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Excerpt of Graduation Speech to 8th Graders

Nick Leonardos

Executive Director

June, 2018

 

Excerpt of Graduation Speech to 8th Graders

 A few weeks ago we marked the 50th year since Robert Kennedy’s assassination, in June, 1968, while he was leading in the polls for the presidency of the United States. In 1966 he visited South Africa, at that time still 20 years from the end of Apartheid, and gave a speech that today is referred to as the “Ripple of Hope” speech.  I will share one sentence from that speech.

 'Each time someone stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, they send forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. "

 Every day in our country today, as in the sixties, there are stories that shock and horrify us, and other stories that offer us that ripple of hope.  I share this quote because it relates directly to our graduating Class of 2018.

 Our 8th graders this year provided our entire school with a memorable and lasting ripple of hope.  In the sad and scary days after the Parkland shooting they got together, energized about making an impact at our school and in our city on the issue of gun violence. They were seeing what was going on across our country and they wanted to make change happen, and so they did. Their ideas and conversation was shared with their teachers, and it spread to our leadership and to our entire school, and led to our first ever all-school Peace Walk .

 I have to say one of my favorite memories of this entire year was seeing our students during this walk, where many of us were wearing orange and white, which are the colors of the anti-gun violence movement. I was in my white pants and my orange jacket that I’ve actually had for a long time, and this was the perfect occasion to show it off. So I’m standing on the corner of Central and Market Street overseeing our 800 students walking through downtown along with great support from our leadership and teachers and the Lowell Police high fiving kids, helping to keep everyone safe. It’s near the end of the walk and our Class of 2018 are the last group through. At one point I turned around and Jabela caught sight of me in that jacket and gave me a shout and a smile that I’ll never forget. It was a quick small moments, one of many this year, that I will always remember when I think about this class of 2018. I will remember the Peace Walk as this group’s lasting legacy and really, your gift to our school.

 Robert Kennedy also used to refer to a Chinese saying back in the sixties, “May you live in interesting times”, as a way to sum up our country in 1968.  He would mention it not as a negative, but as a way to say that in such interesting times, there exists great opportunity for change for all of us to make the changes we want for our country, whether it’s gun violence, politics, or gender equality or civil rights. We are living right now in a world of change, but also a time for opportunity to make a lot of ripples.

 As you enter your high school years, on the road to adulthood and the promise of a life well lived ahead of you, I want you to continue to show the bravery, the poise, and that confidence in yourself that will help you continue to make those ripples that Robert Kennedy spoke of, and to turn those ripples into a current, to make our world and our nation a better place for everyone. Now is the time for us, for you, to be bold, to make an impact, to make some ripples. I’m looking forward to having you come back and visit with us, and let us know about the work you’re doing, how you’re doing, and the ripples you’re making.  Bravo Class of 2018.

All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Carey Reeve Hildebrant

Chief Academic Officer

May 2018

 

All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

 This year LCCPS has been engaged in a dissemination grant project with a partner school in Boston.  Our work has centered on school turnaround with a focus on early literacy.  Throughout the partnership this year, I have found myself returning to a few universal truisms.  I am reminded of a poster that hung in my room during my college years, “All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, “ that listed the basic truths of life from the eyes of a young child.  During our collective work this year – the celebrations, the frustrations, the successes and the setbacks – I am once again reminded of a set of core axioms that ground our work and set the stage for this type of turnaround work in a broader context.   

 

Less is more.

It is easy to approach turnaround with the grand “to-do” list that can become quickly overwhelming.   One must consider depth and breadth and balance the demands of both.  It is often better to do a couple of things really well versus being spread too thin or poorly executing a myriad of items.  Choose a focal point.  Set goals and measure progress.  Once the goal is reached or at least considerable momentum achieved, set a new goal and repeat the cycle. 

 

 Count the most important  - the most important counts.

During any full-scale turnaround, it is easy to fall into the trap of the “next best idea” or the new “buzz-word” or “hot topic.”  The pitfall often lies in putting too much time and energy into actions and initiatives that will not bring about the necessary change.  I would suggest that one must start with an honest needs analysis and move from there.  It is imperative to look at the goal at hand and align the action steps with the intended target.  Each action must count and in the end add up to the change sought. 

 

Do what you love with heart.

Change and turnaround take passion and commitment.  It is essential to build a proactive sense of urgency that is born from a desire to deliver upon the goal of excellence.  By nature, teachers have a passion for their craft.  Tap into this.  Define the direction you want to take as a school and then move toward that with deliberate and committed actions.  Turnaround is a team approach.  It takes the collective heart and pulse of the school to bring effective and lasting change. 

 

If you don’t know where you are going, you will end up someplace else.

Continual assessment and feedback is an integral part of this work.  One must know where they are headed and where they have started in order to track progress.  Creating a collective vision is only one piece of the puzzle.  Intentionally and systematically measuring and assessing growth not only helps to determine further actions but allows the important moments of celebration and/or recalibration. 

 

If it is not broken, don’t fix it.

