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Boards Focusing On PECHS Improvement

PRINCE EDWARD – County School Board and Board of Supervisors sat down in a joint meeting last week to discuss school funding issues, but they also touched on improvements for the high school.

“You know…Cambridge made a change in the person who was assigned here in early December to more appropriately target the work toward exactly what we needed,” Division Superintendent Dr. David Smith responded, following a Board of Supervisors' member inquiry about the firm assisting in improving high school performance. “It's been a huge difference-very positive difference in the work that Cambridge is able to do with our staff. And, I think, overall, things are going really well.”

The state last year identified the County's High School as a persistently lowest achieving school, a designation which brings with it about $500,000 each of the next three years for improvement. The County's high school is one of the 128 Title I schools that ranked in the lowest five percent among those authorized, but do not receive Title I funds. The criteria weighed for the designation were the academic achievement of all students in reading and math and that a school has not reduced its failure rate in reading/language arts and/or mathematics by 10-15 percent each year for the past two years.

Cambridge, under specific guidelines, was tapped to address the school's performance.

“In October-November, I would've said…we're working on some improvement, but now I can say without a question…they're making a big difference,” Dr. Smith said. “They're able to offer a lot of coaching and support of the teachers, they're able to provide targeted professional development and another change that Cambridge made at my request was the gentleman who is their representative here, is here now almost full-time. Now…in the third year of the agreement, that'll reduce his available time unless we add some to that contract and, of course, the grant funds would cover that, but that's one of the biggest factors, having him here every day and be part of all the activities at the school. That's made more difference than anything by itself.”

Dr. Smith assessed that they are “making really good progress…and we're very pleased.”

While they may know more definitely with state Standards of Learning (SOL) test results, he noted that what they're seeing on benchmark assessment testing each six weeks “makes us…cautiously optimistic.”

Dr. Smith said that they are seeing improvements in a number of classes, but also offered that there are some that they are still working on finding the answer to get them moving forward.