Hardy grade three is in the top 4 percent in ELA, at 41 out of 955 schools.

    * Bishop grade three is in the top 6 percent in ELA; grade four is in the top 9 percent in ELA.

    * Dallin Elementary School is in the top 10 percent in grade-three3 ELA and math and grade-four math.
    * Brackett grade three is in the top 5 percent in math; grade 4 is in the top 7 percent in ELA and top 8 percent in math.

    * Bishop, Brackett and Hardy all scored in the top 8 percent in fifth-grade math.

 Ottoson Middle School

    * In the top 12 percent in grade 8 math, top 13 percent in grade 7 math and top 18 percent in grade 6 math;

    * In the top 14 percent in grade eight ELA’ top 16 percent in grade seven ELA and top 12 percent in sixth-grade 6 ELA; and

    * Eighth-grade science scored in the top 9 percent.

Arlington High School

    * In the top 20 percent in ELA, 21 percent in math, and, 17 percent in science; and
    * The passing rate for grade 10 ELA is 99 percent, math 98 percent and science 99 percent,

"The hard work and commitment of both students and teachers are reflected in these 2013 MCAS scores," Bodie wrote.


This story was published Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013.

Your People

S. Nicholas Kriketos

Arlington resident honored for years of service to St. Athanasius

S. Nicholas KriketosS. Nicholas Kriketos' service to St. Athanasius the Great parish in Arlington nearly 30 years was recognized by parish members June 12. Now the building and facilities manager of the Appleton Street church, he has served with dignity, loyalty, respect and humility. When he was…
Corwin Dickson is ready to compete.

Arlington artist helps design women's hockey logo

Corwin Dickson is ready to compete. Arlington artist Corwin Dickson has helped design a Pride-inspired merchandise line for the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF), the home of professional women's hockey in North America. A series of unique, Pride-inspired PHF designs are available for a limited time…

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