Report OVerview 2004
Overview of Findings
Although the conclusions of the visiting committee on the school’s adherence to the Commission’s Standards for Accreditation appear in various sections of this report, the committee wishes to highlight some findings in the paragraphs that follow. These findings are not intended to be a summary of the report.
Quality of the Self-Assessment
The self-assessment report completed by the professional staff at BCHS was comprehensive, well written, and provided the committee with evidence to support the strengths and needs of the school. The visiting committee was able to use the report not only to validate its work but also to guide the development of recommendations in each area.
In addition, BCHS’s professional staff, parents, members of the board of education, and students were candid and open with visiting committee members during interviews and meetings. As a result, many of the findings in the self-study were supported and the conclusions of the committee validated.
Finally, the communication between the school and the chair of the visiting committee was efficient and timely, resulting in a productive and meaningful visit.
Discussion of Significant Findings
Teaching and Learning at Bristol Central High School
The school’s mission statement and expectations for student learning is a highly visible document throughout the building, appearing in every classroom and school office. It reflects the community’s and the school’s basic values of assisting students “to achieve their maximum learning potential and to develop their self worth in a safe environment.” In addition, the staff and students are very aware of the contents of the mission and can summarize the expectations for student learning.
The climate of BCHS is very friendly, highly respectful, and very supportive. Staff, students, and parents consistently report that the school is “like a family.” The theme of the school – Think Central, Talk Central, Be Central – appears throughout the building, and accurately reflects the importance of BCHS in the lives of the school’s constituents. In such an environment, students are highly valued and staff members work diligently to assist students in meeting the school’s mission.
Nine expectations for student learning have been developed and include academic, social, and civic goals. These expectations reflect past practices at BCHS and continue to guide the school’s improvement efforts. A system of rubrics has been designed to measure the expectations for student learning, and now the challenge for BCHS is to use these rubrics to measure the success of each individual student in meeting the nine expectations for student learning and then to inform the community of school-wide progress on a yearly basis.
The curriculum at BCHS includes nine advanced placement courses, a 10th grade humanities program, college cooperative courses, business partnerships, tech prep classes, and a recently revised math program. In addition, a district-wide writing initiative is in place that ensures writing in every classroom, including physical education. Teams of core teachers sharing the same students exist in ninth grade. Common planning time for these teams afford teachers the opportunities to make connections between and among disciplines and to monitor student achievement as well as the curriculum.
Currently, a five-year cycle does exist for curriculum development, and a consultant has been working with members of the math department to revise curriculum. However, much more work with curriculum needs to be done. The high turnover of curriculum directors in the central office has negatively impacted curriculum articulation throughout the district. With a new person in place who clearly is committed to systematically addressing curricular issues, there is hope and an expectation that a strategic plan and standard for curriculum development and revision will be implemented. If the school’s mission and expectations for student learning are to be achieved, such a plan needs to include three major goals: 1) ensure a rigorous curriculum with an emphasis on depth of understanding over breadth of coverage for all disciplines, 2) provide coordination and articulation between and among academic disciplines and sending schools, and 3) expand the number of professional staff members involved in development and revision of curriculum.
Many of the instructional strategies and practices at BCHS are consistent with the school’s stated mission and expectations. There are examples of teachers instructing in ways that help students write effectively, use logic to analyze and solve problems, and acquire, organize, and utilize information. While the BCHS school community is committed to helping students to achieve their maximum learning potential and to develop self-worth, there is inconsistent use of instructional strategies that are effective in meeting these goals.
There are several programs in place that provide opportunities to improve instructional practices. The New Teacher Academy and the state’s BEST portfolio program provide opportunities for teachers new to the profession to receive feedback and guidance. The supervision and evaluation process, departmental meetings, and the Dine and Discuss program are additional opportunities for teachers to improve instruction. Teachers also use common lunch periods, after school time, and time between classes to discuss instructional strategies. However, to significantly improve instruction at BCHS, the discussion of instructional strategies, practices, and student work needs to become a major part of the professional culture of the school. Professional development devoted to the improvement of instructional practices and the training of all teachers on how to use technology to improve student learning will also be critical in the school’s efforts to enhance instruction.
Students and parents are very clear about grading and reporting at BCHS. Syllabi are distributed at the beginning of all courses outlining the specific learning expectations and assessment criteria for each course. Rubrics are used regularly throughout the school. In some departments, common rubrics have been developed to assess student learning.
