NORTH READING — The 2022-23 School Improvement Plans include goals to improve student performance, as might be expected, but also include plans to create a positive environment which will hopefully raise grades.

“How students feel correlates with scores,” Middle School Principal Dr. Catherine O’Connell said at the School Committee meeting Monday, September 19, while explaining the goal of having “staff demonstrate an increase in awareness of equity and social justice themes.”

“If students don’t feel physically and emotionally safe, they can’t learn,” Batchelder Elementary School Principal Michael Maloney added, relating a goal of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging to “align professional meeting time, educator evaluation plans and the School Improvement Plan to expand choice and access for all students to provide professional development opportunities for faculty and staff to support engaged academic and social-emotional learning.”

This is not simply new age, feel good edu-speak as 2022-23 is the first “normal” school year since the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020. The hybrid learning model in 2020-21 gave way to regular classes in 2021-22, but masks were still worn that year and there were health protocols that have been loosened or eliminated. “It feels more like a typical year,” School Superintendent Dr. Patrick Daly said of the start of the 2022-23 school year.



“Since the pandemic, we’ve seen students’ inability to solve problems,” Little School Principal Christine Molle reported. “Everyone is seeing kids struggle with social and emotional stuff. As an administrator I’ve seen more social and emotional problems.”

One of the goals in the Little School’s Improvement Plan is similar to the Diversity, Education, Inclusion and Belonging goal at the Batchelder. “Every kid feels like they want to belong and feel supported,” Molle explained.

One of the goals in the High School improvement plan is to “to implement and incorporate opportunities and strategies to access student voices so all students feel valued and connected.” This is related to another goal to “conduct an inclusive and comprehensive review of the practices and procedures of the Advanced Placement model with recommendations to be implemented in the 2023-24 school year. Focus areas will include demographics, overall participation trends and assessment data.”

Last year, the Hood School held a school-wide community meeting about safe, responsible and respectful behavior, with another planned for this year. “Universal design and social-emotional learning continues to be a focus for the facility,” Principal Dr. Glen McKay stated about his school’s Improvement Plan.

Some goals were practical rather than philosophical. At the High School, a pilot Senior Final Exam Exemption program is entering its second year of implementation in 2022-23. “We thought it would be good to reward hard work and avoid the senior slide,” NRHS principal Anthony Loprete said.

To be eligible, students must have earned a 90% or higher average, without rounding in a class; had no more than three unexcused class absences; and met expectations for student conduct as defined in the Student Handbook.

Last year, 162 seniors were subject to 1,285 final exams and 90.1% of the student body was eligible for at least one exemption. There were 391 exemptions granted.

School Committee member Jeff Friedman likes the directness of the various plans stating that he likes that “the goals are easily designated. You read and you get it.”

“Each principal led at each building to work with the School Councils to align the documents to district goals, department goals and educator goals,” Daly said.

Daly believes presenting the plans in the fall instead of the spring, as was done in previous years, changes the focus of them to the new school year ahead rather than serving as a year-end summary.