Northampton Public Schools Superintendent Blog

January 2012 District Highlights

Posted on: January 26, 2012

Ryan Rd.

Staff at RK Finn Ryan Road School report that the systems of Student Support Teams and Tiered Instruction have been implemented and are working well.  Students have been supported through the team process since September with about half of them being reviewed more than once.  The process identifies areas of concern, sets goals and plans targeted interventions, which are provided in a variety of ways.  Less than half of these students have been referred eventually to Special Education to date.

Math Coaches at RK Finn Ryan Road School have been actively supporting math instruction at the school.  They helped plan and supported a series of four parent information nights in the fall.  In December they attended a conference at which they developed a plan to support the implementation of the new 2011 Massachusetts Standards in Mathematics.  They have also begun a series of after school support meetings with staff members focusing on such topics as “How can we ensure that all learners are actively included in math discussions?”

Fifth graders at RK Finn Ryan Road School are embarking on a unit of study in which they combine fractions, decimals and percents.  By the end of this unit, students will be able to mentally convert between these three representations of rational numbers and use those conversions in problem-solving situations.


We have 4 National Merit Scholarship Program Semi-finalists: Louis Gaudet, Nathan Ogulewicz, Holly Rutledge, Aerin Thomson.

NHS is pleased to introduce our new website launched January 3, 2012. Please take a look at it and give us some feedback. Visit us @

We are finishing off the sophomore classes this semester with a Harlem Renaissance project which has students working in small groups creating a power point presentation about artists, poets and other authors, and musicians who are known as Harlem Renaissance artists and their contribution to American culture.  Students will present their power points the last couple of days of class. This is in conjunction with reading a number of Harlem Renaissance poets and two prominent Harlem Renaissance writers, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Richard Wright’s Uncle Tom’s Children.

Three years ago, when JFK adopted its new Connected Math Project (CMP), teachers and administrators at JFK and NHS began collaboration to vertically align the two schools’ mathematics curricula. The focal point of that work was to analyze the two schools’ curricula in order to eliminate any redundancies and see whether it would be possible to shift a majority of the topics covered in NHS’ two-semester Algebra 1 course over to JFK for all students, in order to increase opportunity for more students to take a more mathematically rigorous course of study at NHS in their junior and senior years. In the current system, students at JFK take a test at the end of 6th grade which determines whether they go on to complete the CMP 6 – 8 curriculum or whether they will go into an accelerated 7/8 CMP class in 7th grade, followed by the equivalent of NHS’ two-semester Algebra 1 course in 8th grade. Currently, it is only the approximately forty students in this accelerated program who are able to take AP Calculus in their junior year, while students completing CMP 6 – 8 are able to take AP Calculus as seniors.

The work of this vertical team of teachers and administrators has included analysis of the new state curricular and Common Core frameworks, and of student achievement data from these first three years of implementation of CMP 6 – 8 at JFK. The culmination of this analysis is a recommendation to shift the assessment from the end of 6th grade to the end of 8th grade, so that all JFK students complete CMP 6 – 8, a curriculum designed to be taught in its entirety to heterogeneous classes, with support available for those who need it and opportunities for enrichment available for those who desire it. The assessment would allow teachers to identify those students who would still benefit from a two-semester Algebra 1 course at NHS, those who are prepared for a consolidated, one-semester Algebra 1 course, and those prepared to bypass Algebra 1 altogether and begin with Geometry at NHS. This shift in the timing of the assessment would mean that instead of having approximately forty students a year who are eligible to take AP Calculus as juniors, we would now have as many as two hundred students eligible to take it, and that students going into honors courses at NHS would have a much stronger foundation upon which to build. Additionally, it would create room in the schedule at NHS to offer both a greater variety and a greater number of sections of advanced math classes. We see this change as being in the best interests of all of our students.

On Saturday January 7th 15 members of the Northampton Brobotics (the Northampton FIRST Robotics Team) met with 6 local engineers and students from Hampshire College to hear about the challenge presented to us in the 21st First FRC competition.  This year, the robot has the challenge of getting small foam basketballs into 4 baskets hung at different heights.  A secondary challenge involves being able to balance our robot on a ramp in the middle of the court.  After hearing about the competition we spent the rest of the day planning strategy and getting ready to build.
Students in FIRST ROBOTICS get to work with professional engineers, college students and NHS faculty while engaging in science, engineering and technology challenges. Besides the technical challenges of building the robot, the students are also growing in self confidence, communication and leadership.
Over the next 6 weeks the students will meet every day after school and all day on Saturdays to design, test and build their robot.  On March 8th we will take the robot (named Paul by the students) to WPI to participate in a regional competition.  There we will compete at least 10 times over two days.
This project is the most authentic learning experience that some of these students have ever had the opportunity to be involved with.  They are focused and motivated in ways that they are not during the regular school day.


