Published in the February 14, 2019 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD – There will be no separate 9th grade honors level English and College Prep English offered next year at Wakefield Memorial High School. The School Committee last night approved the school administration’s recommendation to offer “one heterogeneously grouped English course for all ninth graders (with Honors weight) that is standards aligned and is differentiated to meet the needs of all learners.”
The vote was 5-1 to approve the change. School Committee member Aimee Purcell voted against it. Member Anne Fortier was not present.
Prior to the vote, WMHS Principal Amy McLeod and Assistant Superintendent of Schools Kara Mauro made another pitch to sell the change, with School Superintendent Douglas Lyons adding his perspective.
The School Committee heard a presentation on the proposed change two weeks ago. That was followed by a forum that was attended by about 75 parents.
McLeod and Mauro reviewed the reasons for the recommended change, noting that it would provide equity and “promote continuous growth for all students (all across the learning spectrum) by increasing student engagement and diversity of discourse.”
They indicated that the expectation was that with proper supports students would rise to meet the challenge to achieve at a high level. They said that the impetus for the change came from the teachers in the English Language Arts Department.
Mauro and McLeod insisted that the change would not have an impact on students’ college admissions chances.
School Committee member Christopher Callanan gave voice to a concern shared by many parents that the rigor of a true honors class would be removed and high-achieving students would not be sufficiently challenged.
In response, McLeod said, “Rigor is not a course. It is an experience.” She noted that teachers see a wide range of student needs even within different levels. She added that teachers are already providing a wide range of supports for students. Lyons added that the teachers were in a position to meet the needs of advanced learners with the proposed plan.
Purcell also questioned the administration’s claim that the heterogeneously grouped 9th grade English class was still, in effect, an honors-level class. She noted that except for one sentence, the course description was identical to that of 10th grade College Prep English.
After approving the changes to ninth grade English, the School Committee voted unanimously to approve the rest of the 2019-2020 WMHS Course of Study.
In other business last night, the School Committee:
• Approved the submission of Statements of Interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s Accelerated Repair Program seeking financial assistance to replace the roofs at the Greenwood and Walton Schools.
• Approved a renewal of the agreement between the School Department and the SEEM Collaborative, which has for many years occupied space in the Yeuell School.
• Approved a Memorandum of Agreement between the School Department and the Wakefield Police Department that sets guidelines and expectations related to how the two departments interact and specifically how the School Resource Officers work to help achieve safety in the schools.
• Voted to accept a donation of $1,000 from The Wakefield Co-Operative Bank for the Parent University Program.
• Voted to accept the donation of $25,000 from the Cummings Foundation via the Wakefield Education Foundation. The grant will be used for Playground Equipment for the Doyle Early Childhood Center and the Dolbeare School. (This is the third year of the $100,000 Cummings Grant awarded June 2016.)