When approaching an institutional turnaround or transformation, it is important to take stock of what is working and what isn’t.  In any school, one will find programs or initiatives that are the heartbeat of the school and are a success.  Cherish them.  If something is working, build from that success.  Schools are full of hidden gems of accomplishment.  Focus instead on what needs to be changed while always holding a mirror to reflect the daily progress and “good” that exists. 

Be your best self

Randy Taylor

Principal

April 2018

Be your best self

 

One of the benefits of being the Principal at Lowell Community Charter Public School is that I see teachers, staff, and students attempting to be their best selves.  We have so many wonderful teachers and staff that put in so much time and effort to ensure our students succeed.  The relationships matter and building positive collegial relationships allows for teachers and staff to be motivated to be their best selves and be an inspiration to their students.

Our students may be having difficulties when I am called in to intervene, but often their behaviors improve when they have time to reflect and consider multiple perspectives.  The interactions at this point are intended to teach students better coping skills and ways of turning a negative situation into a positive one moving forward.  One student who struggles to control her anger calms down and immediately begins to problem solve when reminded of her potential and leadership skills.  Another student hugs the student she was having a problem with after a conflict resolution meeting in which both students were reminded how nice they both are and how much their friendship matters to them both.  I am inspired by our students to work extremely hard to help them be successful in any and all of the challenges and obstacles they may face.

What I have come to find when talking to teachers, staff, and students is that they all learn to become their best self through their education at school and at home with their families and friends.  We all learn to be a better friend, a reliable professional, or a hard worker.  Important people in our lives often encourage us to strive for excellence.  Teachers and staff can often be that person in their students’ lives and provide the motivation to work hard to achieve high levels of success.

Making our parents, a teacher, or that special person proud of our accomplishments allows us to be our best self.  I have recently had my dad pass away.  He was a man that respected hard work and really valued high moral character.  I worked a long time to make him proud and will continue to do so in his memory.  Our teachers, staff, and students also push me to strive for excellence because I see them motivating the lives that they touch to be their best.  LCCPS is a special place of teachers, staff, and students striving for achievement, leadership, and excellence through so many endeavors to be their best self.

 

The Choice is Ours

Joseph Alcaraz

Assistant Principal

March 2018

 

The Choice is Ours

Choice is the act of choosing or the power of choosing. This is something we obviously have control over. Everyday we are faced with choices from the moment we wake up to the time we go to sleep. For some, choices become more of a habit out of daily routines, schedules or circumstances. For others, choices are made based on the desired outcome or outcomes we want to achieve. These are the choices I would like to highlight today.

Nearly a year ago I was presented with a new set of circumstances which would lead to some life changing opportunities, if I chose to embrace these new circumstances. I now had the choice to relocate myself and my family to a new state, which meant I would need to search for a new home and new employment opportunities. I had the choice to do all this or remain in an area which provided, structure, comfort, and familiarity. However, do to my desire to achieve goals and positive outcomes for me and my family, I chose to relocate here to the East Coast and partner with LCCPS. Similar to the families that chose LCCPS as the school for their children, a choice was made based on their own unique set of circumstances or desires they wanted for their children and family.  

With school of choice, parents now have more freedom to choose a school for their children. Once a school has been chosen, parents have the opportunity to participate in their child’s education and in reality, the level of participation comes down to yet another choice. According to Moroni, Dumont, Trautwein and Baeriswyl, “It is widely believed that parents’ involvement in their children’s academic life has positive effects on children’s academic achievement.” (p 417, 2015). Other studies over the last decade also support the correlation between parental involvement and academic gains. Parents today are no doubt very busy, and routines, schedules, or other factors may play a role in the level of involvement they are able or desire to achieve. However, since studies indicate parental involvement have positive effect on student academic achievement, the choice is made clear. Parental involvement and participation comes in many forms. Below are some examples:

  • Homework: is an important part not only of students’ but also of parents’ daily lives, and it can be viewed as the setting in which home and school intersect most closely
  • School based involvement: practices involving direct school contact between parents and school.
  • Volunteering at your child’s school.
  • Communication: Regularly communicate with your child’s teacher or school administrators via phone call, text message, email, or in person. This allows you to stay connected with what is currently happening in the school or classroom.

 

Throughout our day we make countless choices based on their benefits. From going to sleep early, joining a gym, the route we take to work to save on gas, to the choice to make dinner verse the expense of dining out, we continue to make choices for a desired outcome. What could be more important than preparing our children to compete in today’s challenging world? The key is for parents to get involved and stay involved as often as they can.

 

“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.” 
― Roy T. BennettThe Light in the Heart

 

Reference:

Moroni, S., Dumont, H., Trautwein, U., Niggli, A., & Baeriswyl, F. (2015). The Need to Distinguish

Between Quantity and Quality in Research on Parental Involvement: The Example of Parental Help with Homework. Journal of Educational Research, 108(5), 417-431. doi:10.1080/00220671.2014.901283

Technology

Jeff Portnoy

Director of Information Technology

February 2018

 

In the last ten years, LCCPS has made many technological improvements. Before that time, our school possessed one or two computer labs and a cart of iPods. Today, each of the students in grades 3 though 8 are provided with a Chromebook. In grades 7th and 8th with Kindle Paper white or Kindle fire. LCCPS has three computer labs and iPad centers for grades K1-3.

