This site aims to inform and mobilize Beverly parents to take an active role in all issues related to the funding and operation of the city's schools. It was launched in the spring of 2008, when the city saw its first-ever override attempt fail, followed by the closure of a nearly-new elementary school. Subsequent years have seen further cuts that have led to larger class sizes across the district. While the opening of an impressive new high school and plans to replace the city's aging middle school give us reason to be optimistic, the school community must be ever vigilant in demanding appropriate school funding by city and state governments, and better community communications from the district and School Committee.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Vote for Education

As this website is generally supportive of Stand for Children, we wholeheartedly endorse their Pledge to Vote for Education campaign, and join them in urging voters to reject Question 3, which would further decimate the state budget by rolling back the sales tax to 3%, making the already critical budget issues in Beverly even worse.

We were a bit stumped and disappointed, however, in reading their Voter Guide to the Gubernatorial election.  The promotion for the piece goes to great measures to be nonpartisan and comprehensive, stating:
We know that education is a top priority for you when you enter the voting booth and we want to help you make an informed decision when you cast your vote for Governor on November 2, 2010.
In order to help you make educated decisions and vote for the person you feel has the strongest education platform, we’ve created this Voter Guide.
But once you open the Voter Guide, the cover of which continues the nonpartisan pitch, you are presented with the answers to 10 questions on education, the first line of every answer being "Baker: No response received."

With the race a dead heat, and education figuring strongly in our vote, it would have been nice if Charlie Baker had taken the time to fill out the questionaire, or if Stand had made some extra effort to get his responses before publishing the book.

As a former member of the Massachusetts Board of Education, Baker has had plenty to say about education throughout the campaign, and a detailed comparison of all the candidates' positions would have truly helped voters make an educated decision.

Stand also neglected to request answers from independent Jill Stein, which could have added to the debate.

You can get half the story, at least, by reading detailed responses from Deval Patrick and Tim Cahill.

10/5 UPDATE: Some shocking estimates from Mayor Scanlon on the impact of Question 3.  According to today's the Salem News, Scanlon estimates that the city would lose "at least 50 municipal jobs," if voters approve the sales tax reduction measure. The ballot question is opposed by all four of the candidates for Governor, but in recent polls it stood a better than even chance of passing.

10/18 UPDATE: As the officials who would have to deal most directly with the local ramifications of a sales tax cut, its no surprise that the School Committee has also taken a stand urging a NO vote on Question 3.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Elementary PTOs Team Up for Fun Run

In the first-of-a-kind joint fundraising event, the PTOs of the 5 elementary schools are teaming up to sponsor the first annual Fall Frolic 5K & Fun Run. The event will be held on Sunday, October 17, 2010 at Lynch Park, and follow the Homecoming race route. See the above link for more information, or register online. Registration fee prior to September 30th is $20, and goes up to $25 after the 30th.

You can also contact Race Director Shari Hewson for more information.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Strategic Planning Survey

In conjunction with the district's strategic planning process, which several of the contributors to this website are participating in, the administration has prepared a survey that it would like all members of the community to participate in.  The survey is now live on the district website, and will be open until Friday, October 15th.

Dr. Galinski has also posted a letter of explanation on the district website, some of which is excerpted here:
Beverly Public Schools is conducting a system-wide survey as part of its strategic planning process. The survey will help guide the district leaders on what they do and why they do it over a specific period of time. ...

Results of the survey will be posted to our website by the end of November.

A diverse community like ours is stronger when everyone shares their ideas. Thank you for taking the time to participate in our survey. 

Thank you for taking time to give us your input!
We will also post updates on this site as the process proceeds.

10/1 UPDATE: Today's Salem News has a story on the Strategic Planning Committee

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Literacy Program to be National Model

The U.S. Department of Education yesterday named a literacy program launched in Beverly as "one of the most innovative programs in the country," and announced that it will use the program as a model for other school districts, according to today's Salem News.

