School Improvement Team Essay Writing

Greystone School Improvement Plan 2017-2018 - Click on the link provided below (at the very bottom of the minutes) to view the plan approved by our School Improvement Team for the 2017-2018 school year.   

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes-January 26, 2018  8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty- Jody Graziano, Stephanie Gamin, Lisa Montecalvo, Diane Roberts, Sophie-Lori Betley,  Kerri Moura,  Judilee Daly, Sharon McMahon, Pat Testa, Lori DeSimone, Ivy Kolb, Shayna Waterman,Anthony Torelli,  Denise Turcotte, Judy Maxham, Louise Seitsinger

Parent- Mrs. Santomaro

***Technology Update- Dress Down December made $187 for the movie day. January is crazy winter hat day. February 28th will be PJ and small stuffed animal day.

*** Last night’s K-3 literacy night was a great success.  There were 200 people in attendance. . Every child went home with a book.

*** SIP- update- We added more to our parent section and at our next meeting we will finalize and approve the last two sections.

*** Grade 4 Science NECAP Spring 2017 results- 51% proficiency. In 2015-16 we had 53%.  Overall we are above the district level and the state level. We are anticipating that we may go down this year because of the new test. Testing with start in mid May. The district will send out a schedule.  In analyzing the released items, #2,4, & 5 are the questions that were the three weakest. The committee worked in groups to find out what the issues were with the questions that our students scored weaker on and what might have caused them to score low.  Action plans were discussed to prevent these mistakes in the future.

Question #2 -   diagram, a lot of information, vocabulary

Question #4- picture  size, looking at picture only, vocabulary, we should think about adding this type of question into daily instruction

Question # 5- background knowledge, chart was overwhelming

Next SIT Meeting will be February 23, 2018 at 8:00am in our school library.  All are welcome to attend.

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes-December 15, 2017  8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty- Lori DeSimone, Judy Maxham, Donna DeCurtis, Diane Roberts, Sophie-Lori Betley,  Ivy Kolb, Stephanie Ganim, Judy Daly, Denise Turcotte, Anthony Torelli, Lisa Montecalvo Parent- none

  1. Technology Update-  January Dress down will be on Wednesday, 1-31-18 wacky winter hat day

              *** Feinstein donation- $4000 - and from this check  $400  will go to the yearbook fund Motion

made and accepted, $400. for Drama Club (a performance will be held at school this year)

  1. Review Parent Involvement- Remove District Parent Expo and Grade 4 Squid Night

Add- Book Club, Yearbook Club, Newspaper Club, Math and Homework Club, PTA Literacy Committee-  

           Author Visits, Purchase books for Book Club, Literacy Night for Grades K-3

     3. Monday night 12-18-17 at 3:15 there will be a meeting to create food baskets for families in need for

          December.

Next Meeting will be January 26, 2018 at 8:00. All are welcome to attend.

School Improvement Team Meetin Minutes - No November Meeting Scheduled

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes-October 27, 2017  8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty- Lori DeSimone,  Judy Maxham, Donna DeCurtis, Diane Roberts, Sophie-Lori Betley, Jody Graziano, Shanya Waterman, Ivy Kolb,  Pat Testa, Judy Daly, Anthony Torelli

Student Teachers-Lucine McMann and Nicole Chevette

  1. Technology Update-

* Mr. Feinstein gave us $4000. check this year

* Group discussed trying to sell the tv and vhs/dvd players to put towards technology

* Dress Down for Technology - Tuesday, October 31st - Orange and black day/costume

  Thursday, November 30th- PJ day

  Friday, December 15th -Movie Day  

* Restaurant Fundraiser ideas - Chelo’s up to 20% of bill will be donated to the school M-T- W from  

  5-8pm on March 14, 21 or 28

  Chipotle - in early December

  Uncle Tony’s- last week of April or early May

       2.    Standardized test composite score was 77 and we were the highest in North Providence

       3.  Other concerns - we need to place the reading of our Title I Reading Compact on the December     

            agenda since there is no November SIT meeting this year. After reviewing the compact, we will    

            complete aligning our school plan to the district plan.  We will analyze our standardized test scores

            at future meetings.

Next Meeting - Friday,  December 15, 2017 at 8:00 am in our school library.  All are welcome to attend.  Note:  There is no November SIT Meeting.  

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes-September 22, 2017  8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty-Present-  Sophie-Lori Betley, Diane Roberts, Kerri Moura, Judith Maxham, Lori DeSimone, Shayna Waterman, Jen Benell, Donna DeCurtis, Pat Testa, Denise Turcotte, Jody Graziano,  Student Teacher- Lucine McMann Parents- none

Technology Update-  Dress Down Theme for Friday, September 29, will be extra recess rain date Monday,Oct.2nd

12 Chromebooks came in for the fourth grade bringing them to 20 to share at this point.  

Some of our HP Chromebooks have an issue with the mouse not showing up.  They need to go back because they are under still under warranty.  Our fall yard sale will be during the fall festival on Saturday, September 29th from 12:00-6:00 pm.  Set up will be at 11:00 am.  Rain date is Saturday, September 30th.   

School Committee Meeting- Bus issue- the school department is working on it and they are hopefully that all issues will be resolved soon.  

Greystone School Plan- Looked at Action Plan #1 - Parent Engagement.  Jody is working on a twitter account for Greystone School.  We are able to send out a school email for upcoming events through Skyward- For our new plan, we need to add a  parent  liaison from the PTA for all grade levels and one for the district’s parent involvement committee.  Lori will check with Stephanie if the town will hold District Expo again this year.  Add food pantry to list if it goes through, Lori is looking into adding Intervention Blocks during ET/PA/GLM coverage time.  We will review Action Plan #2 on Literacy and Action Plan #3 on Math at our next meeting and begin to design our new plan for this school year that aligns to the District Strategic Plan at our October meeting.

Dates for upcoming meetings- October 27, November 17, December 15, January 26, February 23, March 23, April 27, and May 25

The next SIT meeting will be held on Friday, October 27, 2018 at 8:00 am in our school library,   All are welcome to attend.

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes-May 26 2017  8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty-Present-  Sophie-Lori Betley, Diane Roberts, Kerri Moura, Judith Maxham, Lori DeSimone, Joanne Lynch, Donna DeCurtis, Ivy Kolb, Judilee Daly, Sharon McMachan, Denise Turcotte, Lori Aquilante, Pat Testa Parents- none

Technology Update-  Dress Down Theme will be sunglasses/hat day on Friday, June 16th.  June Duck sale- will be squirty tigers and fish. Restaurant fundraiser at Chipotle in Smithfield on May 31 from 4-8. Sign up sheet is outside Lori’s office.

Lori ordered 12 more chromebooks for grade four with Feinstein/Technology money.

Friendship Week Lori has a duck to use as raffle for each classroom.  

Lori will show students what is happening for the week during all 3 lunch periods on Tuesday. She will also be showing kindness videos and reading kindness books throughout the week at this time.  See folder for Schedule of Events and materials needed.

Math technology for grades 3-5

Discussion about Dreambox vs. IXL. After discussion and overview update a motion was made and approved to use IXL for the 2017-2018 school year.

The next SIT meeting will be held in September.  Date to be determined at the beginning of the next school year.  All are welcome to attend.

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes-April 28, 2017  8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty- Jody Graziano, Diane Roberts, Sophie-Lori Betley, Judith Maham, Holly DaSilveira, Kerri Moura, Elisabeth Radwan(student teacher), Judilee Daly, Sharon McMahon, Deanna Brooks, Pat Testa, Lori DeSimone               Parents- none present

**Technology Update- Dress DownDay for May will be on May 26th. Theme will be extra recess.

**Duck Sales are going slowly this month but every little bit helps. May 1st they will be on sale at lunch time.  Chipotle Restaurant fundraiser will be held on Wednesday, May 31st from 4:00 pm-8:00 pm at the Smithfield restaurant.   50% of the proceeds that evening will come to the technology fund.

