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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Superintendent's Blog 

December 2020

Bedford Public Schools 

Literacy Plan

In January 2020, the Bedford Public Schools began the process of assembling a team of faculty to create a Literacy Plan for the district.  One of the main forces behind creating a plan, was to address the concerns highlighted by our standardized test scores, specifically MCAS results for the past few years.  When we called for faculty members to join a committee to create a plan, we were excited to have over thirty members of our faculty step forward and embark on addressing the issues and concerns related to literacy in our district.  This effort was led by Andrea Salipante, K-5 Literacy Specialist, Jennifer Rabold,6-12 Reading Program Administrator, and me.  We were fortunate to have members from each school.  Through the late winter and early spring, the committee formed sub committees to investigate specific issues and to gather information from faculty and staff throughout the district.  

Based on information gathered by each of the subcommittees, we were able to focus our plan on five specific goals, with action steps to be addressed over the span of the next three years.  Each of the schools has embedded the BPS Literacy Plan into their School Improvement Plans.

The BPS Literacy Plan has been presented to all of the faculty and staff this past fall, at building based meetings, and has been presented to the school committee.  We look to presenting it at various parent groups this spring, and next year, either in person or via zoom.  The following information highlights the vision of the plan, the purpose, the belief and assumptions behind the plan and the five specific goals:

BPS Literacy Plan Vision Statement

Bedford Public Schools is committed to making literacy a priority.  We believe that through quality tiered literacy instruction, our students will be prepared for college and career and life beyond Bedford Public Schools.  We want all of our students to have the skills to become literate citizens and pursue their dreams when they graduate from high school.


The Purpose of the BPS Literacy Plan

  • To inform instructional leaders and teachers about current, researched best practices for reading assessment, instruction, and intervention.

  • To develop a comprehensive, system-wide plan for literacy assessment, instruction, curriculum, and intervention, including a literacy scope and sequence that builds on students’ skills as they develop K-12.

  • To address the unique considerations necessary to bridge the gap between students’ current literacy abilities and grade-level expectations by accelerating learning.

  • To inform the professional development goals and needs of the district in the area of literacy.

  • To inform the development and implementation of curriculum for specific courses, programs, and differentiated plans of instruction and intervention.


The Beliefs and Assumptions that Underlie the Development of the BPS Literacy Plan

  • Students that are significantly behind their peers in grade-level reading achievement need:

    • An intervention plan that will accelerate their literacy growth.

    • Additional support above and beyond reading in language arts and other content areas.

    • Instruction from a licensed reading professional during time specified for reading instruction. 

    • Intervention in addition to other services such as special education or ESL.

  • Students reading at or above grade level will also benefit from explicit reading instruction to encourage ongoing growth and development of critical thinking skills.
  • An instruction and intervention plan should be data driven and based on students’ needs to assure growth in reading development and to support the independent application of strategic reading throughout the school day.

  • Triangulation of multiple data measures which includes norm-referenced, criterion-based, and informal assessments should be used to create or redesign reading intervention plans and for moving students into, between, and out of appropriate interventions.


BPS Literacy Plan Goals

  • Goal 1: Vision/Leadership/Communication

  • District and school-based initiatives and goals will be aligned to the Literacy Plan, including the alignment of K-12 literacy curricula.


  • Goal 2: Assessment

  • Consistent administration of literacy assessments will be conducted at every grade level throughout the year; data will be shared across schools, grade levels, and district; and data will be used to inform instruction and intervention.


  • Goal 3: Intervention Processes

  • Consistency and alignment of literacy interventions K-12, including processes for identifying students, informing stakeholders, and delivering interventions, will be strengthened.


  • Goal 4: Core Curriculum and Instruction

  • Core, Tier I literacy instruction will be strengthened and differentiated so as to reduce the need for literacy interventions.


  • Goal 5: Professional Development/Coaching

  • Appropriate and sufficient professional development and coaching will be provided for all staff who are providing and evaluating literacy instruction.


