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Manchester school board to review curriculum audit results

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 11. 2013 10:19PM

MANCHESTER — The city’s Board of School Committee will devote a good portion of its meeting tonight to review conduct — both its own, and that of the students it serves.

Board members are scheduled to officially receive the results of a curriculum audit conducted over the last school year that suggested ways to improve how the committee functions, while also hearing the latest report from the Student Conduct Committee. Tonight’s meeting is slated to get under way at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

The results of the audit, completed by Curriculum Management Systems, an Iowa-based education consulting company, were first presented to the Curriculum and Instruction Committee in June as part of a nearly 280-page report.

“The theme is Manchester needs to work toward functioning as a unified school system rather than a system of 23 schools,” said Judy Birmingham, the lead auditor for Curriculum Management Systems, when presenting the report. “The way to do that is to provide a common foundation, written, where everybody knows specific policies and procedures.”

The report states, “Board of School Committee disharmony has compromised the board’s ability to provide clear direction and focus for the management and operation of the district.”

The report stresses that the top problem facing the district is the absence of curriculum alignment and assessment across schools. State Department of Education reviews have reported similar conclusions.

Birmingham headed up a team of four auditors, who visited each classroom in the district, reviewed documents and conducted over 90 interviews with teachers, administrators and parents to compile data for the audit.

Critics of the city schools say the report supports their argument that Manchester schools fall below the state average for test scores and have a higher student dropout rate, with little to no improvement in these areas over the past four years.

Tonight marks the first time the audit is being sent to the full Board of School Committee for acceptance and review.

Also tonight, school officials will review statistical reports from the Student Conduct Committee regarding student disciplinary decisions.

According to the committee’s data, there were 28 student disciplinary hearings between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013 — 21 initial hearings, and 7 appeals.

Of those, seven hearings involved high school students: three for alleged possession of a weapon, two for possession of a weapon with drugs, one for possession of a weapon with disruptive behavior, and one for gross misconduct.

Another 13 hearings involved middle school students — seven for possession of a weapon, two for possessing a look-alike weapon, one for assault on a student with injury, and three for gross misconduct. One hearing involved an elementary student, who allegedly defaced school property.

From the 21 initial hearings, 12 of the students were expelled. Four of those students had their expulsions lifted and/or suspended and were allowed to return to school with specific conditions. Seven students attended the YMCA STRIVE program during their extended suspensions or expulsions. STRIVE offers academic support, life skills, and community service programs.

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