By MARCELLA PEYRE-FERRY
For 21st Century media
PENN - One of the ways the Avon Grove School District is proposing to help shore up test scores in the elementary grades is a change in the configuration of classrooms within the Penn London Elementary and Avon Grove Intermediate (AGIS) schools.
At the April 10 board meeting Assistant Superintendent and Curriculum Director Margaret Sharp showed charts of the reading and math scores for the past four years. Scores for the second through sixth grades all showed drops or at best plateaus, while the seventh and eight grade scores were level or improving.
Currently, the two elementary schools have classrooms physically configured in multi-grade groups. At AGIS, each pod is identified by a color. The proposal for the next school year is to move class rooms so that all classes of each grade will be located together.
“The rationale includes consistent implementation of standards aligned curricula across all classrooms in a grade level,” Penn London Elementary Principal Cynthia Holland told the board. “The fact we’re located in different places in the building sometimes detracts from that.”
In addition to giving teachers of the same grade more opportunities to collaborate, grouping the same grade classes together should allow for better allocation of resources. “We believe the movement to a grade level configuration will promote efficiencies,” Superintendent Christopher Marchese said.
A parent focus group was held last month on the topic, but there were some parents at the meeting with concerns to express. They fear that with each grade having around 400 students the children will not have the sense of community that they do in the current smaller pods, plus there will be fewer opportunities for cross-grade activities.
A parent information night will be held May 14 to answer questions families may have on the change.
Also during the meeting, the board heard presentations on the Penn London Young Writers Fair and inquiry based learning at Penn London. The Young Writers Fair has been going on for 26 years, showcasing the writing of kindergarten, first, and second grades. The Fair will be held again this year, with an open day for families set for June 3 from 3:30 to 6 p.m.
At the final public comment portion before the close of the meeting, the board was asked if rumors of outsourcing district jobs are true. “We’re in negotiations with the support staff right now and one of the options is contracting our the custodial services,” school board President Brian Gaerity responded, but he would not go further to discuss whether or not other positions could be outsourced. “This is really not the appropriate forum because we are in negotiations about that. Things that requires board action, they will be discussed at a board meeting.”