Technology is a tool that increases productivity, helps students take ownership of their learning, and if used correctly can make things simpler. The one thing it can’t do (yet!) is lead. The Chromebook has become a terrific tool for learning but still requires great teachers and parents to guide our students forward.

With any tool we need to use it responsibly. Please remember to:

  • Keep your personal information safe (especially login information)
  • Report cyber bullying
  • Be respectful in posting, comments etc
  • Remember to adhere to the Lowell Community Charter Public School User Agreement

We have recently taken the following three technological initiatives:

  1. One-to-one Chromebooks for grades 3 though 8. Each grade level between 3rd and 8th have a one-to-one student:Chromebook ratio.
  2.  One-to-one Kindles for grades 7th and 8th
  3. We are also in the process of moving to a more paperless system. Changes like these are usually hard to make. To change the way you have done something for years does not come easy. But we are making progress. An example of this initiative includes our lunch menus (Nutrition at LCCPS) which can now be found on the website instead of making hundreds of paper copies each month. We have also been using e-mail a lot more to communicate with parents. Moreover, parents can now view grades online with the Parent Portal (Plus Portal Link). Further, the 8th grade has taken the initiative to be completely paperless (congratulations 8th grade team!). 

There has been much progress made in the area of technology. However, we continue to have a lot of work ahead.

A day i will never forget

Elvira Paulino

Director of Human Resources

January 2018

 

A Day I Will Never Forget

 June 17, 1968—that’s a day I will never forget. The Catholic boarding school that I attended decided to get me a United States Student Visa and send me to New Orleans, Louisiana to learn English and later go to school in Baton Rouge. Here I was just 16 years old, with a Student Visa and a ticket to my future.

I had no time for tears. I left my family when I was just seven years old to go to boarding schools in Santiago, Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, and then on to Barcelona, Spain; always knowing that my education and scholarships depended on A’s or minimum B’s in every yearly report card. Lacking that, I would be sent back to the tiny town of Guanabano to my parents.

The United States and New Orleans were unknown to me. I had no knowledge of the racial divides in the South at the time. Being neither Black nor White was challenging in many ways, particularly on the streetcars in New Orleans where I found that I was rejected by the Whites up front, and resented by the Blacks who were forced to sit in the back. I had to find my space, my seat somewhere between the two groups. I had no one I could talk to about my feelings in this strange and antagonistic environment, and the many challenges I faced at that time in my life.

While the years and the generations are different, my story is not particularly different from the stories of many of our immigrant LCCPS families and children. Many had to sacrifice greatly to leave their homes and countries for safety and security, some seeking asylum, and others looking for better opportunities. We don’t think about it a lot, but it requires major motivation for a family to pull up its roots and move to another country about which they know little.

But among our families, we see how they have sacrificed to follow their dreams, to seek a better life, and to build a better future for their children. This is what motivates me and makes me very proud of the LCCPS. Our school is very welcoming to our immigrants.

Building a community starts with us, our Leadership, our Faculty, Administration and our Support Staff.  We know that there are many ways in which we can make a difference. We are very diverse and therefore mirror the community that we serve. Together, we build bridges and find common ground.

We are aware of the challenges that immigrants face as they adjust to life in an unfamiliar place and culture. We help them navigate school enrollment, and walk alongside them as we learn from them, they learn from us. We work at welcoming and encouraging immigrants (including refugees) from all backgrounds to thrive.

We have an outstanding English Language Learners program and our Special Education Program is second to none! English can be a transition to many families and students. We know that learning English is crucial to the successful education of our students. These programs are either unknown in many countries or available only to privileged social classes.

Our School Parent Alliance meetings are getting high marks from our families. We are providing the families valuable information, building their skills needed to help them with their children’s education at home.

In turn, our LCCPS community is vibrant in part because of the diversity of thought, culture and experiences that immigrants and refugees bring to our school.

LCCPS is very proud of the brave immigrants who made the difficult decision to leave their homes for an uncertain future, and I am very proud of the LCCPS which daily demonstrates its commitment to our immigrants.

Understanding ADHD

Kim Woodford

Director of Student Support Services

December 2017

 

Understanding ADHD

ADHD is a common childhood diagnosis that affects up to 11% of children.

Is this your child?

  • Fidgety and squirmy
  • Is easily bored
  • Listens poorly
  • Has a short attention span
  • Resists authority
  • Frustrates easily
  • Thrill seeker
  • Highly Impatient.

Not all children with ADHD display the same behaviors and children can have one or a combined type of ADHD:

Inattentive: The child is not hyperactive but instead may appear “spacey” and often fails to pick up on some or part of the information that is shared verbally or in writing.

Hyperactive:  The child may have constant fidgeting, moving, and difficulty staying seated in class and finds it hard to stay focused on one tasks.

Impulsive:  The student has a tendency to act before thinking about the consequences. The student may engage in physical and socially risky behaviors.

Research suggest that children with ADHD have the best outcomes when there are a combination of strategies implemented:  Effective parenting, a correct diagnosis, proper behavioral and educational interventions, counseling and possibly medication managed by a doctor. Students with ADHD tend to have a great deal of energy and curiosity.  These students often like to problem solve and are ‘big picture’ thinkers.