As you can see from the information presented here, a great deal of time, thought, collaboration and effort went into creating this plan-which will be a road map for the district for the next three years. The global pandemic has impacted education everywhere-we are fortunate in Bedford to have educators who have continued to implement the BPS Literacy Plan, even in the face of altered educational models.  The Literacy Plan Committee (a small group of approximately 2 representatives from each school) meet monthly to discuss the implementation of the plan-to check in on the progress of the goals and the action steps aligned with those goals.  We are making progress, and we will continue to address the action steps in the next few years, and support Literacy throughout the district. Periodically, I, along with the Literacy Plan Committee, will be updating the faculty at each school and the school committee as the action steps are addressed.  If you would like to read the BPS Literacy Plan in its entirety please click on this link:   Bedford Literacy Plan


If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me-best wishes for 20201!


Sincerely,


Tricia Clifford, Ed. D.

Assistant Superintendent

Friday, February 7, 2020

BPS Literacy Planning Committee 2020


BPS Literacy Planning Committee 2020

The Bedford Public Schools is committed to making literacy a priority. With that as our shared commitment, we have created a Literacy Planning Committee that has representation from K-12 faculty from all content areas. The committee will work on creating a literacy plan that represents a continuum of instruction, curriculum, assessment, and intervention services for our students K-12.

Our MCAS scores have demonstrated that we have made some progress, yet we still have room for improvement. Several different cohorts have made gains; however, our students are not performing at the levels we would like them too. At no grade, and in no subject tested, did we have greater than 81% of our students Meeting or Exceeding Expectations in 2019. Some grade levels and subjects, such as Grade 7 ELA (YOG 2024), where only 60% of students are Meeting or Exceeding Expectations, are even more concerning. Furthermore, there are significant gaps in the achievement and growth percentiles between students in several subgroups and all students.

In addition to addressing our assessment data, as the literacy demands of learners continue to increase, it is imperative that we develop assessment and intervention plans (including a scope and sequence of developmental outcomes) that lead all students to acquire the literacy skills necessary for the 21st century. With this in mind, we will develop a literacy plan that will serve a variety of purposes:

     To inform instructional leaders and teachers about current, researched best practices for literacy assessment, instruction, and intervention.
     To develop a comprehensive, system-wide plan for literacy assessment, instruction, curriculum, and intervention, including a literacy scope and sequence that builds on students’ skills as they develop K-12.
     To address the unique considerations necessary to bridge the gap between students’ current literacy abilities and grade-level expectations by accelerating learning.
     To inform the professional development goals and needs of the district in the area of literacy.
     To inform the development and implementation of curriculum for specific courses, programs, and differentiated plans of instruction and intervention.

We have 29 Bedford educators that have joined our Literacy Planning Committee. This skilled group in collaboration with many stakeholders will create a district plan that ensures that ALL students in the Bedford Public receive appropriate literacy instruction to prepare them for college and career and life beyond Bedford Public Schools. The committee will work with subgroups  throughout the district on the following categories:

            ● K-5 Core Literacy Instruction
            ● 6-12 Core Literacy Instruction
            ● Literacy Intervention Program
            ● Literacy Assessments and Use of Data
            ● Literacy Professional Development
            ● Resources, Funding, and Staffing
            ● Literacy Leadership and District Structures Supporting Literacy
            ● Scheduling and Grouping

The committee will be meeting several times throughout the spring. The goal will be to share the Literacy Plan at the end of August, and have this plan become an integral part of the overall district plan and each individual school-based School Improvement Plan. The committee will meet for their first meeting, on Friday, January 31st. This is a very exciting time for teaching and learning in Bedford. The response to creating a Literacy Plan, and implementing it collaboratively as K-12 system, has been enthusiastic and well supported. Look for updates as we begin to finalize a comprehensive plan.

Tricia Clifford, Ed.D
Assistant Superintendent of Schools

Tuesday, April 23, 2019


PORTRAIT OF THE BEDFORD PUBLIC SCHOOLS GRADUATE:
PHASE ONE OF OUR 2020-2025 STRATEGIC PLAN
AN INVITATION

What do we as a school community want all of our students to know, understand and be able to do by the time they graduate from high school?  What should inform this vision of our graduates, and how should teaching and learning be designed to make this happen?

These are important questions that educators ask on a continuing basis.  The answers guide decisions regarding school organization, pedagogy, curricular and extracurricular opportunities, and the allocation of resources.  They go to the heart of what all Bedford Public School children experience on a daily basis in their classrooms and extra-curricular activities in all four schools.

