Most parents like change in school day; students and teachers not so sure
Superintendent Robert Hicks presented the board with the results of a survey on the new school schedule he had distributed to parents, students and faculty/staff. The schedule, introduced this year, lengthens school days by one half-hour on Mondays through Thursdays, and shortens Fridays by two hours. It was devised to allow students to play away games without interrupting too much class time.
Each group surveyed was broken into grade levels. Of 42 parents responding, 32 were pleased with the schedule while nine were not. Eight of 24 teachers were positive, 12 were negative and 4 had no opinion. Twenty-three students responded, and Hicks said, they pretty much split, with 11 favorable responses and 12 unfavorable. Most of the students returning the survey were in the high school.
Some results were skewed a bit when parents had children in more than one class. Breaking down concerns a bit further, Hicks explained that in terms of “level of inconvenience,” most respondents found little if any inconvenience. He added that “a small percentage (4) of faculty found little or a manageable level; however, one-quarter of the parents indicated such was the case.” He said three-quarters of the students indicated no inconvenience.
As to the effects the new schedule was having on students, Hicks said, “Two thirds of the faculty felt it was negative, with most saying it was a mild impact.” Students split on the question, while 70 percent of parents thought there was no ill effect.
Hicks noticed that a number of parents found the new schedule “positive and accommodating, although a sizeable minority (a fourth) of parents found that adjusting to it has created difficulty, for them and their children.”
As to the faculty, Hicks said that “teachers of younger students did not realize a gain in instructional time, so don’t see benefit and find the students tired at the end of the day.” Concurring with many faculty that it may be “too early to tell,” Hicks plans another review later in the academic year.
Farewell to McGarry
After more than a decade as a member of the Block Island School Committee, Sean McGarry attended his last meeting with the group on October 15. A candidate for Town Council this year, McGarry bid farewell to his colleagues on the board and they extended their best wishes to him.
Chair Bill Padien expressed his appreciation to McGarry, noting, “We’ve had our battles but have remained friends.” Annie Hall said, “You bring a lot to the table, Sean, I’ve always appreciated your involvement.”
In response, McGarry said, “It’s been a great honor to serve the Block Island School. I’ve enjoyed all the different experiences — it’s made me a better person.”
In praise of BIS soccer players
On another matter, Padien was pleased to share with the board and community excerpts from a letter received from Henry Veix, the soccer official here for two recent home games. Observing the island players after they’d won a game, Veix wrote: “They are very confidently quiet, physical and aggressive, but within the rules (they don’t back down), very skillful, highly competitive, [and] they support all of their teammates equally and work together as a team very well.”
Veix added that even after a loss , “They demonstrate excellent sportsmanship whether they win or lose and they give their all during the entire game.” He was just as impressed by the coaches, whom he described as “equally demonstrative of good sportsmanship and [who] do an excellent job of both teaching and coaching.”
Early graduation considerations
A request by a junior student for early graduation opened up considerable discussion about whether or not standing policies on graduation should be revised and rewritten. Hicks explained the request challenged the policy as it stands, currently allowing “students who have demonstrated strong academic skills (a 3.0 GPA requirement) the opportunity for an early start at post-secondary life, typically college.” With the student making the request not meeting the stipulated criteria, Hicks said the policy question raised was whether or not early graduation should be available to students for other reasons.
As the graduation policy now stands, Hicks said, there was “no provision for waivers,” reiterating his belief that it is a policy issue. “Sometimes,” he said, “a specific case causes you to look at the underlying principle.” He further explained that the policy should clearly articulate the criteria for graduation and the extenuating circumstances laid out that might permit early graduation.
Philosophically, Hicks expressed his belief in “the power (and accountability for) students and families to make decisions about what is best and that our role is advisory.” Padien agreed that the school board “shouldn’t be in the position of telling families you can’t do something.”
Guidance counselor Betty Gomes felt that “if a student can meet the requirements for graduation, I don’t feel it’s responsible for us to retain the student.” She pointed out that often because of class sizes, seniors cannot take the comparable electives available to their peers at mainland schools. As a result, she said, “We often have difficulty filling a senior’s schedule.”
In the end, Hicks agreed to revise the policy and bring it back for the board’s consideration at their next meeting. The individual student’s request was put off until policy issues were resolved.
NECAP science results
The superintendent also reported on the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) science tests which were given last spring statewide to students in fourth, eighth and eleventh grades. Hicks noted that because of the island school’s small numbers, not all the results could be reported for each separate grade. However, he said the state “consolidates results across all grades and reports them along with other districts.”
Hicks pointed out that while the BIS assessments indicated “considerable growth in the percent of proficiency” (from 41.2 percent to 62.5), these numbers needed to “be tempered by the effect of our small counts, reflected in the large standard error of measurement.” The results are that though the local school district “improved by 21.3 percentage points,” that was not “statistically significant” enough to make state’s charts. However, Hicks reassured school board members that the gains were very real.
For example, the results for the fourth grade (with 12 students taking the test) the percentage of proficiency jumped from 45.5 to 83.3. The next meeting was scheduled for November 19 at 7 p.m.