CHESHIRE -- The Adams-Cheshire Regional School District's efforts to close its achievement gap is being handled in an egalitarian manner: Everyone in each building, from students on up, must work harder, officials say.
District principals and other administrators are taking part in state Department of Education-run seminars in Worcester with officials from similar districts to exchange ideas and techniques on how best to educate kids and raise scores.
"We've been studying districts that have far more challenging circumstances than us, much worse achievement pictures, and they've successfully turned it around in three to five years," Supervisor of Special Services Kurt Garivaltis said at an Adams-Cheshire Regional School District meeting this week.
This has, in part, resulted in some lofty goals -- purposely high at Hoosac Valley Middle & High School, where principal Vinnie Regan has taken a lead role in seeing the school through the beginnings of a paradigm-shift in his freshman year at the post.
By 2016, a goal of 90 percent proficient on MCAS exams has been set, hopefully improved to 95 percent by 2017.
More Advanced Placement (AP) courses are desired, with more students taking them.
Concurrently, descriptive level courses must prepare students for college or the workforce but currently fall short.
A greater online resource is desired, better allowing parent involvement by posted curriculums and homework assignments.
These goals take time, but progress is being made, Regan said.
In hopes of aligning Hoosac curriculums, department heads were elected for each of the four major subjects: Colleen Byrd, English; John Barry, social studies; Theresa Raftery, math; Jude Koamaya, science. At C.T. Plunkett Elementary School, Jill Pompi similarly heads up the literacy department.
Regan sees teachers as the key.
"I think it's going to be powerful to engage the staff to look at our needs, put together action plans and study how to improve," he said.
It involves an extra three-hours a month after school on professional learning departments, which has been instituted, and continued budget expenditures on professional development, Regan said.
Also, continuing to educate teachers in the use of new tools that can pinpoint, using test data, where students are frequently failing. Regan says he and other administrators are just beginning to use the technology themselves, and wants to include the teachers.
Extra AP courses, he said, would open up the district for federal grants on top of better preparing students for college. Students who take AP English in their junior year have a 70 percent better chance at success in college, he said.
Drury recently expanded its AP offerings, Regan added.
"They said that as they've raised expectations academically, behavior incidents and everything else has gone down," Regan said. "I think we'd have the same effect."