What Can Parents Do?

Create a structured home environment

Encourage regular exercise

Provide structured homework time

Use timers

Set clear rules.

Check in with Health-Care providers

Follow up with the teacher(s)

Provide Incentives and praise

Limit screen-time

What Can Schools Do?

Provide benchmarks and deadlines

Teach time management skills

Provide motor breaks

Have consistent classroom rules.

Structure transitions

Provide alternate seating options

Have a secret signal to remind the student to focus

Praise and reward system.

Use visuals (charts, pictures, color coding)

What can Students Do?

Exercise regularly

Get enough sleep

Use checklists

Use an agenda

Self-advocate (ask for help)

Study a little bit every day to prepare for a test

Use a binder system

Try new strategies that parent and teachers recommend

Growing Parent Engagement at LCCPS

Sonya Patton

Director of Student and Parent Engagement

November 2017

 

Growing Parent Engagement at LCCPS

What is Parent Engagement?

 

Parent engagement in schools is defined as parents and school staff working together to support and improve the learning, development and health of children and adolescents. Parent engagement in schools is a shared responsibility in which schools are committed to reaching out to engage parents in meaningful ways, and parents are committed to actively supporting their children’s and adolescents’ learning and development (www.apa.org).

 

As I have been thinking about all of the exciting ways that LCCPS parents have been engaged in our school over the years, I smile. I recall the days of uniform sales, various fundraisers, especially the famous pie sale, the first LCCPS Family BBQ on Jackson Street, the 50/50 raffles sales, movie nights and the Saturday morning Polar Express in December. What great times!

 

Overtime as our school has turned around, settled and raised our academic scores and became a level one school, parent engagement began to dissipate. Over the last few years or so, it appears that parents become complacent with how the school was been running and didn’t see a need to be as engaged as much as they were during the beginning of our turnaround years. The new buzz phrase became “parent involvement.” Parent involvement is when parents come to meetings and absorb the information that is being given by the school.

 

Involvement is great, but we need a healthy balance of involvement and engagement. Please continue to come and be involved in learning about the school because we always have amazing things happening here!

 

As for engagement, we would like more parents to be engaged as we are preparing to embark on building another five year strategic plan for the school. The plan will determine what initiatives and goals the school will be working on over the next five years. We will have a few representatives from our stakeholders in this process such as Board members, Leadership members, teachers and parents which will become our Strategic Plan Committee. If you are not part of the committee, you can still provide some feed back to the school by filling out the survey below. There will be other opportunities to share your thoughts with us as well so stay tuned.

 

We need parents to be actively engaged at LCCPS. We have revised our Parent Advisory Committee and created the new School Parent Alliance (SPA). We felt the reconstruction of this committee was more befitting to our commitment of building more parent engagement. The idea is to have parents not only come and be involved at LCCPS, which is still quite important, but to engage in activities and/or conversations for the betterment of themselves, the students and the school community.

 

Please consider attending the monthly School Parent Alliance meetings which are usually held on Wednesday evenings from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm. We provide daycare and light refreshments. We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas as we continue to grow as a school.

The remaining SPA meeting dates are: January 17th, February 28th, March 14th, April 25th, and May 16th. On June 6th we will have our annual block party on Jackson Street so stay tuned for more information coming in 2018.

 

We recently emailed a survey requesting parent input about the school. The last day to take the survey is December 20th. This is a great way to engage with LCCPS. The links are as follows:

English Survey:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/7L59XKT 

Spanish Survey:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9LWWPMT

   Khmer Survey:  https://goo.gl/forms/3oslfQTxOoFSBEgp1

   Portuguese Survey:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/99K9KLZ

 

Moreover, in our new political climate, charter schools are in need of all of the support they can get. If you believe that your child is receiving an awesome education at LCCPS, then please reach out to your State Representative, Congress Person or Senator to inform them that you support the charter school. Please include a description of what the experience has been for you and your child at LCCPS.

 

It’s going to take all of us to lift our voices in support of charter schools by engaging in dialogue via phone, letter or email with our political leaders so they recognize that charter schools are important to our children’s education and therefore, should continue to be supported. Please understand that this is not a fight against public schools but, we need to lift our voices for choice.

 

Kinder to Senior

Deborah Motew

Director of Operations

October 2017

 

Kindergarten to Senior

Every two or three years around this time I have an unofficial duty, to assist those in my family who have children in their senior year of high school with their applications to colleges and universities.  I come from a huge family.  I am the first one in my family to attend a university and receive a degree.  Naturally, I am honored to play this role.  Truth be told, I love being a tour guide too.

My blog is to share and draw parallels between getting into a university and a choice school; particularly charter schools.  While there are differences due to admission policies, the steps are somewhat the same.  It is about planning! 

The conversation regarding colleges for my young family members happens very early on.  As early as…. well Kindergarten. This may seem early, but has proven successful for my family. We call it “an ongoing talk”. The conversation encompasses college and career choices.  In the past, as my family members have progressed through the ranks from Kindergarten to senior year, we have mostly agreed on and sought after four-year institutions, preferably in the New England area. We have encouraged choosing majors that suits the student, balanced with the potential economic payoff. The quality of school along with cost has always been a consideration. Post- graduation plans were discussed too.   

