Two Year Strategic Operating Plan Passed

Montclair Schools Superintendent Dr. Penny MacCormack and the Montclair Board of Education unanimously passed MacCormack’s Two Year Strategic Operating Plan, a proposal that seeks to improve the Montclair Public School System through various changes and reforms.

Superintendent and Board of Education pass the two year strategic operating plan.

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The overall structure of the Two Year Strategic Operating Plan is simple. According to MacComack, it includes the broad, community-identified goals, as well as a set of measurable objectives and aligned strategies to accomplish each goal. The plan targets weak spots in the Montclair Public Schools with an aim to repair.

Recently, there has been quite a focus on the achievement gap within the public schools. Test scores show that Montclair students aren’t reaching the goals that are set for them. In many cases, there has been more than a 30 percent difference in proficiency.

A portion of MacCormack’s Two Year Strategic Operating Plan focuses on fixing these gaps. The Two Year Strategic Operating Plan projects that by June of 2014, 80 percent of K-12 students will demonstrate significant growth on the district common core, with quarterly assessments in reading, writing, mathematics and social studies.

Additional expectations include that 80 percent of K-3 students will meet or exceed tiered grade-level growth targets on the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA-2). 80 percent of students grades three through eight are also expected to score at the proficient or advanced proficient range on the NJASK language arts literacy, mathematics and science.

But achievement gaps aren’t the only issues that plague the Montclair Public School System. Disparity in rigor among classes is also an issue.

The Two Year Strategic Operating Plan seeks to fix this by calling for consistent and rigorous instruction across all classrooms. This will be achieved by a closer look being taken at all teachers and their methods. MacCormack expects that by June 2015 all teachers within the district will score at or above the effective range on 80 percent of the Marshall Evaluation rubrics, and by June 2014 all administrators will score at or above the effective range on the Leadership Evaluation Rubric (Achieve NJ).

A “common curriculum,” which is supported by quarterly exams, is what will help teachers not only become more effective, but will push consistent and rigorous instruction across all classrooms.

“The sole purpose of the quarterly assessments is to give teachers, students and parents quality information regarding student progress on the college and career ready standards set by our state,” explained MacCormack.

This common curriculum will make sure that all students, no matter their academic ability, will be challenged – something that is dire to the improvement of the school system. While some claim it will inhibit the creativity of teachers, this is not the case. Teaching styles will not be altered. A teacher can give their lessons in as creative ways as they want, as long as the material being taught adheres to the common curriculum.

These are only a few key parts of MacCormack’s Two Year Strategic Operating Plan. Others revolve around equitable resources for all schools, creating highly effective central service support to schools, effective internal and external communications and parent engagement, effective accountable leadership at school and district levels, improving Montclair High School and more.

There’s solid support from students behind the Two Year Strategic Operating Plan as well.

Rising Montclair High School senior Lauren Glasse believes the plan is just what the school system needs.

“The strategic plan is long overdue. It will eliminate the extreme disparity in the rigor of classes of the same level taught by different teachers, including the amount and types of homework assigned. I also prefer the quarterly exams because the information being tested will be fresher in my mind,” explained Glasse.

Will Kline, another rising senior, supports the plan as well.

“There’s going to be a restoration of K-5 language, which was taken away by the old superintendent, a higher focus on pre-K and more of an assessment of how classes and teachers are doing. It’s all for the betterment of our education,” explained Kline. “Also, the teachers make the tests, so they can still teach whatever they want. Not to mention, the quarterly tests get rid of the stress of midterms and finals.”

Tito Rodriguez, a teacher and a Common Core Consultant, who does not teach in the district but is familiar with MacCormack’s Two Year Strategic Operating Plan, additionally believes the plan is moving the Montclair Public School system in the right direction.

“These standards are effective. New Jersey recently adopted the Common Core State Standards, (CCSS) in June 2010. As a state, we will begin full implementation by the 2013-14 school year. Some school districts have already started using these standards as regular practice. As a result, New Jersey will be one of 44 states leading the way in implementing CCSS because it necessary to meet college and career readiness,” explained Mr. Rodriguez.

“According to the scientific research that was used in constructing CCSS, teachers, parents and students should not resist because CCSS will provide a more solid transition towards college and career readiness because the objectives imbedded in the standards are designed to tackle the Higher Order Thinking Skills. The ‘inch wide and mile deep’ approach was rigorously structured to prepare our children to compete in a global market. I understand that there is concern. I felt the same way before becoming informed,” Rodriguez continued.

Ultimately, whether or not Montclair parents and students agree with the Two Year Strategic Operating Plan, it is making its way into the Montclair Public School system for the 2013-2014 school year and will be an integral and effective step towards not only improving Montclair Public Schools, but leading its students in the right academic direction.

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