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Lanesborough Weighs PARCC Vs. MCAS

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
03:21AM / Sunday, June 15, 2014
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The Lanesborough School Committee met on Thursday and discussed an array of topics including PARCC testing and the preschool program.

LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The School Committee is considering transitioning to PARCC exams this year instead of waiting.

On Thursday, the board questioned whether to wait a year for make the "inevitable" transition now. According to Principal Ellen Boshe, the administration was sticking with the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System for this year because there were complaints about the technology.

However, she has since heard "mixed reviews" and since the decision is with the school committee, and not the administration, she says it is worth looking into again.

"I know that as a tri-district we met, before we knew it was a school committee decision... At that point, we thought 'let's just stick with MCAS,'" Boshe told the School Committee. "There were definitely problems with the technology involved."

Next year it is expected that the state gets rid of MCAS for the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exams. By making the switch now instead of waiting for it to be required, the school won't be held to as strict standards in their accountability standards and the teachers and staff will be able to get used to it.

"If they give us an easier first year, this year, maybe it is attractive," said Chairman Robert Barton.

Teacher Michelle Johnson, however, said that making the switch early is just incurring an expense "before we have to." She told the committee that she sees no benefit in the making the transition early.

The committee ultimately made no decision on the switch.

In other business, Director of Pupil Services Kim Grady says the revamped preschool program is just about full.

"I'm at capacity with our numbers right now," she told the committee.

The program was shut down for last year because it was losing money due to a decrease in enrollment. The School Committee vowed to revamp the program to be more sustainable for a relaunch in 2014. Already there are 28 students enrolled - some for just the morning, some for just the afternoon and some for the full day.

Now the School Committee is trying to figure out if they are able to provide a sliding scale. That scale lowers the cost to the parents to enroll their children if they qualify for free or reduced lunch.

"We are at full enrollment. We have am and pm students. I would say right now, we don't have anyone on a sliding scale," Boshe said.

However, that won't be entirely clear until the fall. The applications for free and reduced lunch, which the sliding scale would be based on, are not due until October.

The School Committee doesn't want to offer the sliding scale, which wasn't calculated into their budget, if it will be unaffordable. Barton requested for a cost impact based on the percentages of students already in the school that qualify for the reduced fees.

"I guesstimated the number of kids on free and reduced based on history and I was amazed that our net budget impact still came out around zero," Barton said.

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