By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) recognized Summer Street School as a 2014 Massachusetts Commendation School last week.
Summer Street was recognized by DESE for “high achievement, high progress and narrowing proficiency gaps.” Summer Street was one of only 42 schools across the state that have been recognized as a Commendation School. In a letter sent to Summer Street Principal Jen DiBiase, DESE Commissioner Mitchell Chester commented, “My hope is that your school will serve as a model to schools statewide.”
Secretary of Education Matthew Malone visited Summer Street on Tuesday, Oct. 21, and toured the building with DiBiase, Superintendent of Schools Jane Tremblay and Lynnfield Teachers Association (LTA) President/fourth grade teacher Lorie Kelley.
“We provide the highest achieving schools with a distinction of being a Commendation School,” said Malone. “Commendation Schools are selected on the basis of student achievement results, which is measured through the MCAS.”
DiBiase said it was an honor that Summer Street was named as a Commendation School.
“It feels wonderful to be recognized by the state as a group of educators who are providing a great education for students in Lynnfield,” said DiBiase. “This award validates what we do each and every day at the elementary level.”
Tremblay formally announced Summer Street was selected as a Commendation School at last week’s School Committee meeting.
“Its something to celebrate,” said Tremblay. “The school has done very well the past few years and it’s nice for the teachers to get recognized at such a high level.”
DiBiase concurred with Tremblay’s sentiment.
“The faculty and staff were the reason why we received this award,” said DiBiase. “Without their hard work and dedication to the students in Lynnfield, this award would not have been possible.”
Malone attributed Summer Street’s success to the Lynnfield community.
“The town invests in education,” said Malone. “Lynnfield has got a reputation and a track record of strong student achievement results. They are doing good work and have good people.”
DiBiase said Summer Street was able to narrow proficiency gaps by a variety of different factors.
“At the elementary level, we continue to invest time in pristine instructional practices, utilize the assessment process and frequently reflect upon our daily teaching through a team approach,” said DiBiase.
Malone said he has been touring schools across the state to examine which teaching practices work and which don’t. He said he collects information about how technology is being used, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) initiatives, arts and enrichment programs and schools’ relationships with parent organizations and teachers’ unions.
“We are visiting schools three days a week and looking for practices we can replicate,” said Malone. “When we visit a place like Lynnfield, I am looking for what specific kind of classroom practices are getting the results.”
Malone also said he actively examines strategies that are being used in third and fourth grade classrooms pertaining to reading and writing, positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) and response to intervention (RTI) strategies.
“I am looking specifically for strategies and I take that back and talk about it at the policy level,” said Malone. “I talk about how we can replicate those practices in districts that aren’t doing as well.”
According to DiBiase, Malone visited a variety of classrooms in grades K-4 and also visited specialists. Malone said he was impressed with what he observed in an e-mail.
“First and foremost, it seems like (DiBiase has) a great team,” said Malone. “The building is well maintained and well provisioned. The practices I observed were parallel with the top practices I’ve seen in the commonwealth. A focus on computation and comprehension. I observed center based instruction, 100 percent student engagement, phonics, non-fiction, independent reading and active writing.”