But periodically, we need to ask these questions in a more formal and inclusive manner.  We need to reflect on whether we are acting on the most informed answers to these questions for today’s graduates.  And, we need to consider the needs of children who, having entered kindergarten this year, will graduate in the year 2031.

Since our last strategic planning process concluded in 2012, these decisions have been guided by the following Vision Statement: The Bedford Public Schools develops skillful, reflective, lifelong learners who think critically and creatively and who are informed, responsible, and productive global citizens. The school community provides a safe, respectful, and inclusive environment in which the unique intellectual, social, ethical, and emotional growth of each learner is realized.  Accordingly, we have annually developed a set of strategic initiatives aimed at achieving this vision.

This vision derives from the belief that many of today’s societal challenges exist because schooling for too long was not only inequitable, but was also predominantly a passive process of absorbing information.  Accordingly, and because tomorrow is, in large measure, already here today, the Bedford Public Schools has focused for years on changing teaching and learning into a student-active process of developing complex thinking capabilities, and on closing achievement gaps.  For these reasons, certain student outcomes, for example, the ability to view problems analytically and to solve problems creatively, to comprehend complex texts independently, to communicate effectively, to learn with and from others, to be adept with technology, to be reflective and open minded… presently guide our work and will continue to moving forward.

Yet it is time once again to take a more comprehensive look at what our students will need as they come of age in a world of wondrous opportunities and daunting challenges:

      a technological universe that is expanding exponentially, that holds the promise to solve so many social, economic and environmental problems, of creating new forms of art and music, while also threatening to replace interpersonal communication with digital depersonalization, manual and mental labor with robots and AI, and privacy with an ever growing sharing of our personal information;

     the pressing demands of democratic citizenship enriched by diversity in a demographically changing nation, yet still riven by racial, economic and other disparities;

     a shrinking and increasingly interconnected world capable of creating solutions to environmental crises and world health issues, and able to share advances in biotech, nanotech, DNA editing; yet torn by tribal, religious, development and economic resource divisions, and lacking clear and shared ethical guidelines for scientific advances that will challenge what it means to be human; and

     new ideas as well as continuing debates about teaching and learning and how to best prepare all students for citizenship, college and/or career, and a life of continual learning, meaning and fulfillment.

To develop the Bedford Public Schools’ next five-year strategic plan, we are inviting the community to participate in a comprehensive, deliberative process that will begin by creating a Portrait of the Graduate that will emerge from a collaborative process of research and reflection.   The Portrait will describe the core competencies and literacies that all students should have (knowledge, understandings, skills and dispositions) upon graduation.  Once completed,  the Portrait of the Graduate will guide a backwards planning process to identify the key features of school organization, curriculum, instruction and assessment that will be needed to ensure that all students graduate with these skills, understandings and dispositions.

The Portrait of the Bedford Public Schools Graduate committee will be composed of parents, teachers, administrators, students and community members, and will meet once monthly (full day meetings) between May and November (excluding the summer months as well as October).  A draft of the Portrait competencies will be shared with the broader community for feedback and will then be finalized at the November meeting.  The Strategic Planning committee will then meet between December and April to complete the second phase.

If you are interested in participating on the Portrait of the Bedford Public Schools Graduate committee, please click on the following link and, by May 1, let us know. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeONXq9NyWmotX3ScBeg8ETQSaRb63-dhKA7NARcR7zacO5sg/viewform?usp=sf_link

Sincerely,

Jon
Jon Sills, Superintendent
Bedford Public Schools





Monday, January 28, 2019

January Professional Development in Bedford


This year, January's full-day professional development was a building-based combination of theory and practice, with a variety of opportunities all connected to equity and teaching all students. Educators in all four buildings were energized and engaged, and came away with perspectives, skills and knowledge that will benefit all students. Here are a few highlights from each building:

BHS: High School educators focused on equity using an EdCamp format in which teachers, and in this case students as well, run workshop sessions for other teachers. There was a variety of offerings, including "Restorative Justice Circles"; "Unpacking the Themes of Fiddler on the Roof and the Importance of Having Courageous Conversations," co- facilitated by teacher and student; "The Trauma Sensitive Classroom"; "Navigating Bedford Public Schools as a Student in the METCO Program," co-facilitated by Superintendent Sills and two students; "Exploring High School Life through the Lens of Student from a Military family," which included a panel discussion by students.

