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.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

High School Accreditation Process Begins

This week's Beverly Citizen reports on the upcoming evaluation of the high school by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), which will begin this month. A committee of 15 educators will visit the school October 17-20 to begin their evaluation.

The high school has been on probationary status since 2003, primarily due to the condition of the building, which NEASC said "was interfering with students’ learning."  The designation was the driving force behind the city's decision to build a new school (or academic wing), which was authorized by the City Council in a March 2006 vote.

Superintendent Galinski says the district had hoped that the visit could be postponed until after students were in the new building (currently scheduled for late November), but that wasn't feasible. She says the group will hold meetings in, and tour the new facility, however.

High School Principal Sean Gallagher describes the accreditation visit to the Citizen:
"As part of the evaluation, the visiting committee will meet with all school constituents, review the school's self-study, visit a number of classes and examine examples of student work submitted by the school... During the comprehensive self-study, the faculty attempted to identify the school's strengths and determined those areas in which changes would be beneficial.”
Further details from the Citizen article:
School Committee Vice Chairman Maria Decker said the school will be evaluated in seven key areas: core values, beliefs and learning expectations; curriculum; instruction; assessment of and for student learning; school culture and leadership; school resources for learning; and community resources for learning.

“They come for the visit, then send follow-up comments with a two-year report after that, and we will do a progress report after a couple of years. It’s a 10-year cycle,” Decker said. “It’s a circle of constantly assessing who you really are. There’s always room for improvement, and we evaluate ourselves.”...

“We have every optimism that the probation will be lifted, since we have a brand new building,” Galinski said. ...

“The BHS staff has been working on the accreditation for over a year. Many staff members have been active on many of the various committees set up,” School Committee Chairwoman Annemarie Cesa said. “I am sure that the accreditation team will be impressed by the quality of education our students are getting here in Beverly.”
While past accreditation issues have been due mainly to the condition of the building, there was one point during last year's budget debate that the School Committee worried that proposed teacher cuts at the high school could jeopardize the school's academic standing.  Subsequently, many of those cuts were restored or otherwise mitigated.


BHS Wins Grant

In other BHS news, the Salem News reports  that the school has won a grant that could total as much as $2 million over the next few years from the U.S. Department of Education.

According to the News, the Smaller Learning Communities grant, "will help the school provide students with more personalized and supportive learning experiences."
Most of it will be spent on teacher training. The training will focus on different styles of learning and how teachers can meet the needs of all types of students, [Superintendent Marie] Galinski said.
Some money will go toward developing a "Freshman Academy" to help them make the transition from middle school, Galinski said. The money will also bolster the existing 8.5 program, a summer program that helps just graduated eighth-grade students make the transition to high school. Teachers will also get training on the school's 1 to 1 laptop initiative, a controversial new plan to have every student have an Apple laptop in school by September of next year.
The school is guaranteed  $756,000 for each of the next two years, and then must reapply to receive the remainder of the funds.

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