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Conte Makes 2021 School Improvement Plan, Addresses Student Feelings
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
03:55PM / Tuesday, January 12, 2021
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A student survey found that many children at Conte Community School feel isolated from their peers but also feel loved and safe.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Conte Community School's 2021 School Improvement Plan is using internally researched data to meet the needs of pupils during these difficult times.

As a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, a student survey revealed that amidst remote learning, Conte pupils are struggling with positive feelings and are feeling isolated from their peers.

Students were asked how often they felt excited, happy, loved, and safe over the past week. Only 39 percent of students answered favorably to feeling excited and 50 percent answered favorably to feeling happy.

Fortunately, 65 percent of students voted in favor of feeling loved, and 81 percent feeling safe.

When being asked how connected the children felt to their peers right now, only 33 percent answered favorably.

Districtwise, 63 percent of students answered favorably to the survey's "positive feeling" portion, and 64 percent in the student engagement section.

Principal Kerry Light told the School Council on Monday that these feelings are happening everywhere, as the pandemic has touched everyone's lives. Regardless, the school is using strategic planning and brainstorming to aid this effect.

"Right now the learning model is out of our control," she said. "So I say that the thing we do have control over is relationships."

The school scored best on school public health measures, which applied to the time that it was operating in person. Fifty-nine percent of students answered that it was easy to sanitize hands, wear a mask, and stay 6 feet away from others. The districtwide average for these criteria was 53 percent.

"For the most part I have to say that when we were in person, the kids did a fantastic job at following routines," Light said.

In Monday's School Council meeting, Light explained that School Improvement Planning is made around four improvement practices that are proven to be the top methods that turn around schools.

The four focus areas are:

  • Leadership, shared responsibility, and collaboration.
  • Intentional practices for improving instruction.
  • Providing student-specific supports and instruction to all students.
  • School climate and culture.

Light said Conte's strongest area is in the first turnaround practice of leadership shared responsibility and collaboration. She explained that the school has three big things currently happening under this practice.

Conte has a data team that meets biweekly to analyze data and trends for evidence-based research to drive changes in the curriculum. The data team is currently working on foundational reading instruction happening in Grades K-5 by examining lesson plans and giving staff a survey.

The school is also looking at Common Planning, which is a sanctioned time during the school day for multiple teachers, or teams of teachers, to work together. Starting on Jan. 19, all teachers will have 45 minutes out of every day geared toward common planning.   

"We now know, especially from turnaround schools, that it is really true effective collaboration with really structured routines and protocols that can really turn around a building and really impact high student achievement," Light said.

To further enrich student's education, Conte's Instructional Leadership Team is looking at designing, structuring, and refining teacher's professional learning experiences to implement into the core curriculum for growth-producing feedback.

Conte's intentional practices for improving instruction focus on higher-order thinking skills, student discourse, and making every student visible while meeting a diverse ray of needs.

"What I keep saying to teachers is 'take the remote out of it,'" Light said. "In general, when we talk about instruction we're just talking about instruction, what is going to make a high-quality lesson, whether you are remote or whether you're in person."  

To provide specific supports and instruction to all students, all students will be a part of a work skills block. During this time, targeted instruction for most at-risk students will occur while enrichment will be provided for other students. No new material will be taught but the students will remain to receive instruction.

In regard to the school's climate and culture, Conte wants to bolster students' sense of belonging and increase engagement and ownership over their own learning.

On Jan, 19, all elementary schools will begin their adjusted schedules, which start the school day for Grades 1-5 at 8:45 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m., and kindergarten students having a shorter day following an AM/PM format.

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