Upcoming Elementary Changes

There will be a series of upcoming posts on some changes at the elementary level next year.  This focus of this post will be on next year’s proposed schedule.  Elementary principals have been working hard to coordinate their efforts on the specifics of the proposed schedule.  If anyone has questions or concerns, please speak with your respective elementary principal or contact the central office.

A part of the school committee meeting on March 24th will focus on a new, district-wide elementary schedule.  I usually think it best to start with the why when requesting to make changes. 

The Why?

1. There are too many students in the “needs improvement” performance level of the MCAS test.

2. Our elementary referral rate for special education is too high.

3. Our “hit rate” (students found to have a learning disability that can be identified as a result of a referral) is under 50% or much too low.

4. Teachers indicate that their instructional time with students is oftentimes interrupted.

There are several scheduling fundamentals.

1. There is no perfect schedule.  Every schedule requires making choices and setting priorities.

2.  The elementary day is only so long.

3.  There is specific contractual language regarding teacher planning time.

4.  The primary mission of any elementary school is to teach reading.

5.  We are small enough as a district so that our elementary schedules can (and should) have the same general structure.

New Schedule Priorities

1. A 90 minute block of uninterrupted languages arts time every day.

2. A 60 minute block of uninterrupted math instruction every day.

3. A Common planning time for grade-level teachers every day.

4. A 30 minute, built-in intervention/extension block of time every day.

What these priorities mean is that these times are placed in the schedule first.  After these priorities, we are providing a five-day special rotation that typically includes 2 X 45 minutes PE, 1 X 45 art, and 2 X 45 music.  There are some exceptions at certain grade levels, but we are maintaining the minutes of the respective programs from this year.

What happens to the pull-outs?

Instrumental lessons will still take place, but not during language arts or mathematics time.  Italian occurs once per week during an intervention/extension block.  Library and technology become flexibly scheduled.

Flexible scheduling means that library and technology no longer have a set time to meet as a standard practice.  Instead, these teachers meet with grade level teams to support the classroom content being taught.  As an example, power point software is not taught in isolation.  If a teacher wants students to use power point to create a presentation on a social studies topic, then the technology teacher will teach the computer skills when working with the students so that technology skills are learned by applying these skills to classroom learning.

In general, research tells us that if you want math and reading acheivement to go up, then you need to teach more math and reading.  The hope of the new, district-wide elementary schedule is to provide longer blocks of uninterrupted time for students to work with our talented teachers.

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