2017-18 District Improvement Plan: Executive Summary

posted May 9, 2017, 11:27 AM by Richard Safier

                                                District Improvement Plan 2017-18

Executive Summary


The mission of the Gloucester Public Schools is for all students to be successful, engaged, lifelong learners.

Theory of Action

The district’s Theory of Action states that if we establish a coherent approach to the instructional core, create a system that meets the needs of individual students, support instruction through accurate and timely information and the necessary supports to identify and promote best practices, and establish a highly collegial, results-driven environment, then the district as a whole will significantly improve student learning and achievement.

Strategic Objectives

To achieve the above, the district’s strategic initiatives are organized into four principal strategic objectives (there may be overlap of these areas).  Those overarching strategic objectives include:

  • Unification and Coherence—the creation of a systemic approach to the work of the district, which places a primary focus on high-priority, high leverage goals of the elementary schools, middle school, and high school;

  • Meeting Individual Needs—a focus on the individual needs of students, the barriers to achievement and the means for remediating those challenges.  Meeting individual needs also means attention to enrichment opportunities and an array of diverse offerings for students;

  • Use of Data—to ensure that data management and analysis support and inform instruction; and,

  • Professional Culture and Community—the continuous development of a culture of professional growth and dialogue about curriculum, instruction, and assessment through collegial partnerships, along with a community outreach program that seeks to partner with the community at-large.

To achieve the Strategic Objectives, there are specific Strategic Initiatives in the 2016-17 District Development Plan.  Those initiatives are described below.

Strategic Initiatives—Unification and Coherence

Unification and Coherence: Curriculum Review and Revision

The district will continue its cyclic work on the development and the revision of curriculum guides. The overarching goal is to maintain an ongoing five-year cycle of large-scale curriculum review, with a corresponding, formative process that enables the district to update elements of the curriculum (e.g., pacing guides, etc.) annually. This will include the following:

  • A review of the scope and sequence of Math in Focus, K-5;

  • The rollout of a new K-5 Science K-5 program;

  • The alignment of Science curriculum, Grades 6-8, to reflect the new Science Standards;

  • A revision of the high school science curricula for physics, chemistry, engineering and technology, and biology to reflect the new Science Standards;

  • The piloting of a new health curriculum at the middle school (new regulations regarding substance abuse education);

  • The review, and revision of the scope and sequence of the new middle school math program following the first year of implementation;

  • The alignment of Grade 9 Algebra with the Grade 8 Algebra class (currently using a new curriculum);

  • Identifying an increased number of “pathways” for students to be eligible to take Calculus as seniors; and,

  • In Special Education, incorporating the use of Google extensions, language-based programs, and reading, assistive technology;

Unification and Coherence: Time Allocation, Elementary

With the advent of a new Science Program at the elementary level, schools need to identify appropriate and proportional time allocations for the various academic subject areas: ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies, etc. This will require an extensive review building schedules in order to establish proper time allocations. It will include efforts to incorporate readings for Science which can be integrated into Literacy as Informational Text. Completing the process will require the development of intervention schedules for Response to Intervention (RtI).

Unification and Coherence: Examination of the Preschool through Grade 8 Literacy Program

With the new Next Generation MCAS and Common Core Standards in mind, the district will examine the Preschool-Grade 8 Literacy program for the purpose of ensuring a unified, vertically aligned, and rigorous curriculum. The goals for this alignment include the following:

  • Conduct a comparative analysis of how Lively Letters is being used in Preschool, Kindergarten, and Grade 1;

  • Identify the basic instructional foundation for meeting the K/1 writing standards through the determination of core lessons, and the development of assessment rubrics common scoring mechanisms;

  • Align Empowering Writers essential lessons with the Standards, Reading St., and Science, Gr. 2-5;

  • Identify both the process (Reading St., Core Lessons, Writing to Sources, e.g.) and the basic instructional strategies for teaching Prose Constructed Response, Gr. 2-5;

  • Adjust Grade 5 and Grade 6 literacy curricula for the purpose of facilitating the transition between the two grades;

  • Increase the level of rigor of the ELA reading curriculum at the middle school; and,

  • Use data meetings at the middle school as the basis for differentiating instruction.

Unification and Coherence: Special Education

The district will continue to establish effective process and practices throughout the district, i.e., protocols regarding discipline, entrance/exit criteria for substantially separate programs, behavior support, team membership, administrative oversight, and data collection. This includes:

  • An update of the policy and procedures manual to include new disciplinary, restraint, and any requirements that come as a result of the Coordinated Program Review;

  • A review the CPR Final Report (anticipated June, 2017) and the requisite corrective action based upon CPR timelines;

  • A clarification of the appropriate use of a behavior support professional as a part of best practices;

  • An increase the content knowledge and pedagogical skills of Special Education teachers;

  • Monitoring the policy and procedures of the Special Education Dept. at GHS (pending funding, this refers to a second Program Leader position);

  • The streamlining of the Student Support Team (SST) procedures at GHS

Strategic Initiatives--Meeting Individual Needs

Meeting Individual Needs: Next Generation MCAS Preparation

The district will continue to prepare students for the Next Generation MCAS computer based, online administration. It will do so through the following:

  • The district will provide specific instruction on keyboarding for students in Grades 2-8;

  • The district will provide opportunities for students to develop proficiency in typing beyond basic keyboarding skills, i.e., writing fluency;

  • Students will use released Next Generation practice items to learn how to navigate the test format; and,

  • The district will provide benchmark assessments for Gr. 2-5 and specific formative assessments in an online format.

