The Board of Education unanimously approved a variety of curriculum, credit and community services changes primarily for high school students.
Some of the changes approved Tuesday are aimed at increasing the numbers of students taking advanced level classes and improving SAT scores, educators said.
Director of Teaching and Innovation Barbara Haeffner recommended extending a literature and English program from 9th grade and 10th grade into the 11th grade. The district went through a bid process and selected StudySync for the program. StudySync integrates contemporary and classical literature into a reading and writing program with embedded skill lessons. Students access the digital content on their Chromebooks and some textbooks are available if needed.
“Grant funding will be used to purchase the resource and we will begin working with teachers in the spring,” Haeffner said. “It’s a rigorous, challenging curriculum that… will provide all students the support needed to be successful on the SAT.
The city’s SAT scores remain a top concern for teachers and administrators after statewide results released in August showed the district lagging behind other cities and towns. School Superintendent Mark Benigni has said a higher number of students are taking the test, which could have led to the stagnant scores.
"The SATs will remain a focus for us. We need to do better. We need to get more students experiencing success on that," Benigni said in August.
Curriculum committee members who met last week questioned whether any data was available to support the StudySync program. According to meeting minutes, Benigni replied that the key indicator would be the SAT scores. Benigni stated the district would need at least two to three years before any solid data could be evaluated.
“The district has to try something different for our students,” Benigni told committee members. “Our students have come a long way and have done a very good job transitioning to these new resources.”
Both Platt and Maloney High School principals supported the new program.
In other business the school board agreed to increase the number of credits high school students can earn for community service to .25 and allow middle schools students to earn community service hours.
It also agreed to increase the number of credits for promotion to 25 credits in accordance with state policy. The move allows high school students to earn college credits and middle school students to earn high school credits.
Administrators review new freshmen records to see where they are at and intervene to make sure students are on track for promotion. According to Benigni, 96 percent are on track to graduate in four years and 70 percent have credit distinction.
By Mary Ellen Godin, Record-Journal staff