BOE sug­gests ele­men­tary schools realign­ment

Dorchester Star - - Front Page - By VIC­TO­RIA WIN­GATE vwingate@ches­pub.com Fol­low me on Twit­ter @vic­to­ri­adorstar and on In­sta­gram @dorch­ester. star.

CAM­BRIDGE — Dorch­ester County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion met for a spe­cial work ses­sion on Thurs­day, Aug. 25, to dis­cuss the pos­si­ble realign­ment of Cam­bridge ele­men­tary schools.

The idea, pro­posed by board mem­ber Phil Rice, would have ele­men­tary stu­dents at­tend a par­tic­u­lar school based on their grade level, not by ge­o­graphic dis­trict, as it is de­ter­mined cur­rently.

Pre-kin­der­garten, kin­der­garten and first grade would be housed in one of the three schools, sec­ond and third grades in an­other, and fourth and fifth grades in the third school.

CAM­BRIDGE — Dorch­ester County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion met for a spe­cial work ses­sion on Thurs­day, Aug. 25, to dis­cuss the pos­si­ble realign­ment of Cam­bridge ele­men­tary schools.

The idea, pro­posed by board mem­ber Phil Rice, would have ele­men­tary stu­dents at­tend a par­tic­u­lar school based on their grade level, not by ge­o­graphic dis­trict, as it is de­ter­mined cur­rently. The three ele­men­tary schools in Cam­bridge are Chop­tank, Maple and Sandy Hill.

Pre-kin­der­garten, kin­der­garten and first grade would be housed in one of the three schools, sec­ond and third grades in an­other, and fourth and fifth grades in the third school.

Each of the five board mem­bers raised con­cerns with the con­cept, but were in sup­port of fur­ther ex­plor­ing the op­tion. DCPS Su­per­in­ten­dent Dr. Henry Wagner and as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dents Dwayne Abt and Lorenzo Hughes cau­tioned the board mem­bers and en­cour­aged ex­ten­sive re­search and com­mu­nity in­put be­fore mak­ing a com­mit­ment or tak­ing any ac­tion.

Pri­mary con­cerns raised were the ef­fects on cur­ricu­lum and stu­dent achieve­ment and the level of dis­rup­tion in­curred by such a dra­matic change for stu­dents and par­ents, par­tic­u­larly when county ele­men­tary schools are rolling out a ma­jor change in grade re­port­ing be­gin­ning this year.

Rice ar­gued that hav­ing fewer grade lev­els in one build­ing would im­prove the men­tor­ing re­la­tion­ship among sea­soned and newer teach­ers, which would im­prove their abil­ity to teach ef­fec­tively, and thus ben­e­fit the stu­dents.

“All the grade level teach­ers would be in the same build­ing,” Rice said. “Now you’ve got these peo­ple talk­ing all day to one an­other. I think that you have a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity to tweak your cur­ricu­lum in a pos­i­tive way that way.”

Hughes coun­tered this point by ar­gu­ing that teach­ers hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to col­lab­o­rate with teach­ers of other grade lev­els al­low them to align les­son plans so the con­tent re­lates well as stu­dents progress from one grade to the next. This is a con­cept called ver­ti­cal ar­tic­u­la­tion or ver­ti­cal align­ment.

“It’s very rich to have a sec­ond grade teacher walk into a third grade class­room and un­der­stand how it’s be­ing taught and then mod­el­ing those types of things,” Hughes said. “In all of our Cam­bridge ele­men­tary schools, there is not a sit­u­a­tion where there is a teacher who is teach­ing a sin­gle grade by them­selves. There’s not just one grade teacher, so they have that chance for col­lab­o­ra­tion.”

Ad­di­tional con­cerns brought to light in­cluded trans­porta­tion lo­gis­tics, the dif­fi­culty par­ents with mul­ti­ple chil­dren may en­counter, and the ef­fect on spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents.

Wagner sug­gested that the Ele­men­tary Task­force, led by Su­per­vi­sor of Ele­men­tary Ed­u­ca­tion Regina Teat, take the lead on do­ing the in-depth re­search nec­es­sary to ex­plore this con­cept.

“We have to look at all of our data, get ex­ten­sive in­put from the com­mu­nity, and get ex­ten­sive in­put from staff be­fore vot­ing on this. I think it’s a mis­take to com­mit to it too early,” Wagner said. “Ev­ery­body needs to un­der­stand what we’re say­ing here and what the out­come of this would be. We need to try to reach a con­sen­sus with the broad-based Cam­bridge com­mu­nity and the staff that serves this com­mu­nity. It wouldn’t hurt to get stu­dent in­put too, in terms of all this.”

This very is­sue was raised by the board once be­fore, about seven years ago, just as Wagner be­came su­per­in­ten­dent. At that time, Wagner said the dis­trict made the de­ci­sion to com­mit to a “stay-put” con­cept that al­lowed for bus routes to be ma­neu­vered so chil­dren would not have to change schools mid-year.

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