School Improvement Plan: Weston High School

Somehow I missed that School Improvement plans for the individual schools had been moved to fall discussion this year (spring was not so conducive for the obvious reasons). I have attended these whenever possible in the past, and I always learn something about the school my kids attend, or about a school to which they are moving in next years. I do not think I was alone in missing a communication about this as apparently there were only a couple of community members on the discussion. Or maybe no one cares. I note that Dr. Kimo Carter suggested that these School Improvement Plans should always be presented in the fall in the future so that the summer can be used to make sure the District and Schools plans agree.

In any case, you cannot yet see the print draft of the School Improvement Plans unless you are on School Committee or have super x-ray vision at your computer. Since I was watching a recording of the presentation, it was possible to zoom in a bit, but otherwise, I am picking out what struck me in the audio recorded presentation. If you don’t want my usual subjective view, you’ll either want to watch the recording here or wait for the school district to publish the final plans.

The middle school presented first but I will be covering the High School because I am biased towards Owlets who are freshmen. Also it is unclear to me how John Gibbons can further improve the awesome Middle School. So here are my takeaways from the High School:

  1. Principal Paul Peri is in his second year as principal of the high school–maybe it’s actually first year plus as last year was hardly a normal year. I loved his introduction of capturing the “mind , body and soul” as well as following the science and oh my god DATA. Mathy stuff. On the mathy side, he is weaving together 20 strands in his school improvement plan–I lost track of it all, but we need a loom to get these all together.
  2. Highlights of the 20 strands: scheduling is a major undertaking and they are evaluating the opportunities and challenges. There is progress being made on culturally responsive teaching in professional development. Data analysis is important in deciding focus areas and there will be instructional rounds as administration will be in and out of classrooms getting an accurate view of what happens. Mental health of the students is being watched, and different advisories are being tailored according to the needs/events of each class year. They are looking at assessments and grading–what is an effective assessment, and how do we look at it through an equity lens. Data analysis is back as a focus in program reviews.
  3. There are now 60+ clubs and activities at the school and there are always new proposals. Mr. Peri wants students to find their passions and get involved, but he’s also looking at the administrative side of stipends and other issues.
  4. The PTO rocks. If you’re not a member, get with the program. Oh okay, the Owl said the last part.
  5. There are certain departments where feedback on evaluations has been that students have needed extra help in order to be a success. Math was mentioned as one, and the administration and department head are talking. They are also looking at this through the equity lens, and how to get a systematic approach to support students.

After the presentation, one School Committee member mentioned that feedback she has heard has been that content in courses has not been the issue, but that the pedagogy is. The idea that honors and AP kids get less instruction because they should be able to “figure it out”, is not actually proven to be sound. She also mentioned she has heard that up to 50% of students receive outside tutoring to help in certain classes. Dr. Connolly, Superintendent, responded that the administration has not been able to successfully gather data on tutoring numbers. The Owl will jump in to say that in one particular science course for 9th graders, the suspected outside tutor rate is MUCH higher than 50%.

Another School Committee member also asked that data be reviewed for who has been unable to get into certain requested classes due to the cuts in staffing, and accompanying scheduling challenges. She would also like to look at gender-based tracking–do girls drop down from honors more than boys, or avoid certain classes.

One community member expressed concern that students were unable to get into AP classes because of limited course offerings and scheduling issues. This is being looked at.

As always, Principal Peri mentioned that he is available for feedback from parents and students alike. As he said, “if it’s unmentionable, it’s unmanageable.” So true. Which is why he has received five communications from the Owl in the last week. You know that John Gibbons misses me over at the Middle School.

Again, realize this reporting is biased by my hearing/understanding, and that for full objective information, you should watch the videotape. Onwards to elementary schools LIVE tomorrow (post coming tonight) and I’ll recap the middle school soon. I shall also post the actual SIPs when published in final form.

Go ‘cats.

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