Communication about student performance is very important at BCHS, and is communicated eight times during the year with four midterm progress reports and four end-of-term report cards. In addition, parent conferences are held twice a year, and Parent Connect, a computer program to inform parents of student progress, is in the beginning stages of implementation. Telephone calls, voice mail, and e-mails are also used to keep parents informed about student progress.
In keeping with the school’s mission to develop self-worth, student success and achievement is regularly celebrated via morning announcements, school newspaper, city newspaper, monthly parents’ newsletter, and annual awards ceremonies.
School-wide rubrics to measure student success in meeting the academic expectations do exist, but they need to be implemented so that individual and school-wide progress can be determined and then reported. To increase the range of assessment strategies used in all classrooms, professional development opportunities need to be provided. In addition, a formal process to use classroom assessment data when revising and developing curriculum needs to be established as well as time for formal discourse of students work and assessment. With these changes in place, students at BCHS will be better able to meet the school’s mission and expectations for student learning.
Support of Teaching and Learning at Bristol Central High School
The leadership style of the principal is both open and collaborative. The principal’s accessibility and student-centered style are evident throughout the building. Both teachers and students describe their interaction with the principal as familial; he listens with patience, care, and concern. As a result, there is an obvious and genuine sense of ownership and commitment to the school by all constituents.
Teachers are an important force in ongoing school improvement. They serve as department coordinators, mentors of new staff, and committee members; over fifty per cent of the teaching staff serves as advisors and coaches for extra and co-curricular activities.
Department coordinators teach one less class, have no assigned duty, meet monthly with the administration, and largely perform managerial tasks; they do not evaluate teachers.
Although universally dedicated and informed, they are not given the training or the authority to effectively provide instructional leadership within the building.
The move to the A/B block schedule added an additional teaching assignment which has increased student load. Only fifteen percent of the teachers have student loads of 90 students per marking period. The additional teaching assignment and current student loads do not allow sufficient time to meet the individual needs of students. In addition, combined with the teaching load, the current schedule prevents adequate collaboration between teachers during the school day. The current teaching load impacts the overall ability of the current schedule to support the mission and expectations for student learning.
BCHS student support personnel enhance student learning by interacting and working with building professional staff and utilizing community resources to address the academic, social, emotional, and physical needs of students. The BCHS Student Assistance Team is the hub of collaboration between BCHS and community resources and meets weekly to support the needs of at risk students. The school component of the team consists of two guidance counselors, the school nurse, school psychologist, two teachers and an assistant principal. Other team members include the school outreach worker, two youth services social workers, youth officer, truant officer, a private marriage and family therapist, and other services provided by the Bristol Police Department. Additional support services that incorporate both internal school resources and community resources include: the COVE bereavement group, the Positive Self Image Class, the school resource officer, and the Hispanic outreach worker.
The staff at Bristol Central High School makes an obvious and caring effort to personalize each student’s educational experience. Guidance counselors meet at least twice a year with each student. The five counselors and a guidance director serve 1,450 students with a staff to student ratio of 1:320, exceeding the American Guidance Association’s recommended standard of 300 to 1 and impacting the amount of contact time with each student. Similarly, the nurse to student ratio of 1:1,450 exceeds the standard of 1:750, and needs to be evaluated to assure that sufficient health services are provided to students.
The BCHS Library Media Center is understaffed with one full-time, certified library media specialist and one secretary. State guidelines recommend that a school with over 400 students have at least one LMS. The population of the school is approaching 1,500 and evidence supports the difficulty in scheduling classes and addressing the needs of independent study students simultaneously throughout the school day. Interviews with faculty members, parents, and students support the need for access to the library media center before and after school. Additional LMC staffing would address these concerns and help make the LMC an even more vibrant resource for students and staff.
BCHS is a well-maintained and modern facility providing adequate space for instructional and administrative needs. Although an extensive renovation was completed in 2001, there are some facility needs that still must be addressed, including but not limited to inconsistent heating, cooling, and ventilation throughout the building and inadequate hot water in the family and consumer science area and the athletic locker rooms.There are not adequate and dependable sources of revenue to provide and to maintain appropriate school programs, personnel, services, equipment, technological support, materials, and supplies to support student learning at BCHS. When compared to schools in its educational reference group (ERG H) and to the state, Bristol’s per-pupil expenditure is approximately $1,500 per pupil behind. There is insufficient staffing in guidance, library media services, and in nursing. Also, with the additional sixth teaching assignment, BCHS teachers have increasing student loads, and time for collaboration and professional discourse have been compromised. Despite years of insufficient funding, however, teachers remain positive. For the school’s mission and expectations for student learning to be realized for each and every student, however, additional funding for staffing and programs must be provided.