Despite the News' very misleading headline that states "Beverly literacy program given $5M from state before later informing readers that "Beverly will not receive any of the $5 million," the recognition of the program is still noteworthy.

The results of the program, titled the Data Driven School Transformation Partnership, have been impressive since it was launched in Beverly five years ago. According to the News:
"Our internal data has shown that (reading) scores have improved," [Superintendent Marie] Galinski said in an interview. "Elementary school students are coming into middle school at a higher reading level than they were three years ago."

According to the data, 78 percent of fifth-grade students read at grade level or better three years ago. Now, 87 percent do. 

Beverly pays for the program using Title 1 funds, which are funds given to a school district based on the number of free or reduced lunch students it has. 

"I am sure that the success of the program in helping to turn around our two schools and reducing the achievement gap was a major factor in the decision by the Department of Education to select DSTP as a national model," Galinski said in a statement about the grant. 
Out of nearly 1,700  proposals that were submitted, the program, developed by the Bay State Reading Institute, was one of only 49 selected.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

District MCAS Scores Still Lag in AYP

District MCAS scores were released by the state today, and as Dr. Galinski indicated in a memo to parents last week, Beverly continues to rate as "needs improvement" in the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) ratings in both Math and English in certain student subgroups. The district was newly identified last year as needing improvement in these areas, and this year's report indicates that no improvement was made in English, and "improvement below target" in Math. 

In last week's memo Galinski stated:
This designation is based upon a compilation of MCAS scores for Mathematics and ELA [English Language Arts] in all grades and all schools in the district and to the degree students in the schools have attained participation, performance, attendance and graduation goals. This information indicates that more work is needed by principals, teachers and parents to ensure that all students are successful.

The district will be revising the district improvement plan to address the reasons for low student performance in Mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA) for the identified student subgroups.
While the overall (aggregate) student population in the district did make AYP,  many individual schools also missed that target in English and/or Math. The accountability ratings for each individual school is as follows:

Ayers/Ryal Side
North Beverly
Briscoe Middle School
Beverly High School

The ratings show that all schools except Cove and Hannah currently have some degree of AYP status issues; all schools except Hannah and BHS missed the aggregate AYP this year in either Math or English; and only Hannah met AYP in both aggregate and all subgroups in both Math and English. While Cove failed to meet AYP in Math this year, it takes two consecutive years of missed AYP to trigger any warning status.

An explanation of the accountability ratings can be found here, and Dr. Galinski gave a detailed presentation on the assessment process, and the increasing difficulty of making AYP at last year's State of the Schools program.

The Boston Globe also has an overview on the results which suggests that Beverly is not unique, and casts a critical eye on the ratings system itself.
Fifty-seven percent of the state's schools are failing to measure up under federal achievement standards, education officials announced this afternoon. ...

...The state also announced that 123 school districts, including 32 independently run public charter schools, failed to meet test score targets under No Child Left Behind.

State education officials have expressed frustration that the No Child Left Behind Law is forcing them to give so many schools negative designations, believing that many of the schools are providing solid academic programs. Many local school officials say it's unrealistic to expect that 100 percent of children, regardless of learning disabilities and fluency in English, will score proficient.
Look for more detail and analysis of these numbers in the coming days.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Beverly High PTSO to Hold Annual Fundraiser

The BHS Parent Teacher Student Organization has asked us to post the following notice for their upcoming fundraiser. With the opening of the new building less than 3 months away, all Beverly parents—even those of elementary school students—should take an interest in what is happening at the high school, and show their support:
Beverly High’s Parent Teacher Student Organization will celebrate the momentous opening of the new building with their only fundraiser for the year - a Golf Outing & Dinner/Auction Social.  This event will be held Thursday, October 14 at the Beverly Golf & Tennis Club with golf beginning at 12:30pm and dinner/auction/social at 5:30pm.