**Evacuation Drill  - scheduled to the alternate site will be held during the first week of May.  We all will receive a new evacuation folder on Monday and there is a form every teacher will fill out on attendance when we get to the alternate location. More info on this will be in our Monday Morning Notes on May 1st. 

**Additional Chrome Book purchase - Mr. Feinstein gave us $1000.00 check which will give us 5 more chrome books. Motion was made and seconded to donate some of the money from the yearbook fund that Mr. Feinstein gave us so we can buy additional ones for our school.  Donna will let Lori know how much is available and Lori will fill out the tech request  form. 

Our next SIT Meeting will be Friday, May 26, 2017 at 8:00am.  This will be our last meeting for this school year.  All are welcome to attend.

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes-March 24, 2017  8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty-Present-  Sophie-Lori Betley, Diane Roberts, Kerri Moura, Judith Maxham, Lori DeSimone, Joanne Lynch, Donna DeCurtis, Ivy Kolb, Judilee Daly                Student Teachers- Elisabeth Radwan          Parents- none

Technology Update- Dress Down Theme March 31st will be pj and stuffed animal day and April 28th will be- electronics day.  Trimester 2 reward for those students with zero tardies- extra recess to be done at the beginning of April.  Restaurant fundraiser at Chipotle in Smithfield.  Judilee will look into this for us.  Other possible options for future restaurant fundraising - Taco Bell/KFC and/or Burger King.  Dates we are looking at are:  Wednesday, May 31st or Thursday, June 1st.  We would like to do it during Friendship Week.

Room Configuration for Greystone- A motion was made, seconded and approved to choose option #6.  The configuration will be:

          Current Speech Room-will become Art/Music Room

          Current Art/Music Room 6-will become shared Resource/Reading Room

          Current Reading Room - will become Self Contained Room from McGuire

          Current Resource Room- will become Speech Room

NECAP Science Analysis for Inquiry Task- #5, 6, 7 & 8 were lowest scores.  One problem could have been the vocabulary (practice needed on the word “relationship”).             relationship= cause and effect

Also practice completing a blank table from scratch.  Practice should begin in grades K & 1 in working with learning how to work with completed tables.  Grade 2 should begin with completed tables and then switch to completing blank tables.  Grades 3 & 4 should work on completing blank tables.  We will continue look at the science inquiry at our next meeting.  Joanne will bring in a few samples.  We can also look at what the state was looking for as well.  If we have time, we would like to begin looking at grade level samples on benchmark writing pieces with rubrics.  This is the final year for Science NECAP in grade 4.  There will be a pilot for next year in grade 5.

Our next SIT meeting will be held on Friday, April 28, 2017 at 8:00am in our school library.  All are welcome to attend.

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes-February 24, 2017  8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty-Present- Ivy Kolb, Sophie-Lori Betley, Diane Roberts, Sharon McMahon, Kerri Moura, Denise Turcotte, David Radcliff,Judilee Daly, Judith Maxham, Lori DeSimone, Pat Testa, Joanne Lynch, Donna DeCurtis, Amy Bergeron, Deanna Brooks, Holly DaSilveira, Jody Graziano, Lori Aquilante, Shayna Waterman, Anthony Martin, Kristin Gilmore

Student Teachers- Elisabeth Radwan and Alexandra Kerfoot

Parent- none

Room Configuration for Greystone- Self-contained (K-2) from McGuire is coming over from McGuire for the next two years. The committee discussed six different options for room configurations to make life easier for all involved. Option #6 was chosen.  The configuration will be:

  Speech Room- will become Art/Music Room

                                                  Room 6 will become shared Resource/Reading Room

                                                  Reading Room - will become Self Contained Room from McGuire

                                             Resource Room- will become Speech Room

Technology Update-  Dress Down Theme for March and April will be decided at the March SIT Meeting. 

The next SIT meeting will be held on Friday, March 24th at 8:00am.  All are welcome to attend.

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes-January 27, 2017 8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty-Present- Ivy Kolb, Sophie-Lori Betley, Diane Roberts, Sharon McMahon, Kerri Moura, Denise Turcotte, David Radcliff,Judilee Daly, Judith Maxham, Lori DeSimone, Pat Testa, Joanne Lynch, Superintendent Smith

Student Teachers- Elisabeth Radwan and Alexandra Kerfoot

Parent- Lynda LaCava

Technology Update-  Dress Down and duck sales =  $283.00 for November and $355.00 for December.  We are looking forward to purchasing  25 more chromebooks.

February dress down will be on Friday, February 24th which is Heart Healthy Month.  Theme is to have     15 minutes of  extra exercise/recess at the end of the day.   Teachers will be asked to wear red on February 3rd for the American Heart Association.  Judy Maxham will send out a collection envelope for a donation to the Heart Association from the teachers.  A portion of the February Dress Down will go toward the kickoff for our Jump Rope for Heart donation.

Mrs. LaCava spoke about having authors come into grades K-2 and 3-5 and possibly having an author come in to do a writing workshop for grade 5 students.  She spoke about the different ideas their committee has for this year.  Most activities will be done during reading week.  Perhaps they can hold a book exchange as well.  The PTA wants to purchase a book for each child to go home with for summer reading at the end of the school year.

Book Club started at Greystone.  Their next meeting will be on Monday,  February 27th after school until 4pm. Mrs. Maxham and Mrs. Brooks are facilitating that club.

Reading Week Committee-Lori will send out information on having a meeting for all who would like to come to serve on the reading week committee for this year.  Looking at Thursday, April 6th as our Family Reading Night.  Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge - we were 3rd for the town and 5th for the state- We will use the April 6th night to kick off the reading challenge which begins in May.  Mrs. Brooks will contact the Scholastic Rep to get the particulars.  Lori will ask Mr. Butler to come to Greystone as a challenge between the two schools so we can see if we can compete and move our school up to first place in the district.

Friendship Week Activities- May 30th - June 2nd.  That committee will also have to have a meeting soon.  Lori and Ivy will mention this at the next faculty meeting on Wednesday, March 1st.     

District Strategic Planning Committee will have a meeting on Tuesday, February 28, 2017 from 4-7pm

Joanne and Donna volunteered, Denise will let Lori know if she can attend.  Lori is looking for two parent volunteers as well.

Analyze Science NECAP- this will be the last year for 4th grade Science NECAP. Next year it will be piloted in the fifth grade. The test will be totally computer based with the inquiry portion not included.  May 3rd-5th will be this year's testing dates. Our NECAP scores are continuing to move up. The committee analyzed the data for the released items, especially the three lowest score areas.  We discussed possible reasons for why our students made their mistakes to help us better explain to students how to look at questions prior to answering.  We will look at the inquiry task released items at our next SIT meeting in February.  

Other Concerns - Thank note from Pre-K for helping out to purchased the shed. It will be built soon and that will help clear the lower closet which we can use to store our copy paper in.  That will then clear space in the cafeteria closet so we can begin to use for our Greystone Food Pantry.  More info to come as this project progresses.  

The next SIT meeting will be held on Friday, February 24th at 8:00am.  All are welcome to attend.

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes-December 16, 2016 8:00 am-8:55 am - CANCELLED.

Our next SIT meeting is Friday, January 27, 2017 at 8:00 am in our school library. All are welcome to attend.

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes-November 18, 2016 8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty- Lori DeSimone, Joanne Lynch, Judy Maxham, Donna DeCurtis, Diane Roberts, Sophie-Lori Betley, Jody Graziano, Ivy Kolb, Jen Carrier, Stephanie Ganim , Pat Testa, Judy Daly, Deanna Brooks, Ariana Maples(student teacher)

Parent- Lynda LaCava

  1. Review Parent Involvement- Team discussed the possible change to open house procedures.  Stephanie discussed having scavenger hunt on open house with the parents. Mrs. LaCava (parent) said she liked visiting the classroom. Possible breaking up open house into two nights, School Spirit Wear table, possibly having a checklist (Scavenger Hunt) ex. Visit your child’s classroom, specialist, PTA room, book fair, signing onto Skyward

Lori has the notes on changes.  She will post the new Parent Involvement Policy for the 2016-2017 school year on the

school website.