24 students participated, and the sessions were all very well received by faculty, with many wishing the sessions were longer or there were more of them. It is clearly a model that works well and will be developed further.

JGMS: In the morning Middle School educators participated in Keys to Literacy training focused on comprehension and note-taking using work educators have been doing since the fall.  Faculty members broke into departments in the afternoon to coordinate their implementation in greater detail across grade levels and subject areas. The afternoon sessions were led by teacher-coaches who have participated in additional training in the Keys approach to literacy. Plans are underway to assess the effectiveness of the Keys implementation and refine it moving forward.

Lane School: Lane School faculty began the day with a keynote presentation from Superintendent Jon Sills focused on equity and how it integrates into all our work with students, their families, and the larger Bedford community. Jon talked personally about how he became involved in and committed to this work and integrated questions from the faculty. Faculty moved from that address to discuss what they value as educators, and connected those values as they met in smaller groups to collaborate on addressing difficult conversations with students through various school scenarios faculty had negotiated this year.

Faculty moved from those scenarios to school-wide behavior expectations supported by their work in Responsive Classroom. After lunch they heard from METCO assistant director Kristen Johnson about her experiences as a METCO student, along with reflections on what she has observed in her early months in Bedford. Teachers went on to complete an exercise helping them to identify which students are connected, both to other students and to faculty, and which are not, because we know students must be connected to the community in order to learn and thrive.

Davis School
: Davis School classroom teachers worked in vertical teams (teams with representatives from each of the three grade levels, K-2) to analyze and reflect upon reading data over time for current fourth grade students. Taking this longer view enabled them to move beyond individual students to the reading instructional practices that have been in place now for four years. These practices are connected to the Fountas and Pinnell reading benchmark assessment system now in place through grade 5. Because the data was disaggregated by sub group (such as special education, or traditionally underserved groups), it allowed educators to have deeper conversations about student growth and achievement in reading and how that is connected to instructional practice.

Team leaders will return to the leadership group with their observations and findings, which will help to inform the school improvement plan and professional development for the 2019-2020 school year.

MLS


Friday, January 11, 2019


CONFRONTING RACISM: WHAT BEDFORD’S SCHOOLS DO WELL AND WHERE WE NEED TO GROW
PART I

Being an excellent school district means far more than MCAS scores, caring teachers,  a deep and rich curriculum, extensive extra-curricular opportunities, or competitive college acceptances.  It means as well that we successfully support our students’ socially and emotionally, and that we teach all students to think deeply, analytically and creatively, and that we prepare them to live in a highly diverse society.  It also means that we ensure that all students matter,   feel safe to take intellectual risks and realize their full potentials.  In a society still riven by racism, this means removing the obstacles to achievement and belonging that unexamined practices and unintentional biases impose.

When the Bedford Public Schools volunteered in 1974 to become a METCO district, the community clearly expressed its sense of responsibility to provide equal opportunity to Boston students of color and exposure to diversity for resident white students.  However, it is only in the past seven or eight years that we have made educational equity and closing achievement gaps key systemic priorities within the district.  At the same time, our resident population has grown considerably more diverse so that our student population is over 33% students of color. 

The work that we have been doing to close achievement gaps and to diminish the racial divide have made a real difference in many students’ experiences.  The number of METCO alumni who have worked, or have shown an interest in working, in the schools is just one indicator of this impact. But unfortunately, many of our students still feel that they are viewed as “other” by both peers and adults.  This reality challenges us to dig deeper to change mindsets and develop the skills required to bring about this deeper cultural change.   This two-part message describes the steps we’ve been taking, and where we need to go from here.

Contractually Required Anti-racism Teacher Course
Beginning about 20 years ago, the district began to contractually require all newly hired teachers to take an anti-racism course, and about 10 years ago, the district also conducted an analysis of data that revealed equity gaps in MCAS results, representation in high honors and AP classes and participation in extra-curricular activities other than athletics.  