This is an exciting time for all citizens! Founded in 1858, BHS has a proud tradition of educating the children of Beverly. Enrolling almost 1300 students, BHS offers strong academic programs with over 92% of students going on to two or four year colleges.  BHS was listed in the September 2010 issue of Boston Magazine on their "Honor Roll" for accomplishments in technology.

We need your help!  Please consider a sponsorship or donation to support Beverly High School.  From student arts & enrichment, school library resources, science and technology programs, enhanced teaching resources, guest speakers, career seminars and college fairs, proceeds will benefit all students.

Sponsorships (see attached form)
  • Platinum ~ Prominent event signage plus Leader Board Display! Golf foursome (includes greens fees, cart, dinner and BHS golf shirts for party), four green/tee signs, two cart signs and full page program ad. $1200
  • Gold ~ Golf foursome (includes greens fees, cart, dinner and BHS golf shirts for party), two green/tee signs, one cart sign and ½ page program ad. $800
  • Silver ~ Golf foursome plus one green/tee sign.  $575
  • Green/Tee ~ Display a sign on the course featuring your business, family or student(s).  Name listed in program.  $125
Donate and Attend
  • Auction Items ~ Sporting tickets, gift certificates, weekend getaways, case of wine, gift baskets, golf items – new items of any value are welcome!
  • Cash ~ Make checks payable to “BHS PTSO” c/o Kathy Carnevale, 19 Paramatta Rd, Beverly
  • Individual golf/dinner.  $125
  • Dinner/Auction/Social only (begins 5:30pm).  $35
Join us Thursday, October 14, at Beverly Golf and Tennis Club
We are grateful for your support and look forward to a terrific year in our new building!
You can view the full brochure for these events here.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Understanding State Education Funding

UPDATE: The location of Monday's Stand event has changed to North Reading Middle School, 19 Sherman Road.

Even those of us who follow the school budget process closely, often find it difficult to make sense of what goes on at the Statehouse, and understand how decisions made there affect Beverly schools.

If you'd like to learn more, the Beverly chapter of Stand for Children is cosponsoring a forum titled Politics, Policy, and Campaigns on Monday, September 20.  The event, held in conjunction with several other Massachusetts Stand communities will be held at the at the Flint Memorial Library, 147 Park St. in North Reading (6:30 PM: Welcome and Refreshments, 7-9 PM: Program)

Join other Beverly Stand members and learn about the funding and policy issues that impact children’s education in Massachusetts, and how you can have a role influencing the key decisionmakers.

If you are interested in attending, please contact Kris Silverstein to RSVP, or with questions. Also please indicate in your message if you'd like to car pool.

On a related topic, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a research group that analyzes the state budget, has just released a report titled Public School Funding in Massachusetts: Where We Are, What Has Changed, and How We Compare to Other States.

The report provides a detailed looks at the statistics surrounding education funding, and reports several key findings.
  • Massachusetts ranks high in per-pupil spending but ranks low in total education spending as a percentage of the state economy. 
  • Massachusetts continues to rank low in state funding as a percentage of the total economy, although this percentage increased steadily during the mid to late 1990s.
  • Massachusetts schools rely heavily on local funding sources. 
If you are a budget junkie, it's worth a read.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Class Size Update

Here are the most recent enrollment figures for the district.  These were compiled as of mid-August, and may have changed slightly since then, but generally show where the trouble spots are.  Large class sizes are one or the main concerns of school advocates, and an issue we highlighted often during the Spring budget process.

The district's largest elementary class size is 29 in the Hannah 4th grade [disclosure: this blogger's son happens to be in this class], followed by 28.5 in the Ayers 5th grade.  These were two of the classes that were affected by the open-enrollment pushback plan devised by former Superintendent Hayes.

North Beverly 5th grade ranks 3rd with an average of 27.7 students per class.

All other classes seem to fall at or below 25.

One of the strategic plan focus groups meeting this fall will focus on the issue of class size.