  1. Technology Update-

*Sonic Update- $104.22 was sent to us from our October 25th fundraiser.   

*Duck sales- $233 for the month of October.

*Dress Down- $127.00 was raised from October Dress Down Day. Thursday, December 22nd- we chose  pj day as our theme.  Whole school         hot chocolate and cookies.   

*Amazon Smile Update-  Jody is still working on getting us set up.  We will get the word out as soon as it is ready.

* Uncle Tony’s - end of January.  Judilee will be calling to set that date soon.

       3. Other concerns- Dreambox Math Program- Jody, Judilee, Donna, & Ariana spoke about the program. They asked SIT if

they could pilot it. $1000 for 80 students (3D,3G,5D + 15 more students-maybe Math RTI) to see if it is something the

whole school would be interested in for 2017.

Our next meeting is a joint meeting on Friday,  December 16,2016 at 8:00 am in our school library for faculty and staff only. We will resume our regularly scheduled meetings in January. Thank you!!

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes-October 28, 2016 8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty- Lori DeSimone, Joanne Lynch, Judy Maxham, Donna DeCurtis, Diane Roberts, Sophie-Lori Betley, Jody Graziano, Ivy Kolb, Jen Carrier            Ariana Maples(student teacher)

1. Technology Update-

*Sonic Update- we are still waiting to hear from back from them to see how we did from Tuesday night’s fundraiser.

*Duck sales have been going on all week. (Judilee said it was going well)  They will continue into next week, too.

*Dress Down- Wednesday, November 30th - we chose hat day as our theme.

*Amazon Smile Update-  Jody is still working on getting us setup.  We will get the word out as soon as it is ready.

* Uncle Tony’s - end of January.  Judilee will be calling to set that date soon.

2.  Review last year’s School Improvement Plan (SIP) 2015-2016 -

    For ELA - Change dates for F & P Testing to end of trimester one and three.  Add words:  Administer common

assessments in writing at beginning and end of each trimester.

    For Math - Administer common assessments at the end of the unit being taught to collect and analyze the data

and report out at the end of the trimester.  

3. Other concerns- Jen asked if the SIT committee could help to offset the cost of the shed to put their toys into for outside recess. A motion was made to support the balance. Motion was made to up the donation so they could purchase a larger shed to fit all the toys so we could possibly start our own food pantry in the back closet.  Discussion about this year’s adopt a family donations for the holidays.  Committee suggested to give Target and Stop and Shop cards for families in need this year.

Our next SIT Meeting is Friday,  November 18, 2016 at 8:00 am in our school library.  All are welcome to attend.

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes-September 23, 2016 8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty- Lori DeSimone, Ivy Kolb, Donna DeCurtis, Sophie-Lori Betley, Jennifer Carrier, Jody Graziano, Judilee Daly, Pat Testa, Judy Maxham, Diane Roberts Student Teachers - Ariana Maples, Lora Tortolani       Parents-Mary McGrath

Technology Update-

*  Dress Down for June brought in from duck money & relay race- $217.00

*  Ideas for fundraising- Sonic gives back 25% - in fall on a Tuesday, looking into first choice-October 25th, second choice-November 15th, third choice-November 8th. Uncle Tony's- in winter-end of January possibly the 26th and Chipotle gives back 50%- in spring-April 24th

*  September 30th- Dress Down Day for Technology – Theme:  crazy hair day (one time incentive pay ahead 10 months and get one month free) Anyone who pays to participate in dress down will be entered in a monthly drawing for a $1.00 school store gift certificate.

*  Ducks will be sold mid-month each month separately by Mrs. Daly before school at the new playground area or inside the front foyer during bad weather.   

*  Target Stores - no longer doing their red card education give-backs.

*  Jody will continue to check on creating an Amazon Smile account for our school.

*  Stop and Shop will continue this year. Membership is free-please sign up.

*  Tab collection will continue. Donna will send out a tabs notice.

Play works and BCBSRI will be working on the playground today to create a new play space for children during arrival time and recess time.

School Improvement Plan from 2015-2016- we reviewed our school improvement plan from last year to see what changes could be made for this year.  We looked at the parent engagement goal.  We will continue to look at the remaining goals at our next meeting and develop a new plan once the district plan is created.  

Other concerns – none at this time.

Our next SIT meeting will be Friday, October 28, 2016 at 8:00 am.  All are welcome to attend!!

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes - May 20, 2016 8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty- Ivy Kolb, Donna DeCurtis, Sophie-Lori Betley, Sue Rylander, Jennifer Carrier, Jody Graziano, Judilee Daly, Pat Testa, Judy Maxham                            Parents-Lynda LaCava, Mary McGrath

Technology Update-

*  Dress Down for May brought in from duck money & relay race- $217.00

*  June Dress Down will be on June 16th picnic lunch- bring your towel- Beach & Patriotic theme ducks will be available for sale

*  Suggestion was made by Mrs. LaCava for a prepay plan for dress down days- pay ahead in September and received a golden ticket to be able to get a prize for prepaying.

*  Technology Restaurant Fundraiser- Uncle Tony's, Tuesday, May24th, 20% of day & night sales will go to the school. Several faculty and staff members will be there from 5-7 pm.

*  Sonic for the fall – they give 25% of the sales and Mrs. McGrath said that she believes they give out coupons for free ice cream, too.  We will look into this for the beginning of the school 2016-2017 school year.

*  Greystone Yard Sale will be held on Saturday, June 11th from 8 am-1 pm.  

Analyze Student Writing Samples- Jody explained the prompt used for Grade 3 writing benchmark. We reviewed three students writing pieces and discussed and calibrated scoring on the rubric with the initial benchmark writing sample, the instructional writing sample and the final benchmark writing sample. Jody used the Elmo so we could have a group discussion. The group discussed the samples Jody brought and shared their opinions.

Other concerns – none at this time.

Our next SIT meeting will be Friday, September 23, 2016 at 8:00 am.  We will review the School Improvement Plan from 2015-2016 and begin to discuss and develop our new plan for the2016-2017 school year.  All are welcome to attend!!

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes - April 29, 2016 8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty- Ivy Kolb, Donna DeCurtis, Sophie-Lori Betley, Sue Rylander, Jennifer Carrier, Jody Graziano, Judilee Daly, Pat Testa, Judy Maxham              Parents-Lynda LaCava

Technology Update-

*  Chromebook Update- 53 were purchased for Greystone totaling $13, 390.87.   Committee discussed purchasing more with our extra technology money. We also discussed giving a set to two classes and then giving the laptop carts to the other classes to use. (Grades 3-5 since they use them on a daily basis)  Donna will check into finding a cart to hold and charge them. 

*  Dress Down for April brought in $330 from duck money, reading week sales & obstacle course-

*  May Dress Down will be selling butterfly and insect ducks—relay contest on May 20th.  Jody will run them at 10:29-12:03- 12:03-12:50 recess (k-1, Gr. 3-5).  1:03-1:20 recess (Gr. 2)    Judilee Daly will sell ducks in the front foyer from May 16-20.  Donna will change the flyer.

*  Technology Restaurant Fundraiser- Uncle Tony's, Tuesday, May24th,  20% of day and night sales will go to the school.

*  Yard Sale at Greystone- Saturday, June 11th 8:00 am-1:00 pm.  See Joanne Lynch for details.  

Analyze Student Writing Samples- Jody explained the prompt used for Grade 3 writing benchmark. Next month we will review three students’ writing pieces and discuss the initial and final benchmark. Jody will use the Elmo so we can have a group discussion.

Other concerns- May 31st Commissioner Wagner Meeting 3:30-4:30 pm - Donna, Denise, Judilee, Joanne will be attending the meeting with Lori.

