School District Working on Waiver from No Child Left Behind

The Derry Cooperative School District is doing its part to meet the requirements for a waiver for New Hampshire from the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Under the waiver, the district, formerly a District In Need of Improvement (DINI), is moving from a “deficiency model” to a “support model.” The waiver will change the way district progress is assessed.

The SINI (School In Need of Improvement) and DINI designations have been replaced by a state-based model for teacher evaluation and principal evaluation, along with a weighted 20 percent growth in student achievement.

The state plan includes the following: “All graduating students will demonstrate college and/or career readiness based on an expanded definition of rigorous content and knowledge, adaptive skills, and critical dispositions by 2017.”

It further reads that the state will adopt a balanced system of assessments to assess student competency, and that performance-based assessments will be administered when students are ready to demonstrate competency, as opposed to waiting for an “arbitrary date on a calendar.”

The state will set its yearly objectives, AMOs, intended to close the gap of achievement in every subgroup by 50 percent by 2017. The AMOs will move toward a “competency-based learning model.”

The state model also provides seven “turn-around” principles.

The district has three schools receiving money under the federal Title I program, Derry Village Elementary School, South Range Elementary School and Grinnell Elementary School. Of the three, Grinnell has been named a “Focus School” and will receive special attention and resources.

Superintendent Laura Nelson said the Grinnell program is “right on track.” The state process includes developing a plan in the first year, looking at programs as they relate to where improvement is needed. The school has met all state requirements for that phase, Nelson said.

The district will reinstate summer school as part of the process and is considering a “transitional summer school” to help fifth-graders make the leap to middle school.

The team is meeting twice a month, Nelson said, and she is pleased with the progress.

Team members from the School Administrative Unit (SAU) office include Nelson, Assistant Superintendent Mary Ann Connors-Krikorian, Special Education Director Chris Kellan, Federal Funds Coordinator Cara Kuehl, and Student Services Director Serena Levine.

Grinnell Principal Mary Hill wrote in an e-mail, “At this point we have completed the portion of our plan that includes Turnaround Principle 5, using data to inform instruction and for continuous improvement, including providing time for collaboration on the use of data and Turnaround Principle NH101, school leader participates in the Principal Leadership Network.” Hill wrote that those two goals, and the tasks that support them, have been approved by the New Hampshire Department of Education.

The team is currently reviewing Turnaound Principle 7, providing ongoing mechanisms for family and community engagements. Hill wrote that for implementing this principle, “We tried to get representatives from all aspects of a student’s day.”

The school is also implementing Wilson Foundations in grades kindergarten and first, a resource that will be used to improve students’ proficiency in phonemic awareness, phonics, spelling and writing.

Hill wrote that the full Turnaround Plan is due May 2, 2014, so they are balancing the writing of the plan with short trials of its solutions.