Massena board backs improvement plan

The Massena Central School Board of Education has approved a state-required District Comprehensive Improvement Plan that was required to be submitted to the state Education Department after the district was identified as a targeted district last year. The district was identified because a high school subgroup of students — students with disabilities — did not meet the criteria for state assessments, graduate rates and chronic absenteeism. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — The Massena Central School Board of Education has approved a state-required District Comprehensive Improvement Plan that was required to be submitted to the state Education Department after the district was identified as a targeted district last year.

The district was identified because a high school subgroup of students — those with disabilities — did not meet the criteria for state assessments, graduation rates and chronic absenteeism.

The state Education Department looks at multiple factors and scores districts from 1 to 4 in several categories, with 1 being the lowest. Massena scored one in those three areas and, although it was for the performance of one high school subgroup, it placed the entire district as a targeted district.

Curriculum Director Stephanie Allen told board members on Wednesday that the plan “supports everything else that we’ve been doing.”

“Due to COVID-19, the district has been forced into an unprecedented situation unlike any other time in education. When schools open in the fall the students will be faced with unfinished learning and emotional and social issues of a magnitude that our current system could not have anticipated,” she said.

She said the District Comprehensive Plan “supports the goals of the district to bring students back in the fall with supports and with safety.”

The plan addresses three priorities — “unfinished learning,” teaching strategies, and student social, emotional and academic well-being.

“Those are three really big topics and priorities that we have to address this year,” Ms. Allen said.

She said they will develop and implement protocols for teachers to analyze kindergarten through grade 12 English language arts and math data to pinpoint where students are in the learning process and determine what steps need to be taken.

They’ll also improve the Academic Intervention Services process to “provide interventions to these gaps that may be there from unfinished learning,” she said.

They also plan to provide intervention training and support to regular and special education teachers “so we are very consistent on how we create these goals.”

Ms. Allen said the goals will be progress monitored and professional development will be provided to identify the appropriate tools that need to be used to assist students in meeting the goals.

In addition, she said, “We are going to implement instruction that incorporates differentiation and engagement strategies to increase student connectedness because, remember, students don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.”

One of the initiatives of the district’s Community Schools initiative was to coordinate teams of teachers visiting the homes of incoming kindergarten and grade seven students in the summers of 2019 and 2020. Ms. Allen said those will continue. Social workers who will start in the fall will also help them hear and meet the needs of students and families.

And, she said, if the need arises, teachers will have the ability to pivot to a new mode of instruction to keep everyone safe and healthy.

“Yes, there has been a learning loss and, as I like to say, unfinished learning. But please know this — our staff, our administration, our teachers and families and, most important our students are resilient,” she said.

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