The ELA writing committee has completed the prompts for each trimester- Tess needs to post them for all teachers to view. A recommendation was made to Lori for the writing committee to send out a survey to all teachers for their opinion on all the prompts before next year. 

Friendship week at Greystone will be May 16-20th.  Students will have a chance to win one of the special order anti bullying ducks.

Our next S.I.T. meeting is set for Friday, May 20th at 8:00am-8:55am.  All are welcome to attend.

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes - March 18, 2016  8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty- Lori DeSimone, Donna DeCurtis, Sophie-Lori Betley, Sue Rylander, Jennifer Carrier, Diane Roberts, Jody Graziano, Judilee Daly, Pat Testa, Judy Maxham        Parents-Mary McGrath, Lynda LaCava

Technology Update-

*  Dress Down for March 24th Hop into Spring contest- Leprechaun, spring, and bunny ducks    3 gift certificates to the school store as a prize for each grade grouping.

*  April Dress Down will be on April 15th baseball/sports day

*  Autism Day is March 28th-April 1st -- Wear blue day April 1st- class that brings in the most money for donation will win a free gym class

*  Restaurant Fundraiser- Possible locations Friendly's, UNO's, Uncle Tony's, Chill's or Chelo’s in May

*  Yard Sale at Greystone - Saturday, June 11th  

Science NECAP-  Inquiry

Looked at three questions with the lowest score – possible problems with those questions: reading the questions incorrectly, not knowing the vocabulary (ex. procedure, materials, median), collecting and reporting on evidence from two sources.

Other concerns- Update – Jen asked for an update for Kerry on the fob being put on  Pre-k door.  Lori explained that our school can only have 2 fobs, which we already have, and that there is a cost involved in moving it from one location to the other.  Capital improvements happen over the summer.  Jen will set up a meeting with PK teachers, Lori, Donna, and invite Jim to see why we can't have three fobs in our building given the student safety concerns for PK students. Our next step would be to go to the Superintendent, Special Ed Director and possibly School Committee with parental support.

Next S.I.T. meeting- Friday, April 29th at 8:00am-8:55am.  Mrs. Smith will be in attendance.  We will continue to look at and analyze student work.  

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes - February 26, 2016 8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty- Ivy Kolb, Donna DeCurtis, Sophie-Lori Betley, Sue Rylander, Jennifer Carrier, Kerry Grant, Jody Graziano, Judilee Daly, Pat Testa, Judith Maxham           Parent-Mary McGrath

Technology Update-

*  Dress Down for February made a $275 profit.   Dress Down Day for March is set for Thursday, March  24th - Hop into Spring- Contest to see who can hop the most- Pre-K - 1, 2-3, 4-5 plus Bunny/Spring Ducks--  3 gift certificates to the school store as a prize for each grade grouping. Motion made and approved

*  Yard Sale- date and time to be determined - Use of property for high school needs to be submitted for the event

*   Autism Project- Friday, April 1st wear blue to school today and have and extra recess/playground period.  donation to pay for autism project to help Jen in Pre-K class, she is willing to relay information she learns to the faculty

* Update -- Kerry asked for an update on the fob being put on Pre-k door.  Wondering when it will be installed

Science NECAP-

Summary sheet -look at the 3 released items that received the lowest scores

Item #9 Life Science- committee feels it was a comprehension problem

Item #5  Earth Science- committee feels it was experience and comprehension question in reading/analyzing the diagram

Item #6 Earth Science-- committee feels it was comprehension and vocabulary  

Other concerns- none at this time

Next S.I.T. meeting- Friday, March 18, 2016  8:00am-8:55am  All are welcome to attend!!

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes - January 19, 2016 8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty- Ivy Kolb, Donna DeCurtis, Lori DeSimone, Diane Roberts, Sophie-Lori Betley, Sue Rylander, Denise Turcotte, Jody Graziano, Judilee Daly, Pat Testa, Lisa Jacques, Tess DeRiso

Parents-none

Classroom Walkthrough for Continuous Improvement

-    The committee is looking to see what is being taught, asking students what they are you learning about- If students are reading they need to know why they are reading,(looking for text evidence, character analysis, etc.).  They should know what the big umbrella is that they are learning about not just reading about butterflies. We need to make sure students know what they are learning- Use essential questions as an opening and closing to each lesson to keep them focused.

-    Areas to focus on from recording sheet from walkthroughs - 1E, 2C, 3B, 3C  As a team work on these areas (How do we get the students asking each other questions rather than us asking questions and them answering) (whole group lesson should be short and then put students into small groups to work on the skills- so they can work with each other).

-    The team is open to having teachers go along with them while they are in our building if the classroom teacher does not mind. Lori said we will discuss this idea as a school improvement team to see what we would like to do for our next walkthrough.

Technology Update-

*  Dress Down for December made over $300 January 29th hat day( winter ducks)- February dress down on Friday the 26th - Valentine Ducks and Stuffed Animal Day

*  Yard Sale-     -date and time will to be determined for spring - Use of property to go in when date is decided on.

Other concerns-

Next S.I.T. meeting- Friday, February 26th   8:00am-8:55am  All are welcome to attend!!

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes - December 18, 2015  8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty - Ivy Kolb, Donna DeCurtis, Lori DeSimone, Pat Testa, Diane Roberts, Sophie-Lori Betley, Sue Rylander, Cindy Carney, Judilee Daily, Judy Graziano, Judy Maxham       Parents - Mary McGrath, Iroda Maksudova  

Technology Update - Dress Down for January – Theme will be Winter-Hat day for Friday, January, 29th.  Send home notice on Thursday, January 21, 2016 to get the duck order in ahead of time.  Ducks for January are snowmen and penguins.  

Walk-through Data - Lori distributed the form that the team is using.  For younger grades students should know where they can look for where it is posted in the classroom if they can’t articulate it to the team so determine if students know what they are learning for the day/week/unit. Sample of student work should be displayed and a review of the rubric by teachers and students prior to teaching the lesson.  It should be available for students to review as well.

Lori created a chart to use as she reviewed the results of our school's first visit- as a whole we did well.  If you were not present at the SIT meeting, please see Lori if you are interested in seeing the team’s comments from their observation. 

Donna suggested that we should be able to introduce the team (even generally) so that the students know it is ok to talk with them, especially for the younger grades, since they are taught not to talk with strangers.  

Other concerns - none

Our next S.I.T. meeting has been rescheduled from Friday, January 22nd to Tuesday, January 19th  at 8:00 am to accommodate Lisa Jacques schedule.  She will be present at our next meeting to discuss what the team is looking for on their visits and to answer any questions we may have.

January SIT Meeting – Tuesday, January 19, 2016   8:00 am-8:55 am.  All are welcome to attend!!

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes  - November 20,2015  8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty- Ivy Kolb, Donna DeCurtis, Lori DeSimone, Pat Testa, Diane Roberts, Sophie-Lori Betley, Sue Rylander, Judy Maxham,     Jody Graziano and Shayna Waterman                               Parents- Mary McGrath

Review Parent Involvement Policy

-    Revised Date to November 20,2015

-    P#1 in the parentheses add Parent Involvement Policy  remove parents right to know letter and replace with Title 1 Parent Notification, Add Title 1 Parent/ before the word school

-    Involvement of Parents Section change---

-    Open House section- change child to children, then put a period after program to end sentence there

-    Scholastic Book Fairs 2-3 times per year

-    PTA- Change to Family Night(remove Boy's Night Out, Ladies Choice)

-    Next line add s to night

-    Remove Talent Show

-    Grade 5 Move-Up Ceremony in place of graduation

-    Adding District Standards Based Report Card Informational Night

-    Add District Parent Expo Night

Building Capacity for Involvement

- Add bullet- Progress reports (as needed) sent home by trimester

-fix K in Pre-K to capital 

Accessibility-

-Change school year to 2015-2016

-    change & sign to the word and

-    change Skyward sentence- remove the word new in both sentences

-    change will be to are

-    Remove -by the end of the school year in next sentence

Technology Update-

* Dress Down for December – Themed ducks(reindeer and gingerbread) PJ day December 18th

*  Yard Sale- suggestion from Melinda to hold it at the high school parking lot( all members of SIT team liked the idea to move it to the high school parking lot in the spring) 

     -maybe rent out tables to parents

     -date and time will to be determined - Use of property will be submitted early

PARCC Data-

Greystone did well in math.  All three grades surpassed the state average in math.  We will review the results of our ELA scores at our next meeting and continue to analyze Science NECAP results

Other concerns-

Next S.I.T. meeting- Friday, December 18th 8:00am-8:55am

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes - October 23, 2015  8:00 am-8:55 am

Faculty- Ivy Kolb, Donna DeCurtis, Lori DeSimone, Pat Testa, Judilee Daly, Diane Roberts, Sophie-Lori Betley, Sue Rylander, Judy Maxham,  Cindy Carney, Kerry Grant, Judy Maxham, Shayna Waterman, Kaleigh Perkins (SW Intern)   Parents- Mary McGrath, Iroda Maksudova

Technology Update-

* Mr. Feinstein will be coming to our school next Thursday - please remember to wear your Feinstein T-shirts or sweatshirts.

