Tag Archives: John Monfredo

Motivating for success: The secret formula to our new voke school’s rise to fame

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

The jewel on the top of Sky Line Drive, better known as Worcester Technical School, has continued to receive award after award since opening in 2006. This year they were selected by the MetLife Foundation and the National Association of Secondary School Principals as one of the Breakthrough Schools. In announcing the award, the MetLife Foundation-NASSP stated that Worcester Technical High School is one of just ten schools selected for this prestigious national honor in recognition of its best practices and outstanding student results.

The MetLife Foundation’s Breakthrough Schools program recognizes middle level and high school schools that are high achieving or are dramatically improving student achievement and serve large numbers of students living in poverty.

The magnificence of this structure is matched by its equally impressive record of student performance. According to Principal Shelia Harrity, the school has reached the Annual Yearly Progress benchmarks for No Child Left Behind in English, Math and every subgroup four years in a row. “One should also consider this, 59% of all schools in Massachusetts have not reached their benchmarks,” she stated in an interview this week.

In 2009, Worcester Technical High School was one of 15 public schools nationally recognized for outstanding student gains in MCAS by the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University. When you look at the MCAS scores at Worcester Technical High School (WTHS) you see a steady progress being attained. 

This is demonstrated in the impressive numbers it has put up over the past few years. In mathematics, 70% of students scored in the advanced/proficient category, with a 6% failure rate. In English, 70% of students scored in the advanced/proficient category, with a 1% failure rate. In grades 10-12, 96% of students have passed the science portion of the MCAS test. Continue reading Motivating for success: The secret formula to our new voke school’s rise to fame

Worcester: The City that Reads book drop-off sites

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

Worcester: the City that Reads was formed in an attempt to make a difference in Worcester. In our book drive we will need everyone’s assistance. Please donate new or gently used books, pre-kindergarten to grade 8, at the following sites from March 2 to May 15:

People’s United People’s Bank (Flagship Bank) (all six city branches) including the town of Shrewsbury, Marlboro and Leominster

Commerce Bank (all four city branches) including Holden

Bay State Savings Bank (all branches)

Barnes and Noble Book Store on Lincoln Street

Worcester Public Library

Stop and Shop on Lincoln Street

Stop and Shop on Grafton Street

Stop and Shop on West Boylston Street Continue reading Worcester: The City that Reads book drop-off sites

Worcester: The City that Reads book drive – let’s make it 25,000 books this year!

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

Worcester: the City that Reads will kick off its fifth annual drive to collect books for summer reading on March 2 (It’s Read Across America Day sponsored by the National Education Association and the birthday of the famous author, Dr. Seuss). This Committee was founded by my wife Anne-Marie and me in an attempt to promote literacy in our community and promote the importance of being a life-time reader. This is the fifth year of collecting new and gently used books for Worcester children in grades pre-kindergarten to grade eight. In four years we have given out over 60,000 books to the children in this community!

During the last two years the Committee collected over 20,000 books each year. We were able to put a book into the hands of every child in the Worcester Public Schools. The books will be given out to the schools during “Reading in our City Week” in June. Books last year were also given to Head Start, Rainbow Child Development, African Education Institute, the Y.W.C.A., the summer program at St. Bernard’s Church, United Way programs and many other social service agencies.

This year we hope to give some of the hard covered books collected to schools who are starting their own school library. We also would like the schools to conduct a book swap when they return from their summer break, as a way of continuing the importance of reading throughout the year. Continue reading Worcester: The City that Reads book drive – let’s make it 25,000 books this year!

Early Literacy: a great prevention program

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

Early literacy is an essential component of academic success All across America children are entering school without the necessary basic early literacy skills for lifelong success. According to research, the early years are the time when a child’s brain undergoes the most growth and development. The developing brain triples in the first year of life and is fully formed by the time the child enters kindergarten. This period is essential to set the stage for future learning. Early literacy is regarded as the single best investment for enabling children to develop skills that will likely benefit them for a lifetime.

