Elementary school improvement plans OK’d

Jul 11, 2019 by

Published July 10, 2019

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — Social-emotional learning and curriculum development will once again stay on the front burner at both elementary schools next year.

The School Committee recently approved the elementary school improvement plans for the 2019-2020 school year. Former Huckleberry Hill Principal Brian Bemiss and Summer Street School Principal Dr. Karen Dwyer presented the plans to the school board earlier this spring.

“We are excited to continue enhancing our social-emotional learning work and are looking forward to continuing with the important curriculum work next year,” said Bemiss in a recent interview with the Villager.

Dwyer agreed.

“The school improvement plan focuses on Understanding by Design and social-emotional learning,” said Dwyer. “Summer Street School is committed to providing rigorous academics and a welcoming community where everyone is welcomed, valued and respected.”  

Social-emotional learning

According to a copy of Huckleberry Hill’s improvement plan, the elementary school’s educators will “continue to work together to refine, enhance and share strategies to infuse social-emotional learning into the curriculum and culture of Huckleberry Hill School.”

In order to begin accomplishing the goal, the Professional Development Steering Committee has established professional development time for social-emotional learning (SEL).

Teachers will be focusing on implementing the Responsive Classroom program during certain professional development days at Huckleberry Hill next year. According to the Responsive Classroom website, the program is “an evidence-based approach to teaching that focuses on engaging academics, positive community, effective management and developmental awareness.” The program seeks to develop “joyful learning communities where students develop strong social and academic skills.”

According to the plan, Responsive Classroom techniques and strategies will be implemented from September through next June. Huckleberry Hill Interim Principal Melissa Wyland will be informing parents about the Responsive Classroom initiative during the open house on Sept. 6. Wyland will be scheduling monthly Huckleberry Hill SEL Steering Committee meetings in order to “plan for and reflect on” the initiative’s direction.

“The SEL Steering Committee and educators will develop and/or administer student surveys at each grade level,” the plan states. “Grade level ‘mix-ups’ will provide opportunities for students to meet and collaborate with peers and teachers outside of their classroom. Whole school ‘mix-ups’ will provide opportunities for students to meet and collaborate with other students and teachers from all grade levels at least twice a year.”

Additionally, Wyland will be scheduling Fourth Grade Student Advisory Committee meetings in order to plan school-wide SEL or school improvement initiatives. Huckleberry Hill teachers will also be developing goals and undertaking collaborative-learning experiences that will seek to implement personalized learning initiatives.

The SEL Steering Committee will be developing ways to celebrate “cultural diversity” at Huckleberry Hill as well. The SEL Steering Committee will also be working with the Huckleberry Hill PTO in order to “provide enrichment programs that celebrate and educate students about various cultures from around the world.”

Dwyer said Summer Street School will continue utilizing its SEL program as part of an effort to enhance students’ “social and emotional wellness.”

“The goal is to provide our students with the knowledge, skills and language to navigate challenging social situations, understand and manage personal wellness, and demonstrate respect and care for others,” Dwyer stated.

According to Summer Street’s plan, educators will be attending the Responsive Classroom Conference this month and will be “sharing best practices” with teachers once the school year begins. Professional development time will be allocated for the initiative.

Additionally, Dwyer said Summer Street will be developing “consistent playground rules for faculty and students in grades K-4.” She also said the elementary school’s teachers will be cultivating “language and culture that reflects Summer Street School’s motto of GRIT (Growth, Respect, Independence, Teamwork).”

“The Summer Street School community will emphasize cultural diversity through great gatherings, read-a-louds and bulletin boards as a means to nurture informed citizens of the world and celebrate students’ diverse backgrounds,” Dwyer stated. “Educators will enhance students’ mindfulness strategies and independence as a result of professional development opportunities.”

According to the plan, Summer Street educators will take advantage of collaborative-learning experiences and will develop goals in order to enhance the “integration of SEL concepts and personalized learning into their practice.”

Curriculum initiative

The curriculum goal included on both elementary schools’ improvement plan entails implementing the fourth year of the school system’s Understanding by Design (UbD) initiative.

Teaching and Learning Director Kevin Cyr worked with Dwyer, Wyland, Elementary English/Social Studies Director Maureen Fennessy and Elementary Math/Science Director Christina Perry during the district’s Summer Institute program in order to lay the foundation for implementing the fourth year of UbD. Professional development time will also be allocated to the initiative.

“The Lynnfield Curriculum Council will provide feedback on existing curricula work and prioritize next steps in accordance with the UbD long-range plan,” the plan states.

As part of the plan, Cyr, Dwyer and Wyland will “develop a steering team to create a timeline for the implementation of a new report card, including the setup of an initial evaluation to best inform next steps.”

The plan also calls for implementing the Keys to Content Writing program. Lynnfield Curriculum Council meetings and assessment meetings will also focus on “the realignment of the social studies curricula based upon the revised/new standards.”

“Grade level team and/or assessment meetings will include consistent reference to the curriculum maps during discussion and/or sharing of best practices when applicable,” the plan states.

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