Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Dear Barrows Community;

As we start to plan ahead for our winter/spring calendars I wanted to share information about the administration of the PARCC examinations for Grades 3, 4, and 5. The district of Reading is taking the PARCC assessments in ELA and Math in place of the retiring MCAS assessments that the state is phasing out.  The PARCC assessment is split into two sections, the Performance Based Assessment which takes place March-April, and the End of Year Assessment which takes place May-June.  Although these testing session span across more dates, the amount of testing has not increased as compared to MCAS as the sessions for PARCC average about an hour to complete.

I am including the schedule below so that you are aware of the coming dates:  

Monday, March 16, 2015
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Grade 3
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Wednesday, April 01, 2015
Grade 3
Friday, March 20, 2015
Monday, March 23, 2015
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Grade 4
Thursday, April 02, 2015
Tuesday, April 07, 2015
Grade 4
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
Monday, March 30, 2015
Grade 5
Wednesday, April 08, 2015
Thursday, April 09, 2015
Grade 5

Please Note:  The dates above are not the only assessment dates, but are the first set of dates for the  PBA (Performance Based Assessment) component.  The EOY (End of Year) PARCC sessions will take place between May 9th-June 3rd, but have not been finalized for grade levels yet.

Grade 5 will take the Science/Technology MCAS assessment, as they have not yet created an updated online assessment (like PARCC) to replace the Science testing component.  This testing will take place in May.

The PARCC assessment, similar to MCAS is important data that helps informs our practice, but we are careful to remember that their results are just one small piece of our overall assessment of student learning. We strive to have a purposeful environment while we take these assessments, but we also do our best to create a low stress, relaxed approach telling students to just show us what you know and are able to do. So, when preparing your student for school on the day of a PARCC test, the best message you can share is, “Take a deep breath, relax, and just show what you already know and can do.” We will be sure we all take a deep breath here as a staff so our students can feel it is just like any other day.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
Thank you, Heather Leonard, Principal

Friday, February 27, 2015

Pete Bouchard, WHDH Chief Meteorologist, visits grade 3!

Upcoming Student Surveys

Dear Barrows Community;

I’m writing to share information about the surveys our students will be participating in to provide feedback to our teachers and school.  Please see the other side of this letter for more information from our district about the surveys.  I wanted to also add my own personal thoughts about the student surveys, share my experiences, and invite you to reach out to me with any questions or concerns you may have!

            As a classroom teacher, twice a year, I would ask my students to complete anonymous surveys about my classroom practices and instruction.  I found this information to be one of the most powerful tools in shaping and changing my classroom practices.  The reality is, as much as we do our best as educators, there are always ways for us to grow.  Growth does not happen in isolation and independently.  Administrators and colleagues work together to try to help shift and strengthen what we do, but only our students are with us every day, all day.  They have the most comprehensive perspective about what happens in our classrooms – and the reality is they are the most important voices to provide us with feedback as it is their learning that should drive everything we do.  I still have all of the paper copies of the feedback that my students completed for me over the years and at least once a year I go back and review it because the voice of students should drive our work. 

            For those of you that are not aware, at the end of last year I asked every student in Barrows (K-5) to complete a survey for me.  It asked students some questions similar to those they will be completing about their teachers in the upcoming weeks.  I went through every survey and found some wonderfully helpful feedback that I have worked to try to address this year, including little things I didn’t know were positives that students acknowledged, and other areas that I could improve (I have gone much slower on the pledge of allegiance this year!)  It is likely that teachers over the years have asked your students to provide them with feedback about their practices and routines; feedback is an established part of what we do.  The difference this year is we are utilizing a third party to host the surveys online in an anonymous format.  This data will be complied and provided back to the teacher (not the administrators) in an anonymous aggregate manner so they can see the trends in their classroom and help them consider their own professional growth and goals.  This survey data will not have any identifiers of students.

            Through the use of student feedback, we are modeling what we want our students to do, take feedback about their strengths and about potential areas of improvement and utilize that information as life-long learners.  We all know that to truly be a life-long learner means that you never stop growing and improve and that everybody around us can help us get better at what we do every day – especially our students.

            As always, I invite you to reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns.  As a school, we will continue to work hard every day while also modeling our own learning behaviors as a school community. 

