EAST LONGMEADOW — The East Longmeadow School Committee voted to approve a three-year plan to tackle diversity in its staff, educating teachers on new curricula and greater collaboration between teachers to support students.

Under the Student Opportunity Act, school departments must submit a plan to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education every three years. DESE provides administrations with a list of potential focus areas from which it can choose to set goals for the next three years.

East Longmeadow Public Schools chose to focus on three areas of improvement, after examining MCAS achievement and other academic growth metrics. The department found the measured academic achievement levels of students who identify as Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino are flat compared to their white and Asian counterparts. The data also showed a lack of growth among students who are English language learners and students with disabilities, with the latter category reflecting the greatest need of support.

Based on these findings, the School Department’s first topic of focus is improving professional development around newly implemented curricula.

The schools recently put in place new curriculum for English language arts in grades K-5, math in K-12 and science in grades 6-8. Next year, new curricula for middle school English language arts and high school science will be selected. A high school-level English language arts curriculum may also be implemented in the 2025-26 school year. The changes to the curricula were made in an ongoing effort to provide “high-quality” and “standards-aligned” materials and instruction for students, in keeping with DESE’s guidelines.

When new curricula is introduced, professional development is needed to prepare teachers on new instructional methods and content. There are also opportunities for continued professional development.

“It’s never one and done,” said Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Heather Brown.

In addition to professional development, the School Department has included in its goal the use of the schools’ support teams and frequent walk-throughs to monitor the curricula’s effective implementation.
Another goal identified by the administration is aimed at addressing the achievement gap of English language learners and students with disabilities. Following the principles of the multi-tiered systems of support, the school department has contracted with Seacoast Consultants to develop “co-teaching models” that use collaborative planning and instruction that provides general support all students, while also giving needed support to students with disabilities and English language learners. Brown said that co-teaching will “remove barriers” for students with greater need for support.

The third goal reflects the diversifying community in East Longmeadow. “Our population is shifting, and we have to reflect our student population,” Brown said.

The department plans to establish “intentional hiring systems” that identify qualified candidates of color, adjust job descriptions, use interviewing practices with a lens that includes diversity, equity and inclusion goals and values. The administration also recognized a need to identify and mitigate biases, while improving recruitment and retention of qualified individuals.

These goals will require a monetary investment to realize. Specifically, the professional development and implementation monitoring will cost $150,000, while the co-teaching development is $70,000 and instituting new hiring systems will run $30,000.

DESE has established metrics to measure the success of these initiatives, although those targets were not available at press time.

The School Department has also set metrics for itself, including changes in student survey results around school climate and mental health, an increase in literacy screeners and the adoption of an early literacy curriculum, as well as an increase in the number of teachers engaging in professional development and a decrease in the gap between student demographics and staff demographics.

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