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John Monfredo: The Future of Worcester Public Schools

Saturday, September 22, 2012


The Worcester Public Schools, under the leadership of Dr. Melinda Boone, continue to make progress. The start of the new school year sees an increase in the number of children attending public schools, with the enrollment now around 23,550; an increase about 800 students from last year.  For most children in Worcester, the WPS continues to be their school system of choice.

The elementary level has a 21.5 to 1 classroom teacher to pupil ratio with an increase of eleven teachers added to the elementary list. If you add additional adults to the mix such as literacy teachers, intervention tutors and instructional assistants then the ratio drops to 16 to l.

Innovation Schools

The school system continues to expand its academic programs and has eight Innovation Schools operating this year. Innovation Schools, as identified by the Massachusetts Department of Education as “An Act Relative to the Achievement Gap”, provide a unique way to support high quality teaching and learning.

Superintendent Boone, who has advocated for the success of every child, stated, “ Innovation Schools provide a unique way to support high quality teaching and learning… these schools have garnered and galvanized broad support among parents, teachers and the community…When teachers, parents, and the community unite to support the success of every child, wonderful things happen.”  Worcester is the first community in the state to authorize multiple Innovation Schools, for there are eight in the Worcester Public Schools.

The big news this week was the press conference at Columbus Park Preparatory Academy School as State Education Secretary S. Paul Reville and the Commissioner of Education Dr. Mitchell Chester told the students and the staff that they were one of seven schools in Worcester that achieved a Level 1 status on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test.  Under the new state system, schools and districts are classified on a five-level scale with Level 1 representing the highest performing and the lowest performing in Level 5.  Level 1 means that the school is on target in closing the achievement gap within six years.

Secretary of Education Reville and Commissioner Chester declared that they were at Columbus Park to celebrate the kind of positive learning that is going on at the school for the school has made outstanding progress in the learning growth of the children. Columbus Park Principal Jessica Boss attributed the increase in growth to the tireless work of her staff, reacting to the data, and to the willingness of the parents and students to work with the school.  Five years ago the math scores showed a 22% proficiency rate and a 28% rate in English Language Arts and now Columbus Park sees about a 60% rate in math and a 67% in English Language Arts.  

Boone's Work

Keep in mind this is a school where 84% of the students are low-income, around 33 percent are limited English proficient, and over 20 percent have special needs. Dr. Chester also acknowledged that Dr. Boone is among the best superintendents not only in Massachusetts but in the nation and thanked her for her leadership role. 

Dr. Boone addressed the MCAS data System wide where it shows that testing from the spring’s MCAS in Math, there was an increase in percentage scoring proficient or advanced in grades 4, 6, 7 and 10 from 2011. When examined over five years, the percent of students at proficient or above increased in grades 3, 5. 7, 8, and 10.

In English Language Arts there was an increased percentage scoring proficient or advanced in grades 3, 4, and 10 from 2011. Over the five year period from 2008 increases were evident in grades 3, 4, 5, and 7. In Science and Technology, there was an increase in percentage scoring proficient or advanced in grades 8 and 10 from 2011.

Dr. Boone stated that the Advanced Placement course enrollment continues to increase since 2009-2010 from 1048 to 1912 in 2012. Over the past year schools have added new math and science Advanced Placement courses to their course offerings.  Despite the increase in AP placements the percentage of qualifying scores held its own.  South High led in the increase of the most qualifying AP scores in the city high schools. 

Professional development has been a high priority within the school system for more professional development programs exist for the staff throughout the year and during the summer months.  Staff development continues to focus in on best teaching practices and on the delivery of services to the children.  This summer 81 different training programs provided 1,404 hours of training to 2, 930 participants.

Other supportive services taking place are the wraparound Zone Outreach Coordinators (outreach to the parents and the community) with assistance of Race to the Top funding as well as our schools continuing with full-time focused instructional coaches at each school. 

Curb side appeal continues to take place in the Worcester Public Schools with renovations taking place at a number of schools.  Work has been done to restrooms, painting projects have taken place, floor tiles and window replacements were also completed.   Seven elementary schools and two secondary schools had energy saving projects going on with boiler/chiller replacements, solar panels and window replacements taking place.

Worcester Public Schools employs 3, 818 individuals, making it the city’s third largest employer with UMass Memorial Health Care and UMass Medical School leading the way.

Other interesting facts about the Worcester Public School System include child nutrition.  The school system serves 10,000 breakfasts and 15,800 lunches.  There are 14 elementary schools with a Breakfast in the Classroom Program, 13 schools with state fruit and vegetable grants and all schools with farm to school fresh fruit and vegetables.  Hopefully, the fresh fruits and vegetables, along with the teaching of good health and exercise, will cut into the obesity rate in our schools.

Another important part of the school system is transportation for the system has 95 large school buses and 110 Special Education Buses and out of district vehicles.  The buses transport 10,968 students daily and cover approximately 10,000 miles per day and 1.8 million miles per school year.
The Worcester Public School System continues to move forward with outstanding programs for our 21st century students.


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