This bring me to the admission and enrollment process for the prospective families interested in applying to LCCPS.  While there are differences, the process is similar. We encourage parents to learn about our assessment results, school levels, ratings, and our philosophy and mission.  Early September through late February, parents are encouraged to apply.  To help facilitate the process LCCPS provides information flyers throughout the community in multiple languages.  We probably kill a few trees doing it too. We also try hard to get the word out through local newspapers, and media outlets, such as Rumbo, Brazilian times, Bate Papo, church bulletin boards, and the KhmerPost, to name a few.  

At LCCPS, the application process is parent friendly. Turn in a completed application, two proofs of address, and a birth certificate if your child is applying for grades K1 or K2. LCCPS’ acceptance policy is based on placement availability rather than prior or future achievements; hence the lottery process. Please see our policy (http://www.lccps.org/Enrollment_Policy).

Here are a few tips for prospective families in grades K1-8 who are interested in applying to LCCPS. 

  • The deadline for turning in a completed application is Friday, February 16, 2018 at Noon.
  • LCCPS application can be picked up at the school, online or print one out at lccps.org.
  • Tours are conducted every Tuesday at 9AM starting in mid-November. Come and learn about us!
  • The lottery is on Wednesday, March 1, 2018 at 5:30PM
  • Learn the profile of charter schools in Massachusetts at http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/search/search.aspx?leftNavId=11238

 

The same process can be said for senior high school students. Parents and their children need to do due diligence. Dig a little deeper into the planning process. Questions and concerns should be explored. Start the process early by working with your child’s guidance counselors. There is a plethora of websites that can help ease the applying process not to mentioned anxiety. 

 

  • Which college/university am I going into next fall?
  • What essays?
  • How much does it cost? Can we get financial aid, where is the application for financial aid?
  • Visit a campus, tour?
  • When is the due date?
  • What are the requirements for the application?
  • Who do I need to get the recommendation from?
  • What major?

 

 

  1. https://www.uml.edu/admissions/apply/
  2. https://www.middlesex.mass.edu/admissionrequirements/default.aspx
  3. https://degrees.snhu.edu/why-snhu#request-info-form
  4. http://www.fitchburgstate.edu/admissions/
  5. https://www.bu.edu/admissions/
  6. http://mitadmissions.org/apply
  7. http://www.mass.edu/osfa/home/home.asp
  8. http://www.mass.edu/osfa/programs/massgrant.asp
  9. https://www.livecareer.com/quintessential/15-college-acceptance-tips from Randall S. Hansen

https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2012/09/25/focus-on-7-strategies-to-get-into-college

Brick by Brick

Nicholas Leonardos

Executive Director

September 2017

 

Brick by brick.

 During the first six weeks of school, teachers are busy building a positive structure they hope will serve their students well for the entire school year.  Getting off on the right foot, creating strong, positive classroom cultures now will pay off in December, March, and June.  This is always the work of schools in September.  Teachers are building that structure, the way a mason builds a strong building, one brick at a time, carefully and deliberately placed, with mortar keeping it all together.

Our school building was made of such stuff, back in 1873, both Mills 5 and 6.  Those bricks have lasted a long time, and like a classroom built on care and dedication, our bricks need repointing and attention consistently. I’ve been working with our team and our board to address our bricks and ensure that all sides of the building are strong and beautiful, the same way teachers want their classroom cultures to be strong and beautiful.

Teachers build classroom cultures by cultivating relationships with kids by showing genuine interest and care, by letting kids know they enjoy them as individuals and will pay them the right kind of attention. Teachers build respect by knowing how to ask kids to do things they can do, to show students they can do things they might not think they can do, expect them to do well in the process, and recognize them when they reach those expectations, and encourage them to give effort along the way.  It’s about creating authentic and positive relationships with each of two dozen students.  It’s about knowing how to use your eyebrows, mouth, and eyes to send the right message.  It’s about carefully gauging what to say, when to say it and who to say it to, every moment from 7:45am to 3:30pm 185 days a year.

Good teaching is about knowing about your subject matter, whether it is Math, Reading, Science, Social Studies, Music, Art, Technology, or PE, to name a few.  It’s also about knowing how to talk and relate to kids from a social and emotional standpoint, which in many ways is the first and most important part of the job.  They say a teacher makes 1500 decisions in a six hour day.  http://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/teacher-makes-1500-decisions-a-day/.  Here at LCCPS we have nearly an 8-hour day, so it’s close to 2,000.  Over the year it is 370,000.  Teachers have a challenging and demanding job and they do much of it alone all day, very much like a mason, they are responsible for their structure.  When many teachers work in a school, they all contribute to its success the same way a team of masons builds a strong building. They each have their part that they are working on that contributes to the overall strength and beauty of the building as a whole. 

