Sippican Welcomes RSO

            While the Marion School Committee’s November 30 meeting dealt with the intense academic business of MCAS testing results and the School Improvement Plan, it was also an occasion to celebrate the achievement of many supporters’ goal of getting Sippican Elementary School a Student Resource Officer.

            Calling it a “landmark introduction,” Old Rochester Regional Superintendent of Schools Mike Nelson said, “I get the privilege of introducing our certified School Resource Officer, Jon Tracy. … Once the town, taxpayers and voters approved the Marion Police Budget, which included the SRO for Sippican Elementary School, the work really took off in the summer.”

            Nelson summarized the process, including the state-approved Memorandum of Agreement between the Marion School Committee and the Marion Police Department, working with Chief Richard Nighelli and conducting interviews.

            “I would say, just about two weeks prior to the school year, which was getting a little close for me, we conducted our interviews, and we feel very fortunate that Officer Tracy was interested in the job in the first place with the experience that he brings with him, then was ready right at the beginning of school.”

            Tracy and Nighelli identified a training opportunity to complete the certification process.

            “I’ll tell you in all my observations and interactions, it doesn’t feel like he’s a first-year SRO,” said Nelson. “Within the first few months, you can tell he’s already part of the school culture. The kids know him. You can tell how easy they feel interacting with him, and I can tell the staff are dependent on him and his expertise as a SRO here in the school, which is pretty neat, considering all the efforts this committee has made and others.”

            With that, Nelson thanked the Town of Marion for supporting the initiative.

            Sippican Principal Marla Brown publicly thanked Tracy “for being such an integral part of everyday life here at Sippican. We have kids earning time to play (sports) with him. … I’m just so grateful for everything he does for us every day, and I just can’t imagine the school without him.”

            “I’m loving every day I’ve been here,” said Tracy, thanking the committee for the welcome to the school.

            “We’re very happy that you’re here, absolutely,” said Committee Chairperson April Nye.

            The ensuing MCAS presentation focused on Old Rochester Regional District-wide and Marion-specific results.

            “We believe this data will inform our future decision-making regarding our Teaching and Learning Action Plan,” said Nelson, noting that Marion is the final stop the ORR District for MCAS review. “As always, I think it’s important to remember that MCAS results represent only one set of data that is available to us in that we have to acknowledge that we judge student growth on so much more in terms of what’s happening day in and day out here, beyond standardized testing.

            “With that said, I believe that at the conclusion of this presentation you’ll see what I have seen, that there are a lot of great things happening here at Sippican, even when you’re only looking at the MCAS data.”

            Taking the floor, Dr. Shari Fedorowicz, Asst. Supt. of Teaching and Learning noted that Student Growth Percentiles  (SGP’s) were issued to students having registered prior scores and having met current grade-level requirements on a 1-99 scale and are measured against the state’s mean SGP. English Language and Mathematics are counted but not Science. SGP’s were only measured for Grades 4-8 and Grade 10 (not Grade 3) and only in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics (but not Science.)

            MCAS testing performance peaked in 2019. There was no MCAS testing in 2020, and it only came back partially for elementary students only in 2021, but since then 2022 and 2023 scores reflect the gaps created by remote education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

            “The slide is significant because the state’s looking to get back to the 2019 scores, so we’re looking and comparing progress not only from last year but our recovery relative to 2019,” said Fedorowicz.

            The good news, said Federowicz, is statewide trends, indicating that Marion students in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics are performing in a recovery stage. Grade 3 students, who were in Kindergarten in 2020, have shown improvement in against a flat trend statewide.

            Grades 3-6 across the ORR District performed slightly lower than last year in ELA, slightly better in Math, and better in both areas than the state average. Grade 5 Science performed lower than last year and lower than the state average. Overall, however, district students performed 4% better than last year and 11% above the state average with a higher and faster curve toward recovering 2019 levels.