Student Diversity Workshop

On January 17th and 18th, The Student of Color Alliance and the Civil Rights team will attend a two day diversity workshop called BRIDGES, Bridging the Gaps that Separate People. Five students from each grade will work together to discuss issues of diversity and discrimination and also develop a project to bring back to the greater JFK community of students and teachers. This year we will also be joined by five students and two teachers from the NHS SOCA group who will build relationships with our group and create a project for their own school. This year the program is sponsored by the NEF.


Last year, twenty different SOCA/CRTstudents attended this workshop and discussed issues of identity and race. They developed a presentation for teachers about how students felt at JFK around these issues. They also created a Forum activity on bullying and sharing stories.

Podcasting at the Middle School and J.F.K. Students are Now on iTunes!

A great new addition to 7th Grade computer classes is the introduction of podcasting in the Middle School. Funded by a generous grant from the Northampton Education Foundation (NEF), Mr. Crescitelli created 3 professional recording stations in his computer classroom. With the help of a new iPad received at the New Literacies Institute this summer, there is also a portable podcast option for classroom mobility.

Designed to incorporate the new Massachusetts Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing into the technology curriculum, podcasting students create public service announcements for the greater JFK community. From lunch menus to club information, to team happenings and PTO news, the JFK podcasts offer information that a student, parent, or other community member may want to know about JFK. Students do all research, write all scripts, and complete all recordings for the twice monthly podcasts. A very special podcast was recently posted for the J.F.K. Winter Band Concert.

The podcast is available on several websites:

The J.F.K. main web site:

The J.F.K. Huskies Podcast Page:

Mr. Crescitelli’s web site:

iTunes: From your iTunes account, select ‘Podcasts’ and search for J.F.K.Middle School.

Students at J.F.K. have just begun to scratch the surface of how to incorporate podcasting, but the excitement is infectious. Teachers and students alike are rethinking the use of technology and how they can best use technology to bridge the community/school communication gap using the newest technologies.


BSS math coaches and the principal met with a data specialist from DSAC (District and Schoo lAssistance Center) in Dec. and Jan to mine MCAS data to fine tune their math focus to make sure that all the students are ready to meet this year’s MCAS challenge.
At the Jan. 17th faculty meeting they will have the DSAC team present on level 3 status and offer additional support for assisting in our improvement strategies

Special education and Title I teachers have begun assessing their students on math number sense using a tool developed through the Delaware Dept. of Ed. It is a fairly quick assessment in grades 2-5 and we are trying it out to see if it provides us with useful info and the ease of administration. If it works out, we will try it with all the students to see if it can be our version of the BAS for math until our district selects a benchmarking program.

Math family night planning is underway. Many parents are asking for information and strategies to help at home. A team of teachers is planning the first one for grade K-2 families for February. Families will have the opportunity to try out classroom math activities, have a Q and A on curriculum and each family will go home with a math game to that can be played at home.

The Ward 3 Neighborhood Council has a grant of up to $500.00 that it is offering for garden-related activities in the ward. A number of teachers and parents have taken up the challenge. Plans are in the works and we hope to follow it up with an NEF grant in the fall.


Starting Jan. 6th through Jan. 17th, Sandy Donah, Special Education Supervisor, will lead Leeds ESPs in a workshop on the Reading Lab. The Reading Lab is a scientic-based, on-line tutorial that has shown proven results in increasing reading proficiency with students who struggle in reading. It allows students to work on an array of skills and strategies and monitors each student’s progress. The Reading Lab will be a key intervention component in February, during the second session of AM Tutoring.

Mark Prince, Director of Academic Effectiveness, will provide a workshop on the use of MCAS Mentor (also an on- line tool). The date for this event is TBA.

Also, in an effort to create a stronger collaboration between SmithCollege and Leeds Elementary School, we are teaming up for three days to provide Science Enrichment for grades 3-5.  Smith College will be sending three Chemistry students for the purpose of teaching three grades starting Jan.17th- 19th.


The JSS faculty has begun a curriculum writing/documentation project using the JSSGardenas the center of the curriculum “web”.  They began at their January faculty meeting.  The Garden Committee facilitated the discussion, in grade level groups, by first reviewing what lesson plans are already in place through work in previous years and where it is aligned with the curriculum frameworks and the common core. Curriculum connections are in science, math, social studies and science.  The next stage will be in working with Hope Guardinier of School Sprouts to outline 3 lessons in each grade level, which she will model in the spring, to then be re-taught, for reinforcement, by the teachers themselves.  It is being underwritten by a grant from Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

Per the JSS Improvement Plan, Family Math Nights are being organized by teachers and parents, led by Ms. Mary Cowhey and Ms. Molly Burnham.  These nights will focus on areas of the math curriculum that teachers and parents have identified areas of each grades math curriculum that are appropriate for this home-school connection.

Gwen Agna is meeting twice per month, per the JSS Improvement Plan with ESPs to discuss the social/emotional issues that arise in “unstructured” times as well as their interest in more professional development in Readers and Writers Workshop.  Several ESPs will participate in a 2-hour workshop with Jenny Bender, Literacy Coordinator.

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