State of the School from Jennifer Ford

State of the School from Jennifer Ford
Posted on 06/16/2016

Dear Families:

I wanted to share my annual State of the School thoughts with you.

First, I would like to thank you for what has been a terrific year here at Peabody. Without our continued home/school partnership, we could not be the thriving school that we are.

I received some questions through the Connection that I would like to answer.

1. What is the educational philosophy around guidance of teachers? What kind of support
do they receive from you and your staff?

  • Our teachers receive Professional Development on an ongoing basis from our Literacy and Math Coaches. The coaches are also in class with teachers on a regular basis.
  • This year we did a class for paraprofessionals on “The Power of Our Words”. A book. We make sure to keep all staff members informed of current and cutting edge educational research and practices.
  • We had an educational retreat for our lead teachers. During this retreat we worked on our Science Curriculum. We also did team building work as well as looking more deeply into Math in Focus.
  • Our ELA and Math professional development incorporated key tenets of RBT (research for better teaching). Including: mastery objectives, clarity, teacher reflection, and questioning.
  • Making student thinking visible.
  • 10-hour professional development-A Comprehensive Approach to Vocabulary Instruction
  • Principal Led School based meetings
  • Grade level and individual coaching meetings
  • High-Expertise Teaching with The Research for Better Teaching organization
  • Piloting the FAST ELA screeners 

2. How do testing and preparation for testing integrate into the curriculum?
We do not teach to test. We did prepare the teachers by having them take a sample test during one of our staff meetings. We prepare students to test in general. Test taking is a necessary life skill.

3. Vision: What is your personal philosophy of education? How do you feel that your vision has shaped the Peabody School? What needs to happen going forward to move the school closer to your vision?
Our vision at the Peabody School is to teach children to:

  • Master reading, writing, mathematics and the sciences,
  • Appreciate and engage in the arts,
  • Cultivate respect for the diversity of our cultures,
  • Make informed decisions and be responsible for choices,
  • Develop a sense of pride and self respect as they define their role in society.

The Peabody School is committed to developing and nurturing the whole child – academically, artistically, socially, and civically through a partnership of school faculty, staff, families, community members and students.

4. Are we at a point where the method for teaching math has stabilized? What is the current method and are all the grades using it now?
Yes. Currently all grades are practicing the Math in Focus method.

5. Now that we have had the room parent program going for one year, how do you think it is going? Can we set a meeting for the fall where we set expectations and role definition for the volunteers?
The room parents have been helpful this year. They made phone call for concerts; fostered a winter coat and boot exchange as well as helped organize the Staff Appreciation Luncheon. Some have even arranged cohort wide playdates.

Karen Soroca has offered to become the point person and organize the room parents at large. She will be reaching out to the room parents and planning an early meeting for September.

Now I would like to share our progress on our Science Goals for this year, as you may recall, in our 2014 – 2016 School Improvement plan, we dedicated a lot of our focus on strengthening our Science academics as a school. Here is what we have accomplished: 

  • Incorporated science professional development
  • Scheduled and performed walkthroughs using a checklist to collect evidence with a focus on Science and Engineering Practices 6.7.8
  • Made connections with ELA/Math practices and Science and Engineering practices 6,7,8

Additional initiatives taken this year focusing on best practices with students:

  • RtI process with administration of universal screeners and progress monitoring every 6-8 weeks.
  • High-Expertise Teaching with the Research for Better Teaching organization
  • UbD lesson design in ELA
  • A Comprehensive Approach to Vocabulary Instruction Professional Development course is being offered to all staff to support improved student understanding.
  • Partnered with the DESE in piloting the Model Curriculum Unit (MCU) in ELA
  • Piloting the Data Wise process in grade 5
  • Piloting the FAST ELA screeners
  • Communication with families has improved through initiatives such as Monthly curriculum updates, All School Share, Facebook and our Parent Workshop Series.
  • We have maintained our professional development partnership with Lesley University.
  • Staff and teachers worked collaboratively with parents and the community to establish before/after school student clubs linked to learning.

Finally, as you know, our goal for our School Council this year focused entirely on Family Engagement. This is an important facet of our school and as a District. It was determined that this work is so important, along with Cultural Proficiency, that it will remain the focus of the School Council for the next year as well.

Here are the goals we set forth and have accomplished for this past year: 

  1. Made more personal phone calls to families (alert families to events such as parent-teacher conferences, and special events I.e., Ms. Ford call all K families to invite them to Open Houses, teachers reach out to families when child is involved in special event.)
  2. Involved community more by having meetings at more convenient times, publicize better.
  3. Organized a parent meeting to discuss the School Committee’s decision to go to a PARCC-like testing system not MCAS. Explain the decisions, the impacts, and how we can best support the teachers, students, and staff to prepare for these sudden changes, etc. How to not get too focused on test prep and instead focus on holistic education.

2. Parent workshop series, including a Math in Focus lesson; a school-wide science workshop as well as guided reading lesson by grade (clusters of 3–5, etc.) to be identified. Community school staff piggybacks onto school-wide projects and lessons to help support student needs and reinforce lessons.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016 at the Peabody with Ann-Marie Varella in the morning. Shows parents what happens in a MIF lesson.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016: Guided reading lesson with Tracy Vecchiarello in the morning so parents can see what happens during guided reading.

3. Host a technology seminar with Mr. Beucler to teach families about the use of Google docs, basic research methods, Google classroom, and other apps and software(s) used in the classroom. Teachers communicate and distribute assignments and supports to students this way; teach parents the uses and reasons for using the technology.

Monday, June 13, 2016: Workshop for Google Classroom, Google Docs, Tumble Books, other technologies that parents could support kids over the summer.

For the next school year we will be planning monthly TED Talks for our families and we will continue our parent workshop series. Our Cultural Committee has begun to plan our exciting Multi-Cultural event: Peabody, One School, Many Stories. Please save the date: Monday, October 24th (United Nations Day) at 5:30PM. This event will feature food, music, art, games and dancing from the many cultures we have here at the Peabody School. It promises to be a wonderful event – one that we hope will be the beginning of a new Peabody tradition.

I wish you a relaxing summer. I look forward to our next year together with great anticipation of the wonderful things we continue to accomplish together.


Jennifer Ford

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