According to Dr. Melinda Boone, school superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools, the schools in Worcester have begun an early literacy initiative to prepare all children in the city to be reading-ready when they begin their education in our schools. Research has taught us that learning to read and write can start at home long before children go to school. If you have read my past columns, you know how important reading aloud is in developing the learning of all children. It’s essential that mothers, fathers, grandparents and caregivers begin to prepare children to become eager readers by using a few simple strategies from the time that the child comes home from the hospital. Continue reading Early Literacy: a great prevention program

To Tracy Novick and Company: Let the Goddard School move on

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

Goddard Elementary School has been in the news for several months due to their MCAS scores. Following a four month joint investigation conducted by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Worcester Public Schools a press release from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was released. It stated, ”State officials have invalidated the 2010 MCAS results for the Goddard School in Worcester following a joint investigation conducted by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Worcester Public Schools that found educators provided students with inappropriate coaching during testing.”

As stated in their press release and reiterated by Dr. Boone the department found through investigatory interviews with school personnel that staff who administered the 2010 MCAS tests reviewed students work on the test, coached students to add to their responses and scribed answers or portions of answers that were not worded by students. According to the guidelines no test administrator or other school personnel may coach a student during testing or alter or interfere with a student’s response in any way.

In essence, according to the State, the school broke the protocol guidelines, but keep in mind that this was not a case of someone cheating to inflate the MCAS scores of the children. As Commissioner Chester stated in a letter to Dr. Boone …”irregularities occurred at the Goddard Science and Technology School and those guidelines were not adhered to in this instance.”
As part of the remedy, Superintendent Boone was asked to prepare a report to outline how the district will train staff in proper testing procedures and how it will oversee the proper administration of the spring of 2011 MCAS tests. Dr. Boone has already completed the plan and has submitted it to the Department of Education. In addition, Dr. Boone went beyond what the State had asked for in her plan.

Dr. Boone stated, “I have pledged to the Commissioner that the district will continue to work cooperatively with the Department to ensure that all educators in Worcester are trained in proper MCAS testing procedures and will follow those procedures explicitly at all times. Despite the irregularities during the last year’s testing, I am confident that the instructional practices at Goddard are sound and represent the best practices nationally to raise student achievement.”

The school and the principal have been penalized by the state and now it’s time to move on while learning from mistakes that were made. The School Committee in a 4-3 vote did just that and voted for administration to move on and accept the findings of the State. However, there are many in this community who are still not willing to allow Goddard to “move on.” We live in such time where individuals want to be punitive and want “heads” to roll. Just listen to the talk shows or read the blogs and you’ll know what I mean. Even after all this disclosure talk show hosts are still complaining about the lack of transparency.

Many of these people making such outlandish accusations know nothing about this school. I have visited this school many times and have been impressed with Principal Marion Guerra who brings passion and a sense of purpose to the job and in addition surrounds herself with a very competent staff. There is a warm and caring environment in the building and everywhere you go you see data walls telling of where the children are in their Measurement of Academic Progress, you see students goals being written and you see lots of evidence of good teaching practices. The school believes that it takes a “village to raise a child” and therefore there are many neighborhood partnerships with church groups and social agencies. All the groups speak very highly about the school!

At last week’s school committee meeting over 100 parents, community members and student came to support Goddard! Many walked up to the microphone at City Hall and spoke about the school and the respect that they have for their principal.

You could hear statements such as ..”Mrs. Guerra loves the children for she is out in the morning greeting parents and students with a smile.”… “She encourages us all to read together as a family.”… “We see her working with students in the summer time developing a neighborhood garden.”… “I attribute my child’s success to the leadership of Mrs. Guerra.” Parent Khedeja Al-Iman spoke to me about how her son was in a charter school but after talking to other parents enrolled her son at Goddard. She stated that it was a great move for she is very satisfied with the caring and education that goes on in the school.

School Nurse, Catherine Robotis perhaps said it best, “Mrs. Guerra is deeply committed to the education of the children at Goddard. She works with children, their families, and the teachers to remove barriers to learning and promote achievement.  I can think of countless instances where her input and assistance directly helped children in need.  She is truly loved and respected by the children and their families for all she does throughout the year for them.  Several have voiced to me a wish for this process to end so they can get on with the business of learning without further distraction.”