*  Dress Down for October will be Orange and Black/Costume Day and the start or our rubber duck collection. Mrs. DeSimone will order some ducks to show the students at lunchtime. November Dress Down will be on the 20th of November.  Dress for Veteran's- red, white and blue or camouflage/military attire and order the Thanksgiving ducks. Half of our collection from dress down will be given to Veteran's.

School Improvement Plan for 2015-16

-Changes to be made/added to the Math Section of the SIP:

*Collect Math data once for each trimester instead of quarterly

*Mathematical Professional Book as a resource

*Parent Portal  

-Mrs. DeSimone will be reporting out on Greystone School at the School Committee Meeting on November 18th at 7:30 pm. Please come to show your support for Mrs. DeSimone and Greystone School.

Science NECAP- we are seeing a good improvement.  It is slow but steady.  We will continue analyzing the scores at future SIT meetings.

Other concerns- Discussion about installing a fob system at the Pre-K door.  Preschool teachers have safety concerns about getting in the school if a child falls and gets hurt during recess.  Also, they have to disturb other classes to get into the building.

Next S.I.T. meeting- Friday, November 20th in our school library from 8:00am-8:55am.  All are welcome to attend!!

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes - September 25, 2015 - 8:00 am-9:00 am

Faculty Present- Ivy Kolb, Donna DeCurtis, Lori DeSimone, Pat Testa, Jody Graziano, Judilee Daly, Diane Roberts, Sophie-Lori Betley, Sue Rylander, Judy Maxham, Joanne Lynch, Cindy Carney, Kerry Grant   Parents Present- Mary McGrath, Iroda Maksudova

1. Technology Update- First Dress Down will be September 30th- The theme will be Sports Day.

 - Target Red Card will end at the end of this school year.

 - Amazon Smile- Jody will check into how this works to possibly take the place of Target .

- October 3rd - Greystone Yard Sale- if anyone has items to donate for the yard sale please feel bring them in by the second. Lori and Joanne are looking into possibly renting tables for the next yard sale.

- Restaurant Fundraisers -McDonald's - we only made $100 therefore we are looking for another location - Possible locations- Thirsty Beaver, Friendly’s, FroYo World, Five Guys, etc.

2. Greystone Breakfast Program- Pilot program for Grab and Go Breakfast will start in the upcoming month.  More information as the program unfolds.

 3. Review of 2014/2015 School Improvement Plan - Changes made to the home school communication part were- delete list serve use. Skyward instead to create a whole school electronic email system, Parent portal is now open and running, District Expo - Lori will check to make sure it will take place this year and add or remove it to our plan. Report Out Night- Greystone will present at the November School Committee meeting.  All are welcome to attend - Summer Reading Challenge, Math summer packets- raffle helped with the returns ELA- Changes to current plan – Changes made to ELA CCSS#1- add utilize essential questioning- Aimsweb Reading-K&1 3x per year, AimsWeb Math –Gr, 1-5, F&P beginning and end of year Gr. 1-5, Add Reading Wonders Program, Use Aimsweb and F&P for progress monitoring data, Data committee will report on math and reading using the same charts in the teacher's room   ELA CCSS#2,3,4 no changes.

4. Next SIT meeting - Friday, October 23, 2015 at 8:00 am in our school library. All are welcome to attend.  We will finish the math portion of our School Improvement Plan and begin to analyze Science NECAP results from Spring 2015.  Greystone presentation to the School Committee will be Wednesday, November 18, 2015 at 7:30 pm at the NPHS library. All are welcome to attend.

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes - May 22, 2015 8:00 am-9:00 am

Faculty- Ivy Kolb, Donna DeCurtis, Lori DeSimone, Pat Testa, Jody Graziano, Judilee Daly, Diane Roberts, Sophie-Lori Betley, Sue Rylander, and Superintendent Melinda Smith

Parent- Mary McGrath

1.    Health and Wellness Policy- has been officially adopted by the school committee. The Health and Wellness committee created a brochure with highlights from the policy to make it easier for parents to use. The brochure is completed but is still a work in progress. Lori discussed some websites for indoor recess during the winter months or during the day for a brain break.

2.    Analyze Student Writing samples with rubrics - Grade 1-Primary and Grade 3 Intermediate- We broke up into groups to review the first grade work- most of us were close to the way Pat scored the pieces. Our group had an oral discussion on how we scored the writing pieces comparing them to the way Pat and Jody scored theirs. The committee discussed why we thought our scores were similar and different from the way the classroom teacher scored their students. We started on grade three and will continue with grade three's work next meeting.

3.    Lori asked the committee if we wanted to have a special meeting next month to review and begin to think about recommendations for our School Improvement Plan for next school year or just wait until after the district has completed their plan. The committee voted to wait until the district had completed their plan so we can refer to it when we work on our plan. We will work on our plan at our September meeting.

4.    Donna asked the committee if they would consider purchasing another mini iPad so that they could be used in small group settings within the classroom. Judy and Jody asked for a laptop cart for each grade level instead of an iPad. Lori said she would put it out to faculty to see what everyone wanted and consult with the technology department to see what we can purchase with our Feinstein money and our Technology Fund money.

5.    Next SIT meeting will be on Friday, September 25, 2015 at 8:00 am.  All are welcome to attend.

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes - April 17, 2015 8:00 am-9:00 am

Faculty - Ivy Kolb, Sue Rylander, Donna DeCurtis, Lori DeSimone, Pat Testa, Jody Graziano, Judilee Daly, Diane Roberts, Joanne Lynch, Sophie-Lori Betley, Jacqueline Swanton, Kerry Grant         Parents - Mary McGrath

1.Technology Update---The committee discussed and voted that the May 29th dress down day would be-extra recess.

--Fundraiser at Friendly's – Thursday, April 30th from 5:00 – 8:00 pm.  Any teacher who would like to help out, please sign the sign-up sheet outside Lori's office.

-- Thursday, May 28th- McTeacher's night.  More information to come.

2. At the May meeting we will be analyzing student writing samples with rubrics from Grades 1 & 3 and begin to review our School Improvement Plan from this school year.   

3. Common Language Committee-- meet in the summer and then in January 2016 to look for commonalities across the grade levels in several content areas.

4. We continued analyzing science NECAP scores from last year.  We all need to start using (I predict... because) because our students are not using it correctly on the NECAP test.  The question they struggled with the most is when they have to give the median. They also struggled with writing up their answers when it comes time to write the answers down in the box. (Should we allow them to do a minimum and make it have more quality?)

5. Pre-K teachers brought up their concerns about going out for a fire drill. The area they used to go to is now the faculty/staff parking area. Lori told them to go to the right instead of the left and head out to the front of the building.  They can line up on the sidewalk area in front of the school.

