Last night’s Nashoba School Committee meeting focused on how the district measures success among both students and staff, with a view toward how these measures could change in the future.
One Committee discussion centered on whether to become part of a new, national student testing system. Superintendent Michael Wood announced that Nashoba must decide, before the end of the school year, whether to continue participating in the national PARCC (Partnership for Readiness for College and Careers) testing system. A few classrooms throughout the district participated this year, though those students also took their required MCAS tests.
Wood explained that, because the state will take over the cost of administering PARCC from the federal government this coming year, the state is giving the district the choice of replacing portions of MCAS with PARCC, or staying with MCAS. For the 2015/16 school year, Wood said the state has committed to making a changeover from MCAS to either PARCC or another assessment to be determined.
“I’m leaning toward there’s no benefit to us in staying with PARCC,” Wood said, chiefly because it would put another burden of change on teachers, who just went through a year of adjusting to new regulations.
Honor Roll May Get Tougher
For some students, it may be a bit tougher to get on the honor roll at the middle and high schools next year. Pointing out that the criteria for making the honor roll differs between some Nashoba schools, Wood said, “We are really trying to clarify what high achievement looks like.”
Among the proposed changes for both the middle and high schools are that all classes (including the Related Arts, and unweighted classes at NRHS) would count toward any honors designation, though these would be weighted based on the number of time each meets. Grades of C, D, F, or Incomplete would disqualify a student, even if the overall GPA qualifies the person.
For the middle schools, under the portion of the report card that records the new grades vs. state benchmarks, students cannot make the honor roll if they receive an “S” (seldom) or a “U” (unsatisfactory) under Habits of Mind. At the high school, the “high honors” level would be eliminated, leaving “highest honors” (at least a 3.75 GPA) and “honors” (a GPA of 3.0 or higher).
Committee Chair Nancy Federspiel of Bolton observed that it appeared the district’s purpose in potentially making these changes “is that 80% of the students are now on the honor roll. But why are we including the non-academic courses, when this is supposed to be an academic honor?”
Wood countered, “My view is every course is academic. Its hard to say to a teacher that Art is not important.”
On the proposal to eliminate high honors, Stow Rep. Maureen Busch commented, “I think for the kid who just misses that 3.75, and gets a 3.72, high honors was a nice middle ground.”
The Committee agreed that the proposal to keep any student off the honor roll who earns a C should apply only to honors, not high honors. Wood noted that there would not be a new policy before September. Meanwhile, Committee members are accepting feedback from Nashoba families.
In its annual evaluation of the superintendent, the Committee summed up Wood’s performance this year as “positive.” This was the first year Wood was evaluated under new state rules that call for superintendents to be rated in the areas of instructional leadership, management and operations, family and community engagement, and professional culture.
Wood was given his best ratings in the management and operations, where the Committee remarked that he “continues to shine.” But the Committee noted that Wood needs to shore up his skills with teacher support, especially as teachers grapple with a number of new government regulations.
Kudos for NRHS Top Performers
Wood recognized NRHS Class of 2014’s Emily Caster of Lancaster, and Stow’s Pablo Aldape, who graduate next month as valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively. Caster will attend Mount Holyoke College, planning to double-major in Math and Spanish, and minor in Music. Aldape plans to attend Stanford University, saying he plans to major in something related to computer science, “but I have a few years to decide.”
(Some) Committee Changes
Bolton’s Nancy Federspiel was re-elected chair of the Committee, and Maureen Busch was re-elected vice chair, for the coming school year.
In re-considering whether Tuesday meetings continue to work for the Committee, given Stow and Lancaster Selectmen’s meetings are held that night, the Committee agreed to move next school year’s meetings to Wednesday evenings.
This was the first Committee meeting for Stow’s Nicole Odekirk, who was elected last week to take the Committee seat vacated by Jeff Odell. Also, Stow’s Talia Kirschbaum, currently an NRHS junior, took over the role of the Committee’s high school representative for the coming year.