School Committee Updates

November 19 School Committee Meeting Update

The School Committee met on Monday, November 19th in Town Hall.  The lead presentation was on MCAS scores and accountability determinations at the High School and Middle School.  Test scores from spring 2018 were reported for English language arts (ELA), math and science, by school and by various subgroups, such as English language learners.  At the High School, the percent of students scoring "proficient" or "advanced" increased from last year in ELA and science, and stayed the same in math.  All scores were above the state average.  Subgroup performance varied, with several groups showing achievement gaps of 20 percentage points or more.  The accountability determination, based on targets set by the state, was “meeting targets.” 

At the Middle School, MCAS test performance showed a decline in the percentage of students scoring "meeting" or "exceeding" expectations in all test areas compared to the 2017 scores, although ELA scores in 7th and 8th grade, science in 8th grade, and math in 7th grade remained above the state average.  Achievement gaps were significant with a number of subgroups.  The accountability determination was “partially meeting targets.”  For both the Middle and High Schools, principals and curriculum coordinators described a number of changes to improve student learning, and Committee members asked questions on a variety of issues, including curriculum alignment and teacher practice.  This was the third presentation to the Committee on 2018 MCAS scores and the new state accountability system. 

Another topic of discussion was Watertown’s participation in Minuteman Vocational School District.  Watertown is not a member of Minuteman, but it currently sends and pays tuition for 56 students.  At several previous subcommittee meetings there was discussion about the pros and cons of joining Minuteman.  Citing several factors, including higher costs in the long term and the continuing availability of space for Watertown students, the Committee voted to continue its current status, while reviewing this issue again after completion of the feasibility study for a new Watertown high school and in consideration of possible changes at Minuteman and other area options for vocational education.    

The Committee also heard several other reports:  a summary of recent professional development activities on election day (when students were not in school); review of capital improvements completed this past summer; and an update on the current budget.  The Committee also completed a first reading on a set of policy revisions.  At the beginning of the meeting, two Watertown seniors, Nathan Follett and Robert Leonard, were congratulated for being commended by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation for their performance on the 2017 PSAT exam.

Building for the Future updates included comments on the recent community forums at the Hosmer and Cunniff Schools, as well as a presentation by the Superintendent on the High School process, which is completing the Eligibility stage and will seek approval from the state to hire the architect and Owner’s project manager for the High School project.  The Town Council recently approved $1.6 million for this next phase of the project.

Upcoming events include a community forum at the Lowell School on proposed building changes, on November 28th at 6 PM; Superintendent’s coffee on November 26th at 9 AM and 7 PM; and School Committee meeting on December 10th.    

Additional information is available on the WPS website at  https://sites.google.com/a/watertown.k12.ma.us/watertown-k12-ma-us/.