Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Coffee & Conversation

State Release of PARCC Assessment Data

State Release of PARCC Assessment Data
An Update from the Assistant Superintendent for Learning & Teaching, November 2015
If you are having difficulty viewing this, we have attached the information as a pdf.  You can also access it at our Edline Site or the Reading Public Schools Blog.  
PARCC results released
As you may know, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released statewide PARCC data a couple of weeks ago.  Today, the DESE has released individual school and district results for English Language Arts and Mathematics for grades 3-8, as well as the Student Growth Percentile (SGP) and Composite Performance Index (CPI) data.  (MCAS scores for all levels of Science, as well as ELA and Mathematics for high school were released previously.)  The DESE has reported that student achievement “may appear lower in some grades on PARCC than on MCAS, because PARCC is designed to be a more rigorous test.”  However, as our staff in all grades have been working to align both curriculum and instructional strategies to the higher expectations of the state’s revised standards, we have been eager to receive this data to support and inform that continuing effort.
Achievement Levels, Student Growth, Group Progress
Unlike MCAS, there is no PARCC achievement level called “proficient,” but Level 4 represents the point at which students have “met expectations.” Level 5 indicates that students have “exceeded expectations.”  PARCC is scored on five achievement levels:
  • Level 1: Did not yet meet expectations
  • Level 2: Partially met expectations
  • Level 3: Approached expectations
  • Level 4: Met Expectations
  • Level 5: Exceeded Expectations
The Student Growth Percentile (SGP) measures how much a student’s performance has improved from one year to the next relative to his or her academic peers (other students statewide with similar scores in prior years).  The Composite Performance Index (CPI) measures the extent to which groups (districts, schools, and subgroups) are progressing toward full proficiency. When examining the data for student groups, the transitional CPI can be used for comparing results across years, and the median SGP can be used for measuring growth from one year to the next.  The DESE defines moderate growth to be between the 40-60 percentile, with low growth as below the 40th percentile and high growth as above the 60th percentile.  (See the attached tables for further explanation of both SGP and CPI.) 
Some initial findings
  • The percentage of Reading students in grades 3-8 who met or exceeded expectations is 12 points higher than the state average for English Language Arts, and 13 points higher for Mathematics.
  • All 20 of the median Student Growth Percentiles (SGP) in both ELA and Math for the five elementary schools are in the moderate or high growth range (with 11 of those in the high growth range). 
  • Twenty (20) of the 30 Composite Performance Indexes (CPI) in ELA and Math for the five elementary schools represent an improvement over the previous year.  (As we continue to monitor and address the accountability status for the Joshua Eaton Elementary School, we are pleased that two of those are rather significant increases in Math at both the 4th and 5th grade levels.)
  • The CPI for the 8th grade Algebra I test is 100, meaning that all students in 8th grade Algebra I either met or exceeded expectations (which was 20% higher than the state average).
  • The district’s K-3 curriculum progress will be reviewed, as we examine a few low indicators in the 3rd grade results.
  • While we are generally pleased with the aggregate CPIs for “all students,” we must continue to disaggregate the data to specifically address the high needs subgroup—especially students with disabilities.
In upcoming weeks, the district, school, and student level results will be used to identify our current strengths and weaknesses, review curriculum and instructional alignment, and identify appropriate interventions for students where applicable. We will also utilize recently released assessment items—including test questions, scoring rubrics, and examples of scored student responses—to inform our practice.  (See the below link to access the PARCC released assessment information.)  Accountability and assistance levels for schools are “held harmless” for this first year of a new assessment (meaning that 2014 levels may stay the same or improve, but cannot decline).  The DESE has announced, however, that it will still be releasing accountability reports for all districts in early December, and we look forward to reviewing that information. The DESE also reports that individual student reports for PARCC will be shipped to the districts by the end of the month, and so parents/guardians can expect to receive those in the beginning of December as well. 
An overview presentation of this district assessment data will be given for the School Committee on November 23rd, and each school will also be doing its own school-level presentation during December.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact your school Principal or the district administration offices. 
See the attached summary tables for a complete overview of the district PARCC results.
Or click on the below link to access this information Edline:
PARCC Released Items can be accessed at this link:
Further information regarding the PARCC results can be accessed at this DESE link:

Monday, November 2, 2015

Extra Candy? Join Barrows School in donating it to a good cause!

Have a lot of extra candy in your house right now? Talk with your child about the benefits of 'giving back' to others. Barrows school will be hosting a collection point for Operation Gratitude. Operation Gratitude sends donated Halloween candy to our troops serving overseas. This is a great way for our children to willingly give to those who can't be here to enjoy it and who are working hard to keep us all safe. If your family would like to contribute, please have a PARENT/ADULT drop the candy off at the office drop-off point between now and Monday, November 9th. We will take care of the postage costs. (please do not send candy in with your child's backpack, and drop it off at the office during pick-up or drop-off times if needed!)
Read more here: https://opgrat.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/halloween-candy-for-the-troops/

Thursday, October 29, 2015

West St. Road Construction

The following is an update on the West Street Project construction:

·         Officers working details – please expect extended days.

·         The current construction area is on West Street between Howard Street and the Woburn town line.

·         There are only two basins left to install. Probably 11/02 Monday and 11/03 Tuesday.

·         Newport is working on this Saturday, 10/31/15. They intend to clean up the site and make the area safe for Halloween.

·         Next week on 11/04 Wednesday, 11/05 Thursday, and 11/06 Friday,  they will be reclaiming the roadway. This will require the Woburn Street to South Street detour. Expect late work days.
·         Soil injection is expected on 11/09 and 11/10 and will also require a late work days. Paving is expected on 11/12 and 11/13 and will require late work days.

