Pioneer unveils five-year plan

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School.

Recorder Staff
Published: 12/22/2016 10:43:06 PM

NORTHFIELD — Pioneer Valley Regional School’s administration now has a clear vision of what the school should look like in 2021, thanks to a new five-year plan put together by the school council.

According to Principal Jean Bacon, the main goals outlined in the plan include improving seventh and eighth grade performances on Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests and giving students necessary preparation for college or careers following high school.

“We really want students to be college and career ready,” she said during a recent school committee meeting where members of the school council presented the five-year plan. “We want all Pioneer students to have workplace readiness skills … And we want them to all have the personal and social skills to support them in life.”

The school council — which includes Bacon as chairwoman, four parents, four teachers and four students — has been meeting every other week since Pioneer’s open house in September to draft the plan. The final draft was completed Dec. 13.

Middle school improvement

The plan explains that the academic performance of Pioneer’s seventh and eighth grade students lags behind that of 10th graders on MCAS tests, in part because of the transition to a new school and the “relative isolation of (the) middle school program from prior school improvement efforts.”

The goal, then, is to increase the proportion of seventh and eighth grade students who score proficient or advanced on MCAS tests in each subject by at least 5 percent by June 2017. This will largely be done through goal setting.

“One of the most impactful ways to raise student achievement is (to) help students develop clear achievement goals and provide frequent formative feedback so they can monitor their progress toward those goals,” the plan reads.

Additionally, the plan dictates the administration will have its seventh and eighth grade faculty hold monthly meetings to set student improvement goals and monitor their progress; train seventh and eighth grade math and science teachers in using new online assessment software to support MCAS-aligned assessment practices; design MCAS-aligned frequent assessments; and implement student-to-student tutoring and mentoring programs for struggling middle school students.

“Juniors and seniors will devote their time for those who need a little more support, during study halls,” Bacon said.

College and career ready

As part of the second goal, all eighth and ninth grade students will develop individual learning plans (ILPs) that link their courses and co-curricular experiences to college and career interests by June 2017. ILPs are recommended by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

In the past, Pioneer has offered career fairs and college tours, and in the 2015-2016 school year, introduced a three-lesson career development education (CDE) curriculum for ninth graders. The school council hopes to increase students’ understanding of “the importance of the work they are doing every day in their classes and in the co-curricular activities,” the plan reads.

Going forward, the plan dictates the administration will: work with guidance staff to review the current CDE curriculum; establish a CDE team made up of administrators, faculty and students; incorporate CDE and ILP discussion into conferences led by eighth graders; designate a college and career facilitator from among existing faculty members to lead development of the curriculum and oversee internship experience; and purchase Naviance college and career readiness software. According to Bacon, the software will cost just under $10,000 in the first year because of the training involved, and just under $300 per year after that.

Other improvements

Outside the two aforementioned goals, the plan states the school will offer more advanced placement and online classes in heterogeneous groups to support higher levels of student achievement.

Also toward that goal, Bacon said Pioneer hopes to have a personal computer for every student by 2021. She said the current proposal for fiscal year 2018, which is under consideration, is to start by purchasing computers for next year’s ninth graders, moving up over the next four years.

The school committee will vote on whether to approve the new five-year plan during its Jan. 26 meeting in Pioneer’s library.

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