By Lynda Rubin
December 22, 2016
The final focus and feedback meeting was held December 12, 2016 at 9:00 am. Dr. Jose Lebron was introduced as the new Interim Assistant Superintendent, taking over for George Roesser, who had attended previous meetings. Dr. Lebron is a retired School District principal and assistant superintendent; he has returned to district service for this position. Principal Jason Lytle, district representative Ryan Stewart and Cambridge Lead Reviewer Trevor Yates completed the presenters. Also attending were Evelyn Sample-Oates from the SDP, APPS member Lynda Rubin, and about 20 parents and stakeholders, many of whom had been at all or most of the focus meetings.
Dr. Lebron reviewed the original power-point data upon which the inclusion of Hartranft School in the Priority School group was based. Trevor Yates reviewed the Cambridge School Quality Report findings.
Among the factors included in the SQR which support learning are:
- The principal has a clear strategic vision and has transformed learning. Two parents said that the principal is moving in the right direction, that he and his team are trying hard to make this a good school. One student quote: “Incentives are given to motivate students for good attendance and grades.”
- The school leaders and teachers use data to plan lessons and track student progress against a range of key indicators, keep color-coded class lists for literacy and math, and track student progress monthly. Attendance was noted as a problem.
- Staff work together and engage in professional development, resulting in well planned agendas. The School-Based Teacher Leader (SBTL) leads an instructional support team for all staff. All staff reported that they value the quality of the professional development support.
- Stakeholders felt they were involved in the school and provided helpful information to help their children.
- There are partnerships with external agencies and community groups. This was valued by both parents and the community.
Factors that limit learning, according to the SQR, are:
- Although the school has placed an unrelenting focus on instruction, there is still a lack of consistency of practice. Whole class teaching is great, but groups were not tracked as well. Hence, despite all their efforts, the teachers are still being blamed for lack of progress.
- Lack of classroom assistants who could reduce student/teacher ratio for instruction and allow for more guided groups and independent work.
- The SQR concluded that teachers don’t check for understanding often enough.
- Data is not effectively used to improve instruction. (This seems to be in direct contradiction with a positive support above.)
Stakeholder Positive Feedback
- Yates noted that Hartranft was one of only two schools at which parents returned enough surveys so that Cambridge could actually use the data for their report and not just a few anecdotal responses.
- The principal has transformed the school and that teachers and principal are working together to make this a good school.
- Teachers care and motivate students to do better in school, including how they treat both students and parents and provide multiple supports. Teachers manage student behavior and support the development of social and emotional needs as well as academic needs of their students.
- There is a high priority on two-way communication with families on academics, how parents can support their child’s academic and social learning.
- The school plans a variety of functions and events involving parents.
- Wide range of support from local and community organizations.
Stakeholder Feedback on changes and improvements they’d like to see:
- Reduce staff-student ratio.
- Have a Spanish-speaking staff member in the office to facilitate communication with families.
- Fix the bathrooms. All stakeholders expressed concern for the very poor state on the bathrooms.
- Provide organized recess, especially for younger students, perhaps by trained community members.
- Keep the principal and provide him with time and resources necessary.
- Make Hartranft a neighborhood Community School with a thriving community center. (At the kick-off meeting a key complaint was that the rec center across the street closed two years ago that had provided an after-school safe haven and homework support.)
Comments from the floor included:
- A parent noted that current test scores are not part of the SQR and asked when they would be published. Mr. Yates responded that the inclusion of scores tend to have people judging the school, not the report, but that the principal would be given those statistics. He also referred to a Principal’s Report that would be given to Dr. Hite with a plan for improvement as part of the Priority Schools initiative.
- A discussion ensued about the effect that poor bathroom facilities and school building conditions (lights out, roofs leaking, dingy halls and classrooms, etc) have on student academic progress. Dr. Lebron and Mr. Yates both acknowledged that 1) the status of a building conveys to students and parents that they’re valued and 2) children have said they “hold it in all day” because the bathrooms are dirty and smelly and this affects their ability to concentrate and learn in the classroom.
- One parent asked, “Where’s the beef?” in reference to the financial status of schools, stating that “The district knows the problems; we need more teachers, counselors, etc.”
- I spoke about the inequity in funding and resources at different schools throughout the city.
- Lebron told parents that they need to make their voices heard through elections and directly to the SRC and school district itself.
- A question was raised about the basis of the SPR scores. Mr Yates responded that before Cambridge came, in the School Progress Report was the basis for the district’s placing Hartranft on the list. District representative Ryan Stewart said that school climate and attendance were not from the state reports. He also stated that the District is now looking beyond the numbers and statistics and at the internal workings and needs of the schools.
- Principal Lytle noted that the 2015-16 SPR results are coming out in January and that he fully expects the test scores and the attendance rates to be much better. He has been making that clear from the beginning, and while eager for any resources and support he can get, he has stated that Hartranft is already on its way up and that this progress should be factored in to the school’s standing. A parent volunteer echoed this and said he also expected scores to go up.
- Lebron noted that when he was a principal, his source of strength and power were the parents and that he is very pleased with the engagement at Hartranft.
- A parent spoke up about the need for certified school librarians and the special skills and knowledge they provide to students and staff. She has several young children at the school, is knowledgeable about Children’s Literacy, and is a member of a church that strongly supports Hartranft. She stated that Hartranft has a beautiful library that is basically unused but the district doesn’t have librarians. In addition, the neighborhood library closed two years ago. She initiated, along with her son’s teacher, a Writers’ Workshop program that was so successful other teachers were interested in learning about it and running one as well.
The meeting closed with an announcement of the time-line with recommendations for improvement being shared with the community in February.