Prioritizing, Embedding and Taking Action
The high school took steps about 15 years ago to organizationally imbed this work, for example, by:
  • Creating a faculty and student Educational Equity Committee 
  • Holding annual student run assemblies celebrating Black History month, multi-cultural talent shows, and overnight retreats bringing Boston, Base and Bedford students together
  • Holding an all school assembly featuring a local police office and a METCO student following an incident where the officer had physically subdued the student
  • Showing a videotaped METCO alumni panel discussion to faculty
  • Instituting our EXCEL program to academically support students moving into higher level academic classes for the first time, and
  • Creating the inter-district Tenacity Challenge to give African American and Latino/a students an annual opportunity to compete in four areas: historical research, literary analysis, artistic expression and math and science learning. (6 minute video at www.tenacitychallenge.com )
District Prioritizes and Institutionalizes the Work Across All Four Schools
During the past seven years, the whole district has focused on closing the equity gaps that result from structural inequalities and that are perpetuated both by stereotypical thinking and implicit bias.  Achieving equity has been one of our three or four annual strategic district goals, and a district-wide Equity and Diversity Committee comprised of teachers, counselors and administrators has generated:
  • · Full-day professional development workshops in cultural proficiency and difficult conversations about race 
  • K-12 literature audits and lesson planning around new titles by authors who are racially diverse
  • the establishment of our Interracial Parent Advisory Council, and
  • an outreach campaign to teacher training graduate programs to recruit more educators of color.   

 This work has been accompanied by:
  • a host of teacher generated initiatives inside and outside the classroom, for example:


o   an overnight hiking trip for a group of METCO and resident student 5th graders, and an interracial lunch group at JGMS
o   support for student initiatives like the Chain Reaction committee at JGMS, and
o   teacher-led anti-racism workshops during our annual professional development EdCamps
  • the addition of a middle school Tenacity Challenge

o   over 120 faculty, staff, alumni and community members volunteer to support the high school and the middle school Challenges that impact about 250 African-American and Latino/a students annually,
  • our Calculus Projects to prepare African-American and Latino/a students to take calculus,
  • major changes to the middle school social studies curriculum (civics and Facing History and Ourselves Civil Rights) and beginning changes to the high school curriculum,
  •  including the Teaching Tolerance curriculum for morning circle at Davis with accompanying assemblies, and
  •  transparent communication around racist and anti-Semitic incidents.
 Yet So Much Still To Do
Despite this work, equity gaps persist, and many of our students of color still feel that they are the “other” in our schools.  Some of our white students express confusion over hearing some of their African-American students using the “N” word.  Hurtful comments, sometimes offered in jest, tap into a history of such hurts.  Well-intended “colorblind” perspectives held by some teachers prevent them from developing genuine cultural proficiency, or from truly getting to know their individual students of color.  Examples of disproportionate responses persist. 

In the next installment of this series on racism and the public schools, I will share the important understandings and action steps that this latest round of reflection and analysis, precipitated by recent incidents, have yielded.   The next installment: The Way Forward.

 JS

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Bedford Educators: Professional Development on Election Day


As adults were heading to the polls, educators in Bedford engaged in a wide variety of professional development across the district on November 6th. The work was building-based, all connected in various ways to building and district priorities.

Educators at Bedford High School began orientation to the 3-year Challenge Success project. Challenge Success, an independent non-profit organization affiliated with Stanford Graduate School of Education, partners with schools and families to identify and implement strategies that “decrease student stress, improve social and emotional health, and promote academic engagement.” The program began with training over the summer of a core group of educators, students and parent representatives led by Principal Galante. The faculty learned about the program this week from Challenge Success representative Jon Kleinman, who also presented “The Well-Balanced Student” to parents on Tuesday evening.

The goal of the program is to broaden the definition of success beyond a narrow one that overemphasizes grades, test scores, and performance, allowing little time and energy for young people to develop essential skills to become independent, ethical, and critical thinkers.  As Principal Galante stated, it will allow students to “live their best lives.” Following the presentation, educators completed collaborative and reflective exercises connected to the program. Students will take a comprehensive survey in the coming weeks which will lay the foundation for deeper study and development of recommendations for improvement.

Faculty at John Glenn Middle School spent the morning in team-based parent conferences designed to give families a more comprehensive view of their students’ academic and social growth during these middle years.  In the afternoon, faculty engaged in several design challenges, including one in which they needed to guide a sphero remotely. The purpose of the work—even though it was set up more like a game or contest—was to give faculty members some ideas about how they might integrate design challenges into their curriculum. Such challenges engage participants in team work and creative problem solving skills.