6. Next SIT meeting- Friday, May 22, 2015 at 8:00 am.  All are welcome to attend.

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes - March 27, 2015 8:00 am-9:00 am

Faculty Present - Ivy Kolb, Judilee Daly, Sue Rylander, Donna DeCurtis, Lori DeSimone, Pat Testa,  Jody Graziano, Judilee Daly, Diane Roberts, Joanne Lynch, Sophie-Lori Betley         Parents - Mary McGrath

1.Technology Update---The committee discussed and voted that the Friday, April 17th dress down for technology will be - electronics/ board game day.  A motion was made by Judilee Daly and severally seconded to send a $50.00 donation from the March's Dress Down Day collection to Down Syndrome and to ask if our school’s sunshine fund wanted to match this donation to make it a $100.00 donation.                                                                                                                                                                                                Accepted.

--Mrs. Daly will check into Friendly's Ice Cream on Mineral Spring Ave. in North Providence for a restaurant fundraiser on Thursday, April 30th.

--Mrs. DeSimone will check with McDonald’s on Mineral Spring Ave. in North Providence for a McTeacher’s Night restaurant fundraiser on Thursday, May 28th.  If the restaurants can’t do those days, we will ask if they can do them in reverse.  Watch for the upcoming flyers for details.

2. At our April SIT meeting we will be finishing our discussion on analyzing 4th grade Science NECAP data from last spring and begin to analyze student writing samples with rubrics from Grade 1 & 3. 

3. Committee continued to analyze the 4th grade Science NECAP data from last spring.  As a school, we need to continue to work on prediction and putting vocabulary into our science notebooks. We need to develop a K-5 vocabulary so that students will be familiar with and understand the common vocabulary used in science. Students in K-5 need to work on developing -- I predict... because statements.  This is an area that they are still struggling with on the NECAP.  We will continue analyzing the data and our discussion at the next meeting.  We need to reconvene the Common Language Committee to discuss this matter further as well.

4.  No other issues or concerns were brought forward at this time.  Our meeting adjourned at 8:55 am.  Our next SIT meeting is set for Friday, April 17th from 8:00 am-8:55 am.  All are welcome to attend.

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes - February 27, 2015 8:00 am-9:00 am

Faculty Present- Jackie Swanton, Kerry Grant, Ivy Kolb, Judilee Daly, Sue Rylander, Donna DeCurtis, Lori DeSimone, Pat Testa, Jody Graziano, Debie Pagdikian                Parents - Mary McGrath

1.     Technology update---The committee discussed and voted that the March 20th Dress Down Day will be crazy sock day to support World Down Syndrome Day. The committee voted to ask the Faculty/Staff Sunshine to match the donation.                                                    

--Mrs. DeSimone suggested to the committee that we have April 30th- McTeacher's Night

-- Mrs. Daly volunteered to check into another restaurant fundraiser- possible Friendly's for the month of May

2. Discussion on PK- The three classrooms received a grant of $30,000 to help bring Greystone into compliance.  Jackie is trained for Fun Family Activities-- She is currently working with Mr. Radcliff to put together 6 training sessions for 2 hours each for PK- parents.  More information will follow.

3. The team began to discuss the results of the 4th grade science NECAP scores from last spring analyzing why students might have chosen the incorrect answer. Some results the group thought why students chose the incorrect answers were: presentation of questions in the test, vocabulary, and students with reading difficulty get tired/have difficulty reading the lengthy questions.

4. Today’s meeting was adjourned at 8:55 am.  Our next SIT meeting will be Friday, March 27th at 8:00 am.  All are welcome to attend.  Mrs. Smith may be present at that meeting. We will continue to analyze the 4th grade Science NECAP data from last spring and also begin to analyze writing samples from our new writing program.  Ms. Testa volunteered to use her first grade writing samples with rubrics as a primary writing sample and Mrs. Daly and Mrs. Graziano volunteered to use their third grade writing samples with rubrics as an intermediate writing sample.  

School Improvement Team Meeting Minutes - Friday, January 23,2015 8:00 am-9:00 am

Faculty Present-  Lori DeSimone, Sophie-Lori Betley, Donna DeCurtis,  Jacquelyn Swanton, Diane Roberts, Judilee Daly, Ivy Kolb, Sue Rylander, Cindy Carney, Debbie Pagdikian   

Parents- none

1. Dress Down Day for Technology is winter hat day on January 30th. SIT voted for stuffed animal day and D.E.A.R. day for the month of February.

2. Feinstein Donation- an extra $5000.00 was given to Greystone this year.

$1000.00 – was for the Spring Food Drive  leaving $4000.00.  A motion was made and severally seconded to donate $2000.00 to the Yearbook and the other remaining $2000.00 for a touch screen monitor for Jackie's room since she is the only room left without some type of technology, as well as possible assemblies (earth and giant whale) or software for technology we currently have in place.   Denise and Debbie will check into the assemblies.                                        Approved.

3. Discussion about parking in the front lot with Pre-K parents driving up into the front lot to drop off or pick up their children instead of parking in the designated area. This is becoming a safety concern for Pre-K students with handicaps getting off the bus. Mrs. DeSimone received approval to have a school yard monitor work during this mid-day timeframe to avoid further problems.

4. A review of our Spring 2014 Science NECAP test results were on today’s agenda but will be placed on next month’s agenda because we ran out of time at today’s meeting.



OF PLACE AND EDUCATION

Swimming Upstream Against the Current:
Changing the School Improvement Paradigm

By DAVID SOBEL

David Sobel is a regular essayist and contributing editor of Community Works Journal and is a Senior Faculty  in the Education Department at Antioch University New England. He also coordinates Antioch's new Nature-based Early Childhood program. Through his writing, speaking, and teaching, Through his writing, speaking, and teaching, David plays a major role in what has become a national movement promoting place-based education, an approach that has blossomed—from studying biology in the school yard to creating mapping businesses, and other neighborhood services. Each is an exercise in changing the way students learn about the environment and their place in it. David advocates using students' home turf to study topics and issues related to sustainability, not just ecology but also local history, culture, and the economy. David is the author of a number of books including Children’s Special Places and Beyond Ecophobia.



A Different Approach to School Improvement
Crellin Elementary School in Oakland, Maryland sits hard-by the West Virginia border. It’s a forgotten coal-mining community with an abandoned rail line running through the middle of it. The small school serves about 100 students, 87 % on free andreduced lunch. The parents are coal miners, truck drivers, farmers, tradesmen.

Dana McCauley, Crellin’s teaching principal, (photo just below) is driving me through the school’s immediate neighborhood. The neglected Community Building has a section of collapsed roof, rotten stairs, peeling shingles. The houses have flaking paint, ripped off trim boards, broken windows.  “One of the students lives in that trailer back there,” she points. The yard is scattered with broken toys, car parts, an old refrigerator, a wind-tossed tarp, moldering insulation. Drug and alcohol abuse are problems for some local families.  It fulfills all your stereotypes of a hard-luck Appalachian community. 

Which makes the story of this school so much more provocative. The fifty–year old school building, low slung and hunkered down only a stone’s throw from the abandoned Community Building, is tidy, well-kept and welcoming. It’s the new center of the community. Inside the bulletin boards bristle with pictures of smiling children on a sledding trip to the bus-driver’s farm, historic photos of the sawmill that used to occupy the school site, student designed brochures about the American Chestnut, a healthy snacks project, and a  map of the Environmental Education Laboratory.  

An amazing transformation has happened at Crellin over the past eight years. This is school change at it’s best.  And yet Crellin’s principal, staff, students and community have been swimming upstream against the dominant No Child Left Behind paradigm of direct instruction, time on task and “drill, baby, drill” as the only ways to increase academic achievement. To be sure, Crellin students and teachers are under the same pressure to increase test scores and meet Annual Yearly Progress. But they’ve done it through adopting a place-based education paradigm that reaches far beyond the narrow scope of just raising test scores. Instead they’ve implemented a program that,

*engages students in rigorous work that develops academic skills
*insures the development of civic engagement skills in students and teachers
*engages parents, community members and businesses in the life of the school
*designs programs that engage students in solving community problems and improves 
the quality of life and the environment. 

