Inside Arlington

Experimental News Digest for Arlington, MA

School Committee, December 14, 2023

Superintendent’s Update

The superintendent provided several updates. She reported on the district-wide professional learning sessions that took place the previous day. These choice-based sessions for paraprofessionals and teachers have received positive feedback. The superintendent also announced several new central office staff members, including a new engagement and enrollment specialist, administrative assistant to the deputy superintendent, and administrative assistant for the diversity, equity, inclusion and justice office.

The superintendent gave an update on the culture and climate surveys. Response rates were high, with Thompson and Pierce schools having the highest family response rates. The student survey is still open, with Gibbs and Ottoson leading in responses. The staff survey is also still open, with Thompson having the most responses so far. The district plans to release a report of the results and action steps in January/February.

The superintendent presented a revised budget request report that was discussed by the cabinet team. Some items were removed that can likely be funded through other means. The remaining items were grouped into categories based on priority.

The superintendent noted that the EDCO annual report and audit report were approved. Arlington is a member district of EDCO, along with Lexington, Burlington, Bedford, Belmont, and now Watertown.

Visual Arts Department Update

The visual arts department chair discussed the department’s philosophy, which focuses on lifelong learning, studio habits of mind, and student creativity. He highlighted several examples of creative student projects under the Teaching for Artistic Behavior approach, where students are given more freedom and teachers act as coaches.

The department is piloting an intensive elementary art schedule, with students having art twice a week for half the year. It is also piloting more interdisciplinary collaboration between art and other subjects. At the high school, foundations of art was eliminated to allow students more flexibility. This has led to increased enrollment in electives. More public art initiatives are also being launched.

English Learner Education Update

The English Learner Director discussed staffing needs, goals for the year, and areas of focus. These include strengthening newcomer programs, using data to inform instruction, aligning curriculum, and expanding professional development. She also discussed community engagement efforts, including using translators and interpreters, multilingual staff, and events for families. Challenges include growing enrollment, staffing shortages, and communication with families.

Heterogeneous Grouping Initiative Update

An update on the heterogeneous grouping initiative pilot in 9th grade English classes presented data showing increased participation in honors level curriculum and steady grades. Next steps include collecting feedback from families and teachers and bringing a proposal to the committee in March on whether to continue the pilot. The goals are to increase equity of access and consider moving to an honors for all structure.

AHS and Gibbs Principals’ Updates

The principals of Arlington High School and Gibbs Middle School presented their school improvement plans.

At AHS, areas of focus include heterogeneous grouping, academic conversations, improving school climate and culture, and strategic family engagement. Goals include increasing access to rigorous curriculum and fostering student belonging. At Gibbs, goals include strengthening tier 1 instruction, using data to inform decisions, and aligning curriculum. Gibbs is also piloting intensive math instruction.

Budget Discussion

The district’s Finance Director presented the monthly budget report. Most of the town appropriation has been spent or encumbered, leaving a small projected balance. He also discussed revolving funds and grants.

AEA Budget Priorities

The Arlington Education Association president presented the AEA’s budget priorities, based on feedback from members. These include increased compensation, training for paraprofessionals, increased special education staffing, improved technology, eliminating middle school activity fees, and HVAC upgrades.



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