In the areas of Technology Infrastructure and Preparedness, the district will be increasing the capacity of the Internet service and infrastructure through the upgrading of all primary and secondary switches at all schools, wireless upgrades, and the expansion of additional networks.

Meeting Individual Needs: Strengthening Higher Order Thinking Skills

With the Next Generation MCAS and Common Core Standards as the backdrop, the district remains committed to promoting the development of the cognitively complex skills necessary to meet new college and career readiness standards. Higher order thinking skills include critical, logical, reflective, metacognitive, and creative thinking. They are activated when students are assigned unfamiliar problems, uncertainties, questions, or dilemmas. Successful applications of these skills result in explanations, decisions, performances, and products that are valid within the context of available knowledge and experience and that promote continued growth in these and other intellectual skills. Higher order thinking skills are grounded in lower order skills such as discriminations, simple application and analysis, and cognitive strategies and are linked to prior knowledge of subject matter content. The district is committed to formalizing appropriate teaching strategies and and learning environment which will facilitate all students’ capacity in the higher order thinking skills. These capacities exist alongside our commitment to strengthening student persistence, self-monitoring, and open-minded, flexible attitudes.

Grades Pre-K-Grade 8 will work on the alignment and the implementation of high leverage reading and writing strategies that emphasize deep level comprehension, response to text, and making connections. In Science, the elementary schools will adopt a new program that emphasizes inquiry, investigation, and experimentation. All three levels, elementary, middle, and high school will be bringing their curriculum into alignment with the new science standards. The middle school will seek to integrate the use of the aquaponics installation into their study of habitats, energy, and other related topics (Mass. Life Sciences Grant).

In elementary math, there will be a continued emphasis on students being able to use multiple strategies in addition to standard algorithms in order to demonstrate their understanding of math concepts, e.g., place value, modeling and fractions. At the middle school, the goal is to increase students’ capacity to demonstrate higher order thinking in mathematics (e.g., understand the connection between ratios, fractions, and proportions).

The high school continues to take a comprehensive approach to the teaching of Inquiry. That work will continue to ensure that every course at the HS will enable students to practice the fundamental elements of Inquiry: Connecting, Wondering, Investigation, Constructing, Expressing, and Reflecting. The high school will be seeking to provide electives with the systematic means for further student inquiry in a more intentional and designed way. In their assessments, they are developing a more differentiated approach to ensure that all teachers have a working and demonstrable understanding of assessment in relation to Understanding by Design. And like the middle school, the high school will use its Mass. Life Sciences grant, only they are looking to refine their current biotechnology offerings and the incorporation of biotechnology into their academic courses.

Meeting Individual Needs: Technology

The goal of the district is to continue to develop a technology-rich environment in which students develop the skills they need to compete in higher education and/or the workforce. The district will be continuing its expansion of the 1:1 Chromebook initiative, moving on to Grade 11. Through grant funding, the district will create an Educational Technology Integration position primarily for the high school. The high school will develop and implement a “Help Desk” course and curriculum for students. GHS is also creating inquiry-rich, Understanding By Design type units that will assist students in developing deep content knowledge to solve real-life problems. In doing so, there will be an increase and expand the use of Chromebooks to support Inquiry. Last,  the district will provide information about the Chromebook initiative to parents and guardians.

Meeting Individual Needs: Intervention Systems

This goal is intended to ensure the success for all students through a consistent and effective system of interventions, which are targeted specifically and meaningfully through their links to assessment data.

In Literacy, the elementary schools will continue to refine the process of providing interventions. With data meetings in place, the middle school will focus on differentiating instruction for the purpose of creating an initial RtI structure in ELA.

In Math, elementary principals and math coaches will identify best practices for elementary data math meetings. Through the use of data meetings—new to the middle schools—the O’Maley Math Dept. will increase the use of data into daily instruction facilitated by a new math program that provides direction for small group interventions.

In the area of social and emotional learning, both the middle and elementary schools will employ what is termed Schoolwide Information System (SWIS) Data. The recommendation is for a quarterly review for the purpose of making adjustments within the Positive Behavior Intervention Strategies (PBIS) program to move students through a tiered structure that includes student behaviors, classrooms, and areas of the school where there are more concerns regarding positive student activity.