                                                 (Barsch and Sobel, Democracy and Education, 2006)

The principal, teachers and parents of Crellin Elementary are proving that school improvement can be rigorous and joyous, indoors and outdoors, heady and heartfelt.  There is, indeed, more than one way to skin a cat. 

My Way or the Highway
Ever since the widely hyped A Nation at Risk report (1983) argued that student school performance in the US did not measure up to student performance in our overseas competitors’ classrooms, the pressure has been on to improve American schools.   Out of this concern, the accountability and state standards movement emerged which led to the No Child Left Behind legislation that implemented widespread student testing and school evaluation.  The underlying assumption of the reform methods spawned by this legislation is that fear of failure and institutional censure will lead teachers to do a better job and students to study harder. 

“Nearly everything about the No Child Left Behind Act is punitive in nature.  Schools are held up for public scrutiny and then derided in the press for their inability to meet goals set by others. Teachers are condemned by their administrators if their students do not display “annual yearly progress,” and administrators are fired or moved to less desirable buildings if their schools consistently fail to measure up.”  
            (Smith and Sobel, Place- and Community-based Education in Schools, 2010)

As a result, the goal of schooling has become to increase test scores. Everything else falls away.  And the widely held, yet problematic, assumption is that the only way to accomplish this is through direct instruction and time on task. All teachers are required to use the same curriculum materials and not diverge from what’s specified in the teacher’s guide. There must be 90 minutes of literacy instruction and 90 minutes of drill and kill math work each day.   Integrated curriculum and project-based learning are discouraged because they don’t efficiently target skills that will be tested on the state exams.   Recess is sacrificed, art and music are jettisoned, mindless worksheet homework is increased.   The principal conveys the message that “It’s my way or the highway.” If teachers won’t teach to the test, then they won’t be teaching there any more. The results—test scores inch up, boredom reigns, and more than half of American students find school meaningless.  

There is another way. Place-based education proponents have different assumptions about the nature of human learning and school improvement. Rather than assuming that learners are motivated by external controls, teachers focus on engaging students with the real nearby world and aspire to lighting the flame of curiosity.    Teachers offer students purposeful activity, social membership and opportunities to develop competence. The nearby neighborhood and social community become the classroom and source of curricular challenges. As the Crellin teachers and principal wrote in a recent grant application,

“The school walls of Crellin Elementary have been taken down as the schoolyard and community have become permanent fixtures in the instructional landscape. Therefore, instruction does not only occur in the traditional classroom. Studying the history of the community as a context for understanding natural resources is an example of how Crellin Elementary School utilizes place-based instruction that is both meaningful and relevant to students’ lives. Problem-based activities give students experience in conducting research, using higher level thinking skills, and working in cooperative groups.”

Classroom instruction is also content interrelated. During a fifth grade math class on area and perimeter, students create the space outdoors for the new Stewardship Garden. Students write and publish books about the Environmental Education Laboratory (EEL) for younger grades. These publications include information about components of the EEL such as the water treatment ponds, wetlands, boardwalk, vernal pool, Snowy Creek, and native gardens. They create field guides, write newspaper articles, and demonstrate their knowledge artistically.
                                        (Panasonic National School Change Award application, 2009)

Schools dominated by the NCLB/Direct Instruction mindset see this approach as inefficient, messy and counterproductive.  Principals in these schools want to see “children in their places with nice, shiny faces.”   There’s a teacher in a New Hampshire elementary school who I have long respected as one of the best elementary school teachers in the state. She actively engages students in mapping the local nature area, producing school plays, collaborating with the town library.  She teaches graduate courses in project-based learning and arts integration. And she’s being squeezed out of her job by the new principal because she won’t follow his new direct instruction rules. This, despite the fact that her students always perform well on the state curriculum assessments. Why is it so hard to accept that there are diverse forms of effective instruction, many ways to skin a cat?

Do You Eat the Deer Jerky?
I got a glimpse of Dana McCauley’s leadership style when she told me the story of how she hired the school secretary who also serves as the public face of the school. This is an important position in a small school because the secretary is the initial point of contact for parents, school district administrators, and community leaders.  This person needs to embody the values of the school.

“I heard you talking with Dillon on the bus about hunting.  All these kids hunt and most of the families, process their own venison, and freeze it for the winter.   For lots of families, it’s a necessity, a family budget strategy.     Dillon proudly came in earlier this year with some deer jerky his dad had made.  He reached into his pocket, pulled it out with his grimy hand and reached it out to me. It had probably been there for a couple of day, was covered with lint.  And I ate it. I had to eat it, to show I respected him and his family.”

Then it was a month later and I was hiring a new secretary and it was down to two people. The secretary’s an important person in the school.   She’s the public face, the first line of interaction. This person has to be on the same page as me. Has to want to connect with and respect each and every child and parent. They were both good candidates and I was trying to come up with a way to decide between the two of them. So I presented this challenge.  I asked,  ‘Say Dillon comes in and reaches into his pocket and offers you some deer jerky, speckled with lint.  Do you eat it?’   One of the candidates said, ‘Absolutely not.’  The other said, “Yes, you have to.”  I hired her. She was on the right page.”

This story captures one of those ineffable aspects of what makes a good teacher and school leader, and what leads to constructive school change. The leader genuinely respects each child and knows that each parent and family can contribute to enhancing the learning environment of the school. The school leader reaches out to find community partners, connects parents with social services, creates opportunities for parents and teachers to learn together.  From Vicki Fenwick-Judy, the environmental educator at Canaan Valley Institute, to Clayton, the bus driver who has sledding parties at this house, to Dr. Pope, the retired doctor and ornithologist who does bird research with Rebecca Sanders’ 5th graders, to Gary Yoder from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources who orchestrated the acid mine mitigation project,  Dana and the teachers have learned to access the plethora of learning resources available everywhere, even in a worn out coal-mining town.

“ Why is That Water Orange?”
In the beginning, at the dawn of the 21st century, Crellin was a tough little school.  Tests scores were below the state average and if there was a fight at the high school, it was often Crellin kids. Dana recalls, “When I became principal, lots of people said to me, ‘You don’t want to send your own kids there.  But I had to, and having my kids here helped me connect with the parents and community.”  There wasn’t a lot of hope at Crellin.   But with a shift in attitude, and in pedagogical approach, the school started to change. Vicki Fenwick-Judy of the Canaan Valley Institute over the border in Davis, West Virginia, was one of the first partners involved in helping the school implement place-based education pedagogy.   She helped provide the metaphor that changed the paradigm. 

"In 1803, Congress appropriated $2,500 for a visionary plan of President Thomas Jefferson’s that would become one of America’s great adventure stories. Jefferson’s plan was for a small expeditionary group to explore the uncharted American West. The group of explorers was called the Corps of Discovery, and was led by Jefferson’s secretary, Meriwether Lewis, and Lewis’s friend, William Clark. Two-hundred years later, students at Crellin Elementary School in western Maryland founded the Crellin Corps of Discovery whose mission was to embark on a Lewis and Clark-inspired exploration of their own.”

Crellin Elementary’s exploration began at an academic summer camp during the summer of 2003. This camp was designed to focus on science standards and content that emerged from the schoolyard and community’s natural environment. During a walk behind the school, students discovered tinted water seeping into nearby Snowy Creek and one asked, “Why is that water orange?”  Taking the question seriously, teacher Rebecca Sanders went to the principal and the principal sought help from the Department of Natural Resources and the Canaan Valley Institute.   They discovered that the six acres between the school and the creek had been a coal tailings dump during the early 20th century and that the orange water was acid mine drainage—water that was absorbing acids from the coal waste that was then polluting the Snowy Creek. The Crellin staff realized that something needed to be done and that the doing could possibly make for valuable curriculum.