·         Once the paving is complete, expect very limited use of any detour route. Newport expects that West Street will remain open and traffic will be alternated around any construction. They will be installing retention walls, curbing, and signal lights.

·         Newport expects to work though out the entire Winter.   

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

all-school assembly TOMORROW!

Thank you to the PTO enrichment committee in their efforts to bring Mark Rothstein, World of Rope Jumping assembly for our school tomorrow.  Our school will have an all-school assembly and grade-level based workshops as well.  What a great day of wellness for our school community.  Please see below for a link to his website and information about the assemblies.  We encourage all students to wear sneakers and PE appropriate clothes.


As a performing pro-athlete, educator, role model and entertainer, Mark presents an inspirational elementary school assembly for all ages. Mark's 45 minute show consists of his hi-energy rope jumping exhibitions, coupled with enjoyable and interactive character building skits.
Character building elements emphasized:
Healthy Living
Positive Choices
Trying Your Best
Mark's experience - more than 10,000 shows since the 1980's - will ensure a wholesome, beneficial and enjoyable assembly for everyone.

Following Mark's opening assembly, typically an entire grade level attends each workshop. This allows every student the opportunity to enjoy the assembly and a "hands-on" workshop with Mark. The emphasis of these workshops are on jump rope techniques, total fitness, trying your best and fun!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Reading Science Expo

Cooler temperatures

Good Morning Barrows Community!

I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful fall weekend.  With the cool temperatures greeting us this morning, I thought it would be timely to send a quick reminder about our seasonal temps/weather. 

We do our best to get students outside as often as possible - this means unless it is actively raining, thunder & lightening, or dangerous temperatures, we send students outside.  Please send your child(ren) with appropriate outside clothing including hats, gloves, jackets, and warm socks/shoes, and assume they will be going out to recess.

We use this chart as a general guideline to determine indoor/outdoor recess and drop-off. Unless it is "in the red" we will stay outside as our times outside are 15-20 mins or less. Only when you see the red flag out front is it an indoor drop-off day.

Reminder: On "Red Flag" days students may begin to enter the building at 8:05am. Prior to this time doors will be locked. At 8:05 students may enter the building. Students in grades K-3 may enter through Door #16 (front of school by Gym) or Door #13 (blacktop entrance by Gym.)   Students in grades 4 & 5 may also enter through Door #1 (Main office). You must buzz to enter on the indoor drop-off days.

Especially on those cold weather days please observe our traffic safety laws (no idling, no parking on the school-side of Edgemont Ave, active drop-off in the kiss & go lane only, etc.) to help ensure the safety of all of our students.

Thank you all!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Family Math Night

Thank you to all the families that came out for our Barrows Family Math Night!  What a great evening of family-fun math events!  A special thank-you to Ms. Carina Becker for her support in organizing this evening.  Check out some of the photos below from our event - and below that read about how your positive engagement in Math is important for your learners!

Teach your Parent - learning number bonds!

Family game time

Taking on other students from around the world in World Maths Day competition!

Taking on other students from around the world in World Maths Day competition!

Math Art - symmetry, tessellations, patterns, and more!

Math Anxiety Is Contagious!

In this New York Times article, Jan Hoffman reports on a study in Psychological Science of how parents’ math anxiety is picked up by their first and second graders, pulling down the kids’ school achievement in math (but not in reading). The means of transmission? Parents helping their children with math homework. The study found that the more math-phobic parents helped, the worse their children did, slipping more than a third of a grade level behind classmates and becoming math-anxious themselves. “The parents are not out to sabotage their kids,” says Sian Beilock, one of the authors of the University of Chicago study. “But they have to ensure their input is productive. They need to have awareness of their own math anxiety and that what they say is important… Saying, ‘I’m not a math person either, and that’s O.K.’ is not a good message to convey.”

How does math anxiety work in the brain? According to Mark Ashcraft of the University of Nevada/Las Vegas, “On challenging math problems that require a lot of working memory, math-anxious people fall apart.” Their working memory is tied up with worries “and they don’t have enough left over to do the math.” The anxiety most often kicks in when students encounter middle-school algebra, but it can begin earlier, especially for girls who have math-anxious female elementary school teachers.

One thing that increases parental math anxiety is the introduction of new math curriculum materials that take an approach to basic operations that’s radically different from what they learned in school. “Educators can’t take math, turn it into Greek, and say, ‘Mom, Dad, will you help your kid with this,’ and not expect to get a ‘Wha?’”, says Harris Cooper of Duke University. An Idaho mother went on Facebook to complain about how Common Core math standards were driving her to drink. “I’ve taken to labeling math homework by how many glasses of wine it takes to peel myself off the ceiling after I’m done,” she said. “That was a two-glasser after whatever it is we’re calling long division.”

What can white-knuckle math parents do to reduce the negative effect they’re having? One approach is to create a math-positive environment and model “math behavior,” says Cooper. “You have your math homework, and I have mine” – counting change, calculating when dinner will be ready, and looking at prices in the supermarket. Another approach is to tag-team with a more math-confident spouse. And then there’s consulting with the teacher, looking over curriculum manuals, and actually mastering the math.

“Generations of Math Fears” by Jan Hoffman in The New York Times, August 25, 2015,

http://nyti.ms/1Evsrxn; the study described in this article, “Intergenerational Effects of Parents’ Math Anxiety on Children’s Math Achievement and Anxiety” by Erin Maloney, Gerardo Ramirez, Elizabeth Gunderson, Susan Levine, and Sian Beilock in Psychological Science, August 7, 2015, is available for purchase athttp://bit.ly/1KyDk2g

Check out this article about the value of Recreational Math:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/12/opinion/the-importance-of-recreational-math.html?WT.mc_id=SmartBriefs-Newsletter&WT.mc_ev=click&_r=1

Sunday, October 11, 2015