At the Preschool, there is an effort to use the assessment “Teaching Strategies Gold.” The preschool will systematize how data from that assessment is applied to instruction.

Meeting Individual Needs: Social and emotional learning (SEL)

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

      Definition is from the Collaborative for Academic and Social / Emotional Learning (CASEL)

The district views the definition of SEL above as an overarching goal for the district. To achieve that goal, the district will work toward the following goals:

  • The district will seek to identify best practices based upon information acquired from the Low Income Educational Assessment Project (LEAP) Conference;

  • The district will determine the means for measuring the fidelity of practice and the impact of the Second Step Program. This may include a vehicle for student self-assessment;

  • As mentioned earlier, the district will analyze, quarterly, the Schoolwide Information System (SWIS) data for the purpose of narrowing the focus of PBIS lesson plans to show a reduction of disciplinary action and an increase in positive behaviors; and,

  • The district will form a mentoring group composed of high school students whose purpose will be to discuss substance use/abuse issues with younger students. This is part of the expansion of the district’s coverage of substance-related issues.

Meeting Individual Needs: English Language Learners

With the very sizable increase in enrollment of English Language Learners, the district must put into place the systems, practices, dedicated learning spaces, and adequate trained ESL staff to work with ELL students. The following elements will be implemented:

  • The district will continue to define leadership roles (asst. supt., principals, ELL Coordinator, ELL teachers) with respect to educating ELL students;

  • The district needs to pursue sufficient qualified teaching staff, appropriate placement and scheduling of classes with support interventions, and adequate resources;

  • More general education teachers need to be incentivized to pursue SEI training in order to achieve increased skills in how to effectively teach English language learners (ELLs). The district will be looking into sponsoring classes and providing financial support for those opportunities;

  • The district will establish more effective placement and scheduling of classes to ensure that ELLs are receiving appropriate instruction;

  • Teachers at all grade levels and in all departments will be monitored to use SEI teaching strategies and instructional practices in classrooms to ensure that all students have equal access to the general education, standards-based curriculum;

  • Establish a number of outreach initiatives—parent groups, guidance counselor meetings, evening forums, something with food (culture nights), adult classes;

  • The district will periodically send out surveys in the parents’ native languages to both parents and students to see how they are feeling in relation to the district and to their child’s education;

  • District leaders will connect with city and state officials and community agencies to learn about ELLs and their families;

  • In the area of Social-Emotional Services for ELL Students, social service staff in every school need to provide students with a wide variety of help in navigating school so that they can be successful.

Strategic Initiatives—Use of Data

Use of Data: Common Assessments

The district recognizes common assessments as measures of student learning, growth, or achievement, and as a standard measure of student progress across schools, grades, and subject areas. As such, the district will continue to identify and implement rigorous, reliable , and useful assessments. Should the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education finalize and implement a plan for the application of District Determined Measures, these common assessments will assume that role as well (negotiations will be required). The district will continue to identify the best practices in the determination and the application of data as well as determine the timing and substance/content of benchmark assessments.

MCAS/PARCC Increases in Mathematics and English Language Arts

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education uses the 100-point Composite Performance Index (CPI) to measure progress towards this goal of narrowing proficiency gaps. The CPI assigns 100, 75, 50, 25, or 0 points to each student participating in MCAS/PARCC and MCAS-Alternate Assessment tests based how close they came to scoring Proficient or Advanced. For example, all students scoring Proficient or Advanced are assigned 100 CPI points; High Needs Improvement is assigned 75 CPI points, and so on.) The CPI is calculated by dividing the total number of points by the number of students in the group. The result is a number between 0 and 100.

The goal for 2016-2017 is for the MCAS/PARCC Composite Performance Indices (CPI) score for both mathematics and English Language Arts for All Students to increase by two percent in each.

Strategic Initiatives--Professional Culture and Community

Professional Culture and Community: Communications/Public Relations

The district will maintain a comprehensive public relations initiative using the media as well as school automated email, phone contact systems, websites, a district newsletter, and Facebook. Title I teachers will continue to focus on the engagement of parents and families so that they are better able to support the supplemental instruction provided by Title I teachers.  The district will continue to promote school-based events in literacy, math, technology, social/emotional concerns, etc. It will continue to publicize district activity, successes, and issues through such media as the District Newsletter, the GPSD and individual school websites, Facebook, Superintendent’s Corner, Publicist Articles, School Newsletters, and State of the Schools presentations alternated with Education Forums.

In addition, administration will actively visit with site-based councils, and continue the acquisition of parent emails. By the spring 2017, the parent portals for both the high school and the middle school will be available to parents and guardians. And, the what is now an annual event, Countdown to Kindergarten, will continue to welcome prospective Kindergarten parents and orient them to the district.

Last, the district will review and audit its sensitivity and responsiveness to parents/guardians and the community. This review will extend to departments within schools.