State secretary of education tours school

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Secretary of education for the State Matt Malone ’88 listened to faculty and administration present this school’s initiatives to narrow the achievement gap yesterday A-block in the Tiger’s Loft.

The Newtonite

[media-credit name=”Perrin Stein” align=”alignleft” width=”217″] Secretary of education for the State Matt Malone ’88 listened to faculty and administration present this school’s initiatives to narrow the achievement gap yesterday A-block in the Tiger’s Loft.

by Perrin Stein
“If it weren’t for people like campus aide and coach John Staulo and English teacher Peter Capodilupo and for the amazing drafting program in Career and Technical Vocational Education, I would not be where I am today,” said secretary of education for the State Matt Malone ’88.
After graduating from this school, Malone went to Suffolk University and earned a Masters Degree and Ph.D. in education from Boston College.

In 2005, he be became superintendent of Swampscott, and then in 2009 he became superintendent of Brockton. Malone was the only superintendent in the State who graduated from a high school career and technical vocational education program, he said.
Today, which was Malone’s first day as secretary of education for the State, Malone listened to administrators discuss this school’s efforts to narrow its achievement gap during A-block. He toured the building and met with several students, during C-block.
“One of the reasons I wanted to spend my first day on the job at North is because no one does so much with diversity across the spectrum so well and because Newton is really central to my life,” Malone said. “In addition, governor Deval Patrick has made the achievement gap his top priority, and Newton North definitely has had some success in this area.”
To begin the presentation, mayor Setti Warren and superintendent David Fleishman welcomed Malone.
“Starting your first day in Newton at the best school system in the State really says a lot about you,” Warren said to Malone. “I look forward to working with you.”
Then, 11 administrators briefly explained this school’s initiatives to lower the achievement gap.
Deputy superintendent Cindy Bergan explained how she and a team of faculty volunteers analyzed MCAS scores in 2006, determining that there was an achievement gap for black students and for students who received free and reduced lunch.
Based on this data, this school began initiatives to target these specific groups, according to Bergan.
She said that there is a greater increase in a composite score of PSAT scores, MCAS scores and grades for black and low income students than for the rest of students who took the test, showing a lowering the achievement gap.
To discuss one of this school’s initiatives, Barry housemaster Aaron Sanders described the After School program, which he oversees. This program requires certain students to stay after school for up to six hours per week to do their homework in a structured environment.
Similarly, principal intern Wendy Lai described the Peer Tutoring program. This program is “mutually beneficial for tutors and tutees,” she said. This is because the tutors learn how to teach, and they get to include the program on their resume, while tutees’ grades rise two notches on average, according to Lai. An example of two notches is a C+ to a B.
Ninth grade liaison Jane Kenslea explained that she works with middle school guidance counselors and teachers to find students who might have trouble transitioning to high school. She said she works with these students while they are still in middle school in order to connect them to support services before they become freshmen.
This school’s initiative to lower the achievement gap inspired the special education department “to use the data to look at our own students and view them as whole students,” said special education department head Walter Lyons. For example, the special education department better connects its students to the after school program and uses more team teaching, he said.
To further explain team teaching, vice principal Midge Connolly spoke about this initiative in which a special education teacher and a subject teacher lead a class together. “There are concerns about the sustainability of this program, especially with the current state of the budget, but we have found this to be incredibly successful,” Connolly said.
English Language Learners liaison Darby Verre said that her job is to connect ELL students to the rest of the school and to give them the support services they need. “Although there are only 65 ELL students, this number is directly correlated to the current gap,” she said. “Some of these students arrive at this school not knowing English and being illiterate in their own language. This is a huge challenge they must overcome.”
Looking at school-wide communication initiatives, Beals housemaster Michelle Stauss explained that there are focus studies, which are small study halls with more structured support, for students teachers and parents identify as struggling.
In addition, X-block is mandatory for some students, and there are no sports or theatre during this extra-help time. The N-rule disincentives people from cutting class and from being absent more than eight times a term. Finally, teachers preemptively call certain parents in order to have them sign up for parent-teacher conferences early, keeping them in the loop about their child’s progress.
English teacher Annie Blais described Dover Legacy Scholars, which aims to help a group of black students to challenge themselves and to combat the sense of isolation they may feel in higher level classes.
Another specialized program, Global Education Leadership Fund, gives out scholarships to low income students, so they can participate in this school’s foreign exchange programs. World language department head Nancy Marrinucci explained that since 2008, over 80 foreign exchange applicants have received GELF funds, totaling over $100,000.
Lastly, sophomore Sonya Jampel, a School Council student representative, said that this year, the School Council is focusing on lowering the achievement gap in terms of post-graduate success.
After hearing these brief presentations, Malone said, “I like the comprehensive nature of this strategy. It really hits on the issue.”
Following this presentation, Malone took a tour of the building, visiting several career and technical vocational education classes, Jubilee singers, a team-taught math class, the Pilot program and the seniors who wrestle.