Let’s look at some facts about this school. It is located in the main south area of our city. Goddard School is home to over 600 students and 98% of the families qualify for free and reduced lunch. The families at the school originate from all over the globe with 85% of students and families non-native speakers. There are more than 22 languages spoken at the school and these students are supported by English Learning labs. The school houses Special Education programs for Spanish speaking students and has a number of support programs for students with behavioral disabilities. The poverty level in the last nine years has increased from 65% to 98%.

Despite these odds the school has shown academic growth but not enough to close the achievement gap and to support all students to be college ready. Thus, they have taken the initiative and have applied to become an Innovation School. The Innovation School concept is a component of the educational reform agenda and has the potential to dramatically increase opportunities to improve student achievement.

Goddard School has an exciting future. In their innovation application the introductory page stated, “Research tells us that highly effective schools that beat the odds are effective because the staff has a strong culture of shared expectations for student achievement and a shared belief system built around commitment, responsibilities, and expectations…Decisions around curriculum, instruction, scheduling and resources both human and material are made collaboratively based upon data.”
Their idea is to move the culture of the school to the next level of commitment and responsibility where everyone is involved the complex issues around student achievement.

I believe it is time to move on and concentrate on ensuring that students at Goddard continue to receive an excellent education. Mistakes that were made are being addressed and now it’s time to support their efforts as they focus on meeting the needs of their students.

Rave reviews for Worcester Public Schools’ anti-bullying program!

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

“I just want the bullying to stop. That is all I ever wanted. I used to love going to school. Now I hate it.”
(9-year-old Verity Ward quoted in the Sunday Telegraph, 12 March 2000)

Throughout my career as a former principal and teacher I have witnessed bullying take place in and out of school. “Bullying is unfair and one-sided. It happens when someone keeps hurting, frightening, threatening, or leaving someone out on purpose.”

The issue of bullying and its effect on children has finally been recognized. As a principal, year ago, I saw bullying first hand and saw how it affected students. I remember seeing a little girl crying in the corner of the school yard because she was told by one of her classmates that she wasn’t allowed to play with them and other classmates because they didn’t like the way she dressed. Then there was a boy who wasn’t picked to play with the other boys on their football team at recess time because he couldn’t speak English.

The effects of bullying don’t stop there, – bullying can hurt children other than the victims. Studies have shown that children who witness bullying may be afraid to go to school, too. They worry that a minor mistake may make them the bully’s focus. Or they may start bullying others, figuring that siding with the aggressor will keep them safer. Continue reading Rave reviews for Worcester Public Schools’ anti-bullying program!

Local author Ruth Cohen will be signing copies of her book!

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

Local author Ruth Cohen will be signing copies of her book Saturday, February 5, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Stop and Shop Market on Route 9 in Shrewsbury. The title of her book is My Juvies. This local author is a woman who has had extensive experience with the juvenile justice system. The idea for this novel came from her years as director of a group home for juvenile offenders coupled with her love for solving mysteries.

We all know that good writing comes from your experience and Author Cohen is no exception. She was director of Anker House in Worcester and decided to write about the children at the boys’ group home. We wanted to show them as kids who needed to learn how to feel good about themselves. As she explained it, “Anker House was a program for boys who came to us from secure treatment with the hope that they would be rehabilitated so that they could return to society. They had come from various backgrounds and had gotten themselves involved in legal issues … in our program we taught them how to feel good about themselves and how to get on with their lives so that they could return to the community as productive citizens.”

The life of Elizabeth Green, director of the group home in My Juvies, closely parallels that of Ruth Cohen. The characters in her book are purely fictional. However, some of the situations are embellished compilations of actual events, with the exception of the mystery. This fiction novel depicts how boys from a juvenile justice program get themselves involved in robbery and murder. The boys come from various backgrounds. They have been sent to the group home to try to get their lives back on track and enter society as law abiding citizens. But, as boys sometimes do, they manage to wander off into an area that had been forbidden due to the derelicts who inhabit that area. That’s the beginning of the legal dilemma in which they find themselves and the rest of the group home.

