Chief Mary Lyons of the Mattapoisett Police Department met with the members of the Mattapoisett School Committee to outline plans for the implementation of ALICE, a new emergency safety program for schools. Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Escape is the cornerstone of an evolving plan that allows teachers and students to make some decisions based on the threat and emergency they are facing. She noted that during the Newtown tragedy, several students had the presence of mind to escape when it was clear they could do so safely. Lyons said, “This gives people the option to think on their feet, make common-sense decisions and possibly escape….versus just lockdown.” The program will be tailored for each school, taking into consideration such things as the age of the children involved. Member James Muse asked if better surveillance equipment might also be an option. Lyons concurred that that would be helpful as well. A full roll out in all schools is planned by Fall 2014, coinciding with the new school year. Interested parties wanting more information can visit www.alicetraining.com.
The other highlight of the monthly meeting was a conversation about uniform assessment testing. Last year, a new type of evaluation protocol, PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) began a pilot program in Mattapoisett schools.
Currently, there are 18 states utilizing this program for K – 12. Their website states: “These new K-12 assessments will build a pathway to college and career readiness by the end of high school, mark students’ progress toward this goal from 3rd grade up, and provide teachers with timely information to inform instruction and provide student support.” A multi-million dollar grant was given by the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top assessment competition to support the development and design of a new assessment system. Massachusetts is considering whether this program or the currently-in-place MCAS should be used.
Superintendent White said, “All schools will take the ELA portion.” He went on to say, “This is a pilot program…the state will make a final decision to replace MCAS with PARCC in two years.” He noted that the drawback right now is that schools are not receiving any information on how their children are doing on the tests taken, but if the state moves to this program for evaluative assessment, then individual test data will be shared. He noted another drawback as well.
White said that if the state moves to PARCC, there won’t be any historical data on students’ successes or needs because it will be new, whereas all schools have data with the MCAS program now.
Committee Member James Muse questioned the wisdom of increased testing and less teaching, believing it negatively impacted the students. He acknowledged that schools get data but that it does nothing for the individual student. “It’s just data,” he said. He then went on to say that all the testing is not a teaching tool and questioned the benefit to the student. “If we are just testing, then not much teaching is taking place,” he concluded.
Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Elise Frangos, explained how they presently use test results from the Galileo needs assessment that help teachers focus on the individual needs of students. Those tests are taken in September and again in December. There had been plans to do them again in May to get a full year’s worth of evaluation, but they have pulled back from that plan given the insertion of the PARCC testing in the school year. She also said they are presently prioritizing on MCAS.
White said that if the state selects PARCC, they will do so only if it is as good as, or better than, MCAS, and they plan on keeping the committee informed as more information is available.
On a lighter and merrier note, Principal Bowman invited all to attend the annual gala holiday presentation at Center School this year titled ‘Melton, the Warm-Hearted Snowman’ on December 19 at 9:30 am.
By Marilou Newell