Support Services Program

Kim Woodford

Director of Student Support Services

August 2017 

 

Lowell Community Charter Public School (LCCPS) has been partnering with the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association since 2014.  For the past three years LCCPS has been invited to participate as part of the Model Demonstration School (MDS) initiative.  The focus of the Model Demonstration Schools it to provide intensive, embedded, expert coaching for cross functional charter school teams to build school capacity to support students with disabilities and/or English learners. Each year the MDS and LCCPS team meet to identify a goal.  For FY17 the MDS Goal was: Create and pilot a modified fourth grade ELA curriculum to support the demonstrated needs of a group of ten fourth grade students who are significantly below grade level in this area. The team discussed how to allocate resources for the students, what tools would be utilized, and what part of the curriculum to focus on.  The team also discussed the roles of the teacher, reading intervention staff and paraprofessional.    .

  • LCCPS now has a template to use when looking at the incoming 4th graders who are struggling learners.
  • There was a large focus on Differentiated instruction so that information is presented and accessed through multiple means.
  • Scaffolding tools were identified to guide the learning.
  • Training was given to the Paraprofessional on how to use: Fountas and Pennell’s Leveled Literacy Intervention. The role for the Paraprofessional was to implement 30 minute lessons, 5 days a week.
  • Special Education Teacher worked with Curriculum Director to identify what reading materials would be used. She designed the specialized instruction and lesson plans.  The grading of the students was also shifted to the Special Education Teacher as well as the documentation of modifications for grading purposes.
  • Special Education Reading Interventionist focused on phonics, fluency and individual plans.

 Our students had an opportunity to practice skills on a daily basis, took more classrooms risks as the material was presented at a meaningful pace, and were not dragged through the curriculum but instead had more time to dig deeper into the curriculum.  There was an organized approach to the instruction that included common language and daily structure for reading and listening.  The special educator was able to provide final benchmark data that highlighted individual student growth. The Current Special Education Teacher who delivered the instruction will Loop to 5th grade with these students

As this group transitions to 5th grade planning, tracking of curriculum, skills and activities will be important data points to review.

The Power of Athletics at the Middle School level

 At LCCPS our sports program helps to shape and mold our school’s culture.  This year LCCPS had 325, 4th-8th grade students participate in six different sports to include Varsity and Junior Varsity Co-Ed Volleyball, Boys and Girls Soccer and Cross Country, Varsity and Junior Varsity Co-Ed Cheerleading, Boys and Girls Varsity and Junior Varsity Basketball, and Track and Field.

Highlights include:

  • Boys Soccer Champions for the 2016 Ecumenical Athletic Association (EAA) League. Team went undefeated
  • Girls Cross Country Team EAA Champions 2016
  • Varsity Cheer Leading won the 2017 EAA Cheer Competition
  • Boys Varsity Basketball had a undefeated regular season
  • Boys and Girls are the 2017 Track and Field EAA Champions
  • Boys Track and Field placed 3rd in the Massachusetts Middle State Championship
  • Several Athletes participated in the National Track and Field Junior Olympics

 The National Federation of State High School Association estimated that more that 7.6 million high school students (over 55% of all students) played sports during the 2010-2011 academic year. At LCCPS that number is significantly higher for our middle school students. 

 The benefits of sports participation are well documented.  The social, emotional and physical benefits are numerous. Physically it decreases the rate of obesity, lowers body mass, hypertension and diabetes and improves pulmonary function. 

 Socially, the Journal of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine and The National Household Survey of Drug Abuse state that competitive athletes are less likely to smoke and use illicit drugs which have a significant positive impact on prevention.  The Women’s Sports Foundation has stated that female high school athletes are 80% less likely to become pregnant than non-athletes.  At LCCPS our student athletes are less likely to have discipline concerns and more likely to encourage others to do the right thing. 

 The academic benefits show that athletes have higher grade point averages, and standardize test scores, attendance rates, lower dropout rates and better chances to go to college. All of these benefits are demonstrated at LCCPS.

 On any given day students demonstrate their Panther pride by wearing a team jersey that is allowed as part of their school uniform.  The satisfaction on their faces exudes confidence. Students-athletes are reminded of additional behavior expectations that they must demonstrate as they represent our school. 

With all of these benefits and the pride that sports bring to our school, it will not be a surprise if we have more than 325 students participate next in next year’s sports program.

Cultural Proficiency Journey: The Beginning

 LCCPS has taken its first steps on the journey of cultural proficiency. Regis Shields of RAS Consultants, Incorporated and Sonya Patton, Director of High School Transition & Externa Programs of LCCPS are the trainers for competency professional development. The training is set up in three modules which all staff will be studying over a three year period. The modules are Awareness, Knowledge and Skill. Awareness of ourselves as individuals and how our biases, values, beliefs  and privilege impact our relationships with each other, students, parents and community. Knowledge of the cultural norms of our students and parents so that we are more culturally sensitive in our educational practices and have deeper understanding of how to navigate our relationship with students and parents around education.

 We will provide an opportunity of any staff who is interested to work with Regis and Sonya on a cultural research project that will help to discover more information about the various countries that we serve. This project will take place in the school year 2017-2018 in hopes to have a complete body of work by school year 2018-2019. The idea is to be able to use this body of work for new staff members of LCCPS. We are looking for opportunities to disseminate our school’s progress as we move through this journey.