            Reporting on Sippican Elementary School’s performance, Principal Marla Brown said that Grade 3-6 ELA students tested 2% worse than last year but remained 4% better than the state average. Brown also noted that Sippican has is reporting 31-40% low-income students, up a bracket from 21-30% last year.

            The district-wide performance is similar in Math to that of ELA. ORR is 1% better than last year and 10% above the state average. Grades 3-12 remain above the state average but have come down a notch on the growth scale.

            Math students in Grades 3-6 continue to test significantly higher than the state average. Grades 3, 4 and 6 meet or exceed the state average in all Math categories. Out of five Math categories, Grade 5 only fell below the state average in Operations and Algebraic Thinking.

            Science has been a bit of a different topic across the ORR District, where Grades 5 and 8 remain 7% above the state average but dipped in performance from last year by 11%. In commenting on a Grade 5 chart showing a 21% dip from last year (3% below the state average), Brown noted that district-wide faculty has analyzed these results and created an action plan to ensure a recovery in those scores.

            “The state has started using content in alignment with Open Sci-Ed, even though we’ve only just started implementation as a pilot (program). The kids have not had access to that instruction. They’re getting that access this year through the pilot program in Grade 5,” said Brown. “We’re hopeful that our participation in that pilot program for Open Sci-Ed this year will provide our students with more access to the types of questions that they’ll see on the test this year.”

            Grade 5 students scored above the state average in three out of four Science categories, Earth and Space Science, Life Science and Technology/Engineering. They fell short of the state average in Physical Science.

            Along with continued implementation of Open Sci. Ed. curriculum, action steps to address Grade MCAS deficiencies include STEAM sessions, small groups and co-teaching and planning with Enrichment and Science teachers.

            Brown said that emphasis on reading and math coming out of the pandemic, plus a lack of experience with Open Sci. Ed. exposure when those questions were including in the test, contributed to the lower scores in Physical Science. Brown credited the teachers for their work in professional development and bringing the students up to speed.

            “I will say, having spent time in Mrs. White’s fifth-grade Science class, the kids are completely excited about everything they’re learning and really doing a phenomenal job and … doing a lot of writing about science already,” said Brown.

            Nelson said that Grade 5 Science scores were down across the state and that in other areas where there were lower scores statewide, the ORR District did not dip with the state.

            “We are looking at the whole child here, and if we look back to 2019, that was a very different world than it is now,” said Fedorowicz, identifying MCAS as but one albeit important data point. “There’s a lot more focus on the social-emotional, our students have been through a lot. These kiddoes, for some of them this is their first go at the MCAS.”

            Nelson publicly thanked Fedorowicz, Brown and the staff for their work with the students.

            The School Improvement Plan is part of the school’s five-year strategic plan, beginning with a Year 1 presentation to be succeeded by two, two-year plans.

            The Year 1 plan as presented was broken into strategic objectives of Teaching and Learning. The first goal is to develop curriculum emphasizing the Hill for Literacy Program, a literacy-assessment plan and auditing and updating content via the district-wide council. The second goal is related to professional development and the third an overall strengthening of academic, behavioral and social-emotional learning. The fourth goal is to provide an inclusive, equitable and positive climate and culture that promotes a sense of belonging for all members of district schools. The fifth goal is to provide safe, secure and equitable learning environments, including a new cyber-security program that the ORR District is rolling out.

            The committee approved donations from St. Gabriel’s Parish of four $50 gift certificates each from Walmart, Shaw’s and Target for needy families. Also, from the Ludes Family Foundation a donation of $500 to Sippican Project Grow was approved.

            The committee also approved the admittance of the Brockton and Whitman-Hanson districts for membership in the READS Collaborative.

            The next meeting of the Marion School Committee is scheduled for Thursday, January 4, 2024, at Sippican Elementary School, and the next meeting of the Joint School Committee is scheduled for Thursday, January 18, 2024, at the ORR Junior High media room. Both meetings begin at 6:30 pm.

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