Thank you for your continued support Barrows!  Heather Leonard, Principal


Dear Parent/ Guardian,


I am pleased to let you know that over the last few weeks, our school has been participating in the 2014-2015 Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) Model Survey Administration to use student and staff feedback to inform professional growth and support school improvement.  As you may know, all public schools in Massachusetts are now using student feedback as one of many ways to help improve teacher practice, although many teachers have been using student feedback for years as part of their professional practice.  As part of this feedback process, students in K-2 are taking one paper based feedback survey to give feedback to their classroom teacher and students in Grades 3-12 are taking online surveys for up to two of their classroom teachers.  Each survey takes about 15 minutes and will be administered a couple of times per year.


While many teachers may already regularly use student input as part of their practice (both formally and informally), the questions in these brief surveys are specifically aligned with the teaching standards that are used throughout the state as part of the educator evaluation process, allowing all educators to receive feedback from students in these key areas.  By working with the Massachusetts DESE and Panorama Education, the validity, reliability, and confidentiality of the online surveys can be assured, and the information can be shared with educators as a way to inform their own professional growth. As the survey information is part of an educator’s evaluation process, individual results are of course not reported out.


As always, our students regularly provide us with perhaps the most valuable feedback of all, as we work to ensure their continued success.  If you would like more information or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

100th day of school

Yesterday was our official 100th day of school.  The snow days bumped it back 2 weeks from its original date!  What a great day in the younger grades celebrating this century number.

Pictures below from Ms. Lentz's 100 day "Oscars" celebration!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Safe returns from Feb. vacation

Dear Barrows Families,
As we prepare to return to school on Monday I wanted to let you know that our custodians, the Facilities Department, and the DPW have been hard at work to get our campus safe and ready for our return. Understanding that this is an unprecedented amount of snow, all of the Reading Employees have worked hard to make our grounds safe and passable. I understand that the gutters on the staff-parking lot side of the library have caught some folks attention. I wanted to let you know that these gutters had been observed earlier in the year (prior to any snow) as needing repair. The Facilities Department responded by sending a roofing company out to check on the fidelity of the roof and the area. The roof above the library is safe and secure, it is simply that the gutters have aged and will need to be replaced in the near future. Unfortunately the intensity of this winter has exaggerated the issue so we will be blocking off access to the walkway directly under these gutters as a precautionary measure. I am sure that both the Facilities Department and Reading Fire Department would intervene if they had any concerns about safety. Although the gutters were re-secured prior to this winter, we will be limiting access to this walkway as an extra safety measure.

Thank you to all of the Barrows Community for your continued communication about our campus and areas of need. Your help in identifying any potential areas of need or by sharing your questions allows us to make sure we do what we can to maintain our grounds during this extreme winter. Please feel free to reach out to me with any additional questions or concerns about our grounds with the understanding we are doing our best with what we have to keep everybody safe. Please view the Barrows Principal Blog here for extra reminders about safety around our school during the winter months: http://barrowselementary.blogspot.com/2015/02/snow-safety-practices.html

 Thank you all and welcome back!
~Heather Leonard

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Congrats to Mrs. Payack!

Natalie Payack was born February 19th. She was 7 pounds, 14 ounces and 20 inches long.  Mom and baby are doing well!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Principal Problem of the Week

 Dear Barrows Families,

I hope you are enjoying this week with your families! I wanted to let you know about a fun way for our Barrows Students to stretch their thinking and show some of their perseverance and problem-solving skills. When students return to school after vacation they can participate in a weekly challenge called the Principal’s Problem of the Week. The problem type will vary each week— They could be math/science/literacy/history/arts/other based, problems could have one correct answer or multiple solutions, and I may have one school-wide problems, and other weeks that it is differentiated by levels. The commonality between all of the problems is that they will demand students use their problem solving skills, perseverance, risk-taking, research, creative thinking, and "proving" that their answer is correct. I hope this is a fun way for us all to try stretching our brains a bit! I will share the problems of the week on the blog, they will be posted in the school, and I may occasionally share them in the Starburst too! If your child decides to take on the Principal’s Problem of the Week challenge and you want to help them consider how to support the learning and problem-solving strategies of your child;

  • Ask you child what information they can learn from the question
  • Ask your child where they think they could go to get more information
  • If your child thinks they have it right tell them to prove it to you or give them a non-answer and make them prove you wrong
  • If your child gets stuck, ask them what information they would need that would make it easier to solve…then see if they can identify where to get that information!

Get a sneak peek of our first Principal Problem of the Week below! I hope these fun problems will help encourage our students to ‘stick-to-it’ and do their best in an unknown situation! I look forward to seeing the creative thinking of our Barrows Shining Stars!

~Heather Leonard, Principal
Student Name: 
Teacher’s Name:

Principal’s Problem of the Week

1. Draw a picture of a puddle

2. Clearly show or write how you would measure it

3. What tools will you use for measuring?