 In November 2017, two faculty members and an administrator will be attending the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) International Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah to present The Intersectionality of Diversity & Inclusion: One School’s Journey. One of the faculty members took the lead as the other faculty member and administrator chimed in to complete the NAME grant and the grant proposal was accepted.

 The last module will be Skill. During the Skill module we will be looking for ways to apply what we learned over the course of the training. We will be analyzing what we currently do in all areas of LCCPS and how we can do it better based on what we have learned. We will be able to identify best practices in all areas of the school and in our policies. This is where the infusion of the changed mindsets and beliefs will happen. Where the transformation that has been happening throughout the journey comes to life in hearts, our daily practices and interactions with each other, with students in classrooms, lunchrooms, hallways, with parents and family members and with our community.

 Currently we are finishing up our first module of Awareness with the teaching staff. It was not an easy module as there were times when our beliefs and values were challenged, but we stayed the course and continued to question, share “I” statements and learn together. Stay tuned for more updates as we move through our journey.

Losing Pounds and Raising Scores

 Throughout the past couple of years, I have been asked what our secret to MCAS success is?   What specifically led to our students being better prepared to pass the state test? Almost as if it is a set of steps one follows to mastery.  I have never had a direct response as it has seemed like a woven web of actions, all building off each other. A couple of months ago, I found myself sitting in my dietician’s office asking her for the secret to weight loss.  She smiled and I waited the entire session but there was no secret shared.  I have reflected on these similar lines of questioning over the past couple of months.  I have come to a conclusion:  weight loss and test preparation involve the same set of core actions or beliefs.

 First:  Both necessitate a shift in thinking.

 Weight loss demands a new paradigm in which food is used for fuel not stress relief.   Exercise must become a way of life instead of a chore.  Test preparation requires a systemic shift in which an organization sees the assessment as part of the daily process.  MCAS skills and practice become embedded into the core curriculum such that what is taught, mastered and practiced helps the student succeed.  The test becomes just another way students showcase their mastery.  Note that it is another way not the only way.  The curriculum remains rich in text, writing, exploration and critical thinking.  Yet it is further bolstered by intentional test preparation. 

 Second:  Positive attitude required.

 The old adage “you are what you believe” rings true.  Weight loss is as much conquering the mind, as it is the body.  One must visualize him/herself as that healthier individual.  Students perform as they believe. Test preparation requires a belief that students will succeed and that by putting in the effort one will see results.  If every time one examines a MCAS question or works on an open response, the teacher groans and tells the students it will be over soon, a negative message is sent.  At LCCPS, we put a little “rah rah” in to our preparation, motivating our students to take risks and be proud of their successes.  We examine what it takes to move from a 2 to a 3 in an extended response and celebrate when we do.    

 Third:  Progress is gained little by little. 

 One doesn’t lose ten pounds all at once.  In fact, at times the progress can seem painstakingly slow.  There are even times when one seems to gain a pound in order to lose three.   The same is true in regards to student achievement.  Our turnaround has been a consistent climb upward but the steps in between have been small.  A change in a school’s achievement happens student-by-student and at times standard-by-standard.  It is impossible to focus on everything all at once.  Set goals.  What are we focusing on this month?  This year?  Where do we expect to see improvements and how will we know when we met our goal?  Frequent assessments with students help drive this initiative.  Similar to stepping on the scale each week, our students must know when they are improving and mastering content.  It isn’t enough for the teacher to see this progress.  The buy-in lives with the students. 

 Fourth:  Purposeful planning is key.

 I have learned the importance of meal prep.    One has to prepare to eat healthy as junk food and carbs are much easier to grab on the go.  This involves proactive grocery shopping and meal planning and even the time cutting and preparing food for the week ahead.  Test preparation isn’t any different.  It can’t all be packed in to the week right before testing.  Instead it is spread throughout the months so that students have time to grow and build upon their standard mastery.  Unit and lesson planning is a crucial step in this process.  It is imperative to know what standards are being addressed in which units and then how test preparation can be embedded.  At LCCPS, we have built in test-aligned performance tasks into each unit so that are students are authentically practicing those skills throughout the year.    

 Fifth:  Fads are everywhere.  Beware!

 Advertisements for the newest workout or slickest machines adorn the web.  Ten minutes a day and you will have the body you have always dreamed of.  Don’t eat this!  Eat this! Use this program and your students will make 1 year’s growth in three months.  Buy this new workbook, recently published and aligned to the increased state-testing rigor.  There is a magical answer – the teacher and best practices.  If you want to have students perform better on the ELA test, have them read and discuss texts across disciplines and genres.  Have students write -  and write a lot.  If you want to have students perform better in math, have them solve complex problems and talk about their answers and reasoning.  Classrooms need to be bursting with a joy for learning. 

 Losing pounds and raising scores take time, effort and heart.  The answer lies within the person or organization instead of around it.  Each school must find its own path that gets to the soul of its educational culture and rhythm while putting into action the core truths outlined above.   

Cultural Proficiency

 The world in which you were born

Is just one model of reality.

Other cultures are not

Failed attempts at being you;

They are unique manifestations of the human spirit.