That initial question reverberated throughout the community, county, and state as residents, volunteers, and agencies got on board and garnered over $150,000 in funds and over 1000 volunteer hours to do much more than abate the acid mine drainage that was flowing into Snowy Creek. The Corps, as it became known, was an association of students, teachers, community members, nonprofits, and state and federal agencies committed to protecting the natural resources of Crellin and engaging students in meaningful learning opportunities.  

This springboard event started the school on its pathway to innovative and engaging curriculum. The restoration of the coal tailings dump turned into an opportunity to create an Environmental Education Laboratory, complete with a marshlands boardwalk, an outdoor classroom amphitheater, and improved access to the creek for water quality studies.  With support from Canaan Valley Institute and other community organizations, this project was followed by an oral history project that led to the creation of a history-themed playground.  More recent projects have included a Bird and Butterfly Attractant Garden, and a project to help preserve American Chestnuts.  

Dr. Pope, the retired physician/ornithologist, has helped to create a bird research sanctuary just outside the windows of  the 5th grade classroom.   In this same classroom, the teachers and students raise trout in a large, refrigerated tank.  When I ask Kirk, a 5th grade student, what he likes about going to Crellin he says, “I like raising trout, that we get to be outside a lot, and that we get to learn how to fly fish later in the spring.”  I ask why the aquarium has to be covered and he replies knowledgeably,  “To keep it cool, because trout need cool water and to keep it dark, because that’s how it would be down in the stream where they hang out, in little dark shallows.”

Eventually they get to participate in the stocking as well.  During one of the past stockings, DNR’s Western Region Fisheries manager Alan Klotz commented,   "This was the happiest fish stocking I've ever witnessed.  The children have been studying the environment for months, and have been involved in the site reclamation from the beginning by picking up garbage when the project started, right up to today's stocking. Now they're actually getting some hands-on experience with restoring the stream, and they’re very excited." 

This is school change as it should be.   Children engaged in rigorous curriculum based on real environmental and community challenges.   Teachers working hand-in-hand with local scientists and historians.   Parents volunteering after school, during school vacations and on weekends to bring students to conferences, work on school projects, restore the creek.   In the process they’re not just preparing for the state tests, they’re improving the quality of life in the community and they’re learning the benefits of civic engagement.  

On the Right Page
What’s the moral of this story?  This excerpt from a Baltimore Sun article says it all. 

Garrett County school ranks No.1 in test scores

Crellin Elementary had a pass rate of 100 percent, Benfield in Arundel was No. 2.
July 22, 2010     By Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun

The best elementary schools in the state come in all sizes and areas, from a small school filled with low-income students in the far reaches of Western Maryland to a midsize one in a wealthy neighborhood of Anne Arundel County.

Of the 874 elementary schools in the state, Crellin Elementary, a schoolhouse nestled in a coal mining area that has amassed a collection of prizes for leadership, environmental teaching and character education, is the school with the highest pass rate on the Maryland School Assessment.

With an average 100 percent pass rate, the 100 students at Crellin edged out Anne Arundel County's Benfield Elementary, a school whose students live in neighborhoods along the banks of the Severn River.

The differences in achievement between the top 10 schools was tenths of a percentage point. All had more than 98 percent of their students passing the state test. The principals describe there is much that is similar about the schools.

Principals said they are serious about teaching students, but just as important is raising children to understand what it means to be productive citizens and caring for their social and mental health. Principals also emphasized the strong support from parents who will go to great lengths to help the schools.

"We have really opened up the school and taken the walls down so the whole community becomes the school," said Dana McCauley, principal of Crellin. "Our parents are one of the most valuable tools we have. They will roll up their sleeves and do whatever we ask them." That includes building a playground that incorporates vestiges of the town's history.

Number One elementary school in Maryland!   Think about that for a minute.  Sure, there are all those Baltimore schools, you’ve seem them depicted in The Wire, where drugs and gang violence take their toll.  But there are also all those lily white schools around Annapolis and in the DC suburbs, where the average family income is twice or three times what it is the Crellin community.   Doesn’t this mean something unusually right is going on here?

It’s not surprising if you look at the changes in the test scores over the past eight years. (See attached file). Since 2003, when McCauley became principal, there’s been a gradual, progressive decrease in the percentage of children scoring at the basic level and a gradual increase in the percentage of children scoring at the proficient or advanced level. Keep in mind that these are, for the most part, economically disadvantaged students, and there’s the normal amount of special needs students in the school. This community is not exceptional in any demographic way. What’s exceptional is the comprehensiveness of the place-based pedagogical approach and a principal and teachers who believe that authentic, engaging curriculum is the key to school success.  Drill, Baby, Drill might be a good mantra for off-shore oil enthusiasts, but it’s an impoverished mindset for good school reform.

We’ve been seeing this same pattern emerge over the last decade. The Place-based Education Evaluation Collaborative, the North American Association for Environmental Education, the Rural School and Community Trust and Expeditionary Learning Schools have all been collecting data on the relationship between place-based/project-based learning and student academic achievement.  

For instance, Oksana Bartosh conducted a five year longitudinal study of 77 demographically paired schools in Washington state. One school in each pair was systemically integrating environmental education across the curriculum; the other school in each pair was not.  

“According to this research, schools that undertake systemic environmental education programs consistently have higher test scores on the state standardized tests over comparable schools with ‘traditional’ curriculum approaches….Overall, 73 pairs out of 77 project schools had higher scores in at least one subject.”
            (Bartosh, Environmental Education:  Improving Student Achievement, 2004)

At Antioch University New England, we worked with the Beebe Environmental and Health Sciences Magnet School in Malden, MA for five years providing extensive professional development and training in place-based education pedagogy. Over the course of those five years, we found similar increases in science and math test scores as a result of the changes in instruction. The changes were significantly greater than at other magnet schools in this inner city urban school district. Expeditionary Learning Schools have had similar results in many of the more than 160 schools they work with around the country, many in inner city school districts.  

Principals and school board members often say to us, “Yes, this integrated curriculum and place-based education approach looks like fun, but we just can’t waste our time on that, we’ve got to meet Annual Yearly Progress.”

We reply,” Well, if you’re serious about meeting Annual Yearly Progress, and you want to raise test scores while also educating the whole child, encouraging civic engagement, and making the world a better place, you should consider implementing place-based education.”

But the Direct Instruction/Time on Task paradigm is a powerful one, difficult to dislodge, and it sometimes yields modest, satisfactory results.   But at what cost?   At the cost of turning many students and teachers off to education.  At the cost of sacrificing the opportunity to turn schools into, as John Dewey said, “laboratories for democracy.”   At the cost of extinguishing the gleam in their eyes. 

What Other Community Would Do That?
I’m in Rebecca Sanders classroom in Crellin. She and Dana McCauley have been showing me the school after their students had done a presentation on the American Chestnut project at the West Virginia Environmental Educators Conference. Rebecca is peeling back the sheets that keep the trout aquarium dark and cool so we can see the fry.  She recalls a winter storm story.   

“Remember that night that the power went out and we’d only had the trout fry for a couple of weeks. Without the power, the aerator and the chiller wouldn’t work. We were concerned the trout would die and the students would be heartbroken.  We called up Dave Browning, a county maintenance worker and got him to bring over a generator so we could keep the aerator going. We were joined by JR, a parent, and his daughters who had called Dana and rushed to the school to check the fish.  But we were still concerned about the water temperature—it needs to stay between 50-54 degrees. So Dana and I slept on two cots, sharing one blanket between us.  We almost froze to death ourselves.  But we kept those fish alive. What other principal would do that?”

What other principal, or teacher, indeed? But the truth is that at Crellin, they’ve “taken down the walls of the school, so the community has become the school.”  The more appropriate question might be, “What other community would do that?”   Crellin is a story about how a principal and teachers have learned how to engage Canaan Valley Institute, parents, the Department of Natural Resources, various local colleges, the Youghiogheny Watershed Association, the historical society, the Girl Scouts, in improving their school. Let’s change the paradigm so that it’s acceptable for schools to swim against the NCLB current in working out viable, place-based approaches to school improvement in their communities.  



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