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Principal Tara Barnes, right, explains the scoring on the first year of the new MCAS tests.

Clarksburg Principal Looks to Spend More Time in Classroom

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Principal Tara Barnes will be a little less available this school year. 
 
Barnes told the School Committee she'd made a point of getting back as quickly as possible to parents and guardians when they've called. But after a recent coaching session, she's reorganizing her calendar to get her out of the office and into the classrooms more. 
 
"Being in the classroom is where the work is happening," she told the committee on Thursday. "We all know this because this is where all the magic is happening and sometimes principals get bogged down with reports, and meetings ... we allow things to pull us away from that."
 
Barnes and Administrative Assistant Mary Giron had recently attended a breakthrough coaching session on time management that was "really an eye-opening thing for me."
 
Her goal is to spend at least 30 percent of her week, or about 1 1/2 days, in classrooms. Instead of working around meetings, the first thing in her calendar will be classroom time and everything else will fall around that. 
 
"The more I learn about what's happening the better I can be a coach to everybody, the better I can make decisions about resources," Barnes said. "That's why I'm making it my evaluation goal."
 
She'd spent time in five classrooms on Tuesday for about 2 1/2 hours. Sometimes there are students who need extra help and by observing and interacting with the children, she can provide better feedback to parents. It's also about being a presence in the hallways and in the cafeteria as well, she said. 
 
"I'm a classroom teacher by heart and that's where I want to be," Barnes said.
 
Her second goal is to use these experiences to develop a strategy for better teaching and aligning with the state's SMART teacher evaluation process. (strategic, measurable, action-oriented, rigorous and time/tracked).
 
Barnes said she would be sending a letter out to parents to let them know what her goals are and so they will know if they call and she's in a classroom, it may be later or the next day before she can get back to them. 
 
The principal also updated the committee on the school's scoring on the so-called MCAS 2.0, an updated version of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System that also incorporates elements of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test the school implemented over the last couple years.
 
State officials have cautioned that the results of the tests taken earlier this really can't be equally compared apple-to-apple with last year's older test and some elements in scoring have changed. There's no more ranking school's by levels 
 
"This was our first data collection this year and the state is coming out with a new way of doing reporting," Barnes said. The takeaway for this year is that the school fell in the new category of "not needing assistance." 
 
Student scoring isn't categorized on "proficiency" but on expectations — not meeting, partially meeting, meeting and exceeding.
 
"Because it's the second year of a brand-new assessment, they're not changing anyone's status," said Superintendent John Franzoni. "It is significant to see nearly each grade level has improved. ... It shows good work by the administraion and staff."
 
The fifth-graders hit 55 percent of students meeting expectations on the science test, which is higher than that state average. However, fourth grade math took a large dip.
 
"We're not as as strong a showing for math but I feel we have good strategies in place and we will see some movement up," Barnes said.
 
In her report, Barnes said citizenship lessons were given in a way that broke across grade groups. 
 
"It was a really unique social dynamic that happened (in Grades 3 and 5) and with our citizenship piece we're going to pull it back around in June to kind of bookend our work," she said. 
 
The fifth-graders, for example, were shown a 1950s video on citizenship that they will answer with a 2018 version.
 
The recent chicken dinner Grade 8 fundraiser was a success and the next fundraiser, the very popular Haunted Hayride at Clarksburg State Park, will be this Saturday, Oct. 13. 

Tags: MCAS,   

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