-Wade Davis, Anthropologist

At Lowell Community Charter School we are proud of our diverse student body and point this fact out to many of our visitors and prospective families.    Yet, if we look deeper, we know that our students deserve more than our pride.  They deserve educators who are culturally proficient and bring skills and understanding to all aspects of work and relationships.

We are committed to develop our cultural proficiency.  Many ask, what does it mean?  Cultural proficiency is an approach to teaching and learning that embraces diversity and responds to it in ways that acknowledge and respect cultural differences.  This acknowledgment and respect move beyond the multi-cultural day events, which are still valuable celebrations of a diverse school community, to a mindset and deeply held beliefs that guide all facets of our daily life and work. Ultimately, it is a paradigm shift from viewing cultural differences as issues to learning how to interact and effectively embrace culture to improve school and student achievement.

A culturally proficient faculty, staff and school are essential to truly meeting high expectations for all students. Failure to embrace our students’ cultures as assets gives rise to deficit based thinking and places far too many students in danger of being disengaged from the learning process. Evidence is clear that student engagement is a robust predictor of higher student performance and positive behavior. Engagement means not only appealing to student interests and providing project-based learning but also requires that we acknowledge our students’ cultures in school and classroom norms, pedagogical practices, curriculum and parent and family involvement.

Becoming a culturally proficient school is a journey. A shift in mindsets and beliefs happens only over time, with support, deep personal reflection and real world experiences. If we are intent on transforming our school into a pluralistic and inclusive workplace we must first be willing to look at our own biases as well as the sociopolitical issues that confront culturally different individuals. This is demanding work, often challenging long held beliefs about identity, race, and privilege.

In the coming weeks LCCPS will be taking the first step on this journey.  Beginning with instructional staff, LCCPS will begin professional development focused on cultural proficiency.  The goals of these sessions is to lay the foundation for understanding Cultural Proficiency and its connection to positive school culture and increased student achievement as well as begin to recognize our own biases, the action steps we can take and the sociopolitical issues that confront culturally different individuals. This is only the first step in our school-wide effort. As our journey unfolds we will be adding additional training session for all staff and looking for other modes of delivery and development to include the entire school community.

Creative Partnerships for ELL success

Once in a while, I stumble across something that I like to call a gem of urban education. Such “gems” are techniques and practices that address one (and sometimes many) of the numerous obstacles that face students and educators in challenging urban environments.

I want to tell you about one such gem developed by an ELL educator at LCCPS. Just for a little context, LCCPS has a student population that is classified as over 50% English language learners.  With a language other than English being the primary one spoken in the home, supporting these students brings with it a variety of challenges.  We have a robust ESL program with educators that provide small group as well as inclusion support. The classroom teachers are endorsed with Sheltered English Instruction training. Our curriculum has a deeply embedded emphasis on literacy skill-building and we focus closely on developing and reinforcing English skills across all the domains of listening, speaking, reading, and writing from kindergarten through grade eight.   We are (justly) proud of the work we do in the classroom to support all students.

But we know that what happens outside the classroom matters a great deal. For native English speakers, fluency is developed and supported at home by family members. For English language learners that is not necessarily the case. Therefore, in additional to school, any other resources in the community resources are an enormous asset. The library is a wonderful source for books, newspapers, magazines, movies, and special programs. Many families cannot afford to purchase these materials and are not aware that they can be borrowed for free from the library.   Four years ago, one of our ELL educators realized that the families of her first grade students – many of whom were recent immigrants - were not accessing the local city library and that they were unaware that such a resource even existed!

She contacted the city’s Pollard Memorial Library and made arrangements for a librarian to visit the school and educate all first grade students about the myriad of resources available. Some of these programs include arts and crafts, story hour, ESL tutoring, and lectures. The students were motivated to share this information with their parents.  Each student was then given a library card application (in English as well as their native language) for the parent to fill out and have the child return to school.  The project became a priority and an annual tradition for the first grade.  It includes a walking field trip each spring for the library tour and scavenger hunt! It will also grow to include special evening events at the library for LCCPS families. Throughout the duration of this program over 150 Lowell families have been issued library cards. This year alone, nearly half of all first graders(50) at LCCPS applied for their own library card through the partnership program.

The partnership between the school and the library provides enormous benefits for the school, for the library, and most importantly, for our students and families. The library has increased its user base as excited children pull their families by the hand through the library’s doors and toward the children’s section. The school’s work to improve elementary reading skills is supported by an increased wave of excitement about reading from the first grade cohort and access to the library’s treasure trove of books. For our students and families, the library provides not only books, but numerous community resources, educational opportunities and connections to services that many of our immigrant families have struggled to access.

As with anything, this little gem of creative partnership is not a miracle cure-all. We still have reluctant readers in first grade. Our students still struggle with the English language, fluency, and reading comprehension.  Unfortunately, many of our families are still missing out on this valuable school/community connection.   However, we still get excited when the library’s representative comes to visit and when we send home our students with their brand new library card!  That educator proudly reports on the number of library card applications that are received and processed.  We feel so rewarded when families tell us that they are now visiting the library and that they found something new there. It’s not everything, but it’s enough for now.