Elementary educators at the Lane School continued to hone their experience and skills in the Lucy Calkins Readers Workshop, the core of their literacy program now in its first year of full implementation across all three grades. During the intensive small group sessions, teachers collaborated using their students’ pre-assessment data for the current non-fiction unit to develop strategy groups and individual learning goals.  The work continued into the afternoon as they developed lesson structures, readings and other options for their student groups.

Davis School faculty members spent the morning, first with a community building exercise, followed by related workshops in social-emotional learning facilitated by counselors or behaviorists paired with classroom teachers.  Teachers chose two of the five workshops to attend.  Following lunch, teachers met in their grade level teams to discuss the science work they have thus far been able to integrate into their curriculum. This discussion was the culmination of three professional development sessions connected to the science standards, the goal this year being to unpack and prioritize the science standards, and to deepen the science aspects of the integrated curriculum. The work is grounded in the faculty’s shared study throughout this year of Developing Natural Curiosity through Project-Based Learning by Dana Laur and Jill Ackers.

It was an exciting and inspiring day for educators across the district. We appreciate the community's support of this in-service professional learning.  MLS

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Laying the Foundation for K-12 Guidance and Counseling



In recent years we have all come to understand the significance of social-emotional learning to a student’s overall development and progress.  We have a better understanding of the emotional conditions that best support academic learning, among these being a sense of belonging, of mattering, of being known and understood by their teachers.  We also know that without self-regulation and resilience, a student is much less likely to learn and thrive in school or at home. Helping students feel safe AND helping them develop the dispositions, independence and sense of self that are needed to strengthen learning has become an important focus of our work across all of our grades.  At the same time, the social-emotional complexity of children has also increased, with greater numbers and percentages of students coming to school with anxiety or a history of trauma that can potentially interfere with learning and developing strong relationships necessary to it.  We see this rise in acuity among all demographics, among majority and minority members of racial and income-differing subgroups.

In responding to that need, the district leadership team has become increasingly aware of the importance of a coherent, coordinated K-12 guidance and counseling program. We have effective counseling programs, interventions, services, and supports in place within each of our schools, but we recognize the need to coordinate and facilitate those programs more closely K-12 in order to develop the coherent program that will be most effective for students and their families. Last spring, we created a K-12 Program Director position for Guidance and Counseling and hired Alicia Linsey to fulfill that role.  Alicia comes to us from Lexington High School, where, as a guidance counselor, she has played an important leadership role in national guidance counselor organizations.  She brings to Bedford a deep understanding of social-emotional learning, a strong commitment to equity, and a powerful set of skills and relationships derived from her years of experience running a college counseling business.

Knowing that the 6-12 Guidance and Counseling role has traditionally been a full-time position in itself, we are working to develop the necessary infrastructure to make the position and program development manageable and successful. Early this fall, then, we also created a K-5 Guidance and Counseling Coordinator position. Paula Francis-Springer, an exceptional counselor at the Davis school, has been appointed to this position.  Highly respected both for her direct service to students and families and for teaming with Principal Benoit as a school leader, she will continue her counseling work at Davis, but in addition will receive a stipend to help coordinate the K-5 aspects of this larger program.  These two positions will help us to become more effective in helping students navigate the transitions from 2nd to 3rd grade, from 5th to 6th grade, and from 8th to 9th grade.

The 18-19 school year will serve to lay the groundwork for this program. To that end, Alicia has arranged for quarterly K-12 Guidance and Counseling meetings. During these sessions, counselors are reviewing data, such as the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) and presenting grade level programs and curriculum to the K-12 team with the purpose of collectively identifying common threads. Simultaneously, counselors will observe one another across the district to determine similar services and programs and identify areas of need. The K-12 meetings will also act as a conversational platform to begin to align department goals and objectives. While there is current parent outreach, the department aims to expand resources for parents/guardians. This concerted work will inform next steps for the 2019-2020 school year.

As a district, Bedford is deeply committed to the important work of social-emotional learning and pleased to announce this plan for strengthening our program.           MLS