As Author Cohen said in a telephone conversation, “My Juvies is a murder mystery involving boys from a juvenile justice program. The novel is pure fiction. However, the idea came from my experience as director of a group home for juvenile offenders. The boys in our program came from varied backgrounds. They had not learned how to get their needs met without becoming involved in destructive behavior. Thus, they became engaged in various forms of criminal activity, which eventually caught up with them and after serving time in secure treatment, they ended up in a rehab program such as Anker House.”

The characters in My Juvies start out misguided and cynical, but by learning how to work together and how to resolve issues in an amicable way, they gain respect for themselves and the justice system. Author Cohen acknowledged, “My initial goal in writing My Juvies was to show these boys as just kids. They had not been given the opportunity to learn how to set appropriate goals and how to recognize and how to maximize their potential.”

Author Cohen was born and grew up in Worcester and was educated in the Worcester Public Schools. She is the mother of three married children and the grandmother of six. Ruth is a licensed elementary school teacher and is a graduate of Worcester State College with a B.S. degree in elementary education and a M.E.D in Counselor Education. In addition, she has worked as a rehab specialist in facilities for people with mental illness diagnoses. Currently she is employed as a substitute teacher in the Shrewsbury and Northboro school system. When she is not “subbing,” she attends a current events group, the senior writer’s group and the senior bowing league and loves the Red Sox.

When asked about future stories, Author Cohen affirmed, “I am nearly finished with my second novel, which is not related to “My Juvies.” However, I am about halfway done with a sequel to My Juvies. So if you are looking for a good mystery and want to support a local author join me on February 5th for the book signing event of My Juvies.

It’s simple math: quality teaching = student achievement

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

During the past two decades there has been much discussion on the importance of quality teaching and student achievement. Teacher quality stands out in the research for its potential to close the gap in academic achievement between students in the inner city and students in suburbia. This past summer, President Obama’s administration in its educational (Race to the Top) initiative stated that one of the goals was to “Attract, develop, and retain an effective, academically capable, diverse and culturally proficient educator workforce to ensure every student is taught by a great teacher and every school and district is led by a great leader.”

Using data from a 50-state survey of policies, state case studies and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), studies from author Linda Darling- Hammond suggests that policies adopted by states regarding teacher education, licensing, hiring, and professional development may make an important difference in the qualifications and capacities that teachers bring to their work. Continue reading It’s simple math: quality teaching = student achievement

School uniforms for Worcester Public School students?

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

“ If it means that the school rooms will be more orderly and more disciplined and that our young people will learn to evaluate themselves by what they are on the inside, instead of what they’re wearing on the outside, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear uniforms.” – President Bill Clinton

Parochial and private schools have a long history of using school uniforms, but now across the country school uniforms are gaining favor. Morem than 10 states have passed laws allowing public schools to implement uniform policies. In Massachusetts it’s a voluntary school uniform policy and prior to implementation, a majority of the school site council members and the school principal must approve the school’s uniform policy. Since 2006 Worcester’s Jacob Hiatt Magnet Elementary School has had school uniforms; the policy has been supported by the parents.

Hiatt School Principal Patricia Gaudette said having a school uniform policy places the major emphasis on education. She feels it builds a positive perspective about their role, as it takes pressure off the students as to who is wearing the “coolest trends” in clothing. She went on to say that when students come to school wearing their school uniforms, they are responsible for their learning and take ownership of their day. Continue reading School uniforms for Worcester Public School students?

Tip of the hat to the Burncoat Senior High Chorus!

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

Congratulations to the Burncoat Select Chorus, also known as the Quadrivium, for their most recent singing engagement at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

The group earned the right to audition for the National Youth Coral Festival at Carnegie Hall by earning high scores at the Presidential Inaugural Festival in January of 2009. In May, music director extraordinaire, David Twiss submitted an audition disc to the Carnegie Hall Field Studies and in June found out that the group had been accepted into the Festival. Continue reading Tip of the hat to the Burncoat Senior High Chorus!