Thursday, November 13, 2008

Manning school preview - Nov. 12

The first and only time I had been to the Manning had been for a yard sale run by the parents. Since then, I couldn’t remember the name of the cute little school tucked into a wooded area somewhere by Faulkner Hospital. Wednesday, I found it again.

I feel like I’m batting four for four. I’ve visited four schools so far, and I would be happy sending my son to any of them. Manning is currently K2-5, but they’re really hoping to expand to K1-8. It seemed to be a popular school – there were about 25 parents on this tour. The school day is 9:25 to 3:25, and they have on-site before- and after-school care from 8 to 6.

The Manning is relatively small. They only have one regular ed class per grade. However, they have a corresponding special ed classroom for each grade.

About 38% of the children are in special education. Grades 1 and 5 are integrated throughout the day, and the principal is pushing for inclusion for the rest of the school. I don’t have enough information yet to decide how I feel about this idea. I wasn’t able to observe a classroom with both special ed and regular ed kids together. Obviously, it seems that some special kids have greater needs than others and I wonder how well full inclusion would work for those children and whether a rigid inclusion system might be disruptive to regular ed kids. Like I said, I feel like I don’t have enough information to have a fully fleshed out opinion on this matter. The principal, Sara Stone, pointed out that full inclusion would help the Manning expand their school to other grades because it would free up some classroom space downstairs.

This is another school with a lot of parent involvement. One of the parents accompanied us on our tour. They handed out a kindergarten curriculum – very helpful. The Parents Council also helped get a full-time art teacher for the school.

One thing I liked about the school was critters in every, or nearly every, classroom. I saw fish and turtles. This is part of their CTEc (Community, Technology, and Ecology) program. Behind the school, there are raised bed gardens and a heated greenhouse that children help tend. There was an outdoor classroom that the woods have reclaimed. The principal said she hopes to resurrect the classroom area.

We went inside the third grade classroom. Shower curtains with world maps covered up closet space. Learning targets (goals) were posted on the wall for different subjects. Children have a morning meeting every day to go over a morning message, greet one another, share, and do an activity. Stone said it’s part of the responsive classroom program.

They said the science teacher is very good and board certified. We didn’t observe their classroom. Children have science at least twice a week as one of their special classes. The other specials are art, physical education, and music.

They started Sports4Kids this year. In addition to daily recess after lunch, kindergartners have Sports 4 Kids once a week. A coach helps teach kids playground games and diffuse conflict.

The principal, who’s been at the Manning for a little over a year, acknowledged that their MCAS scores needed work. When she first came, she said they hadn’t made AYP for English Language Arts. But they made their AYP last year.

Their after-school program seems much more than glorified babysitting. They offer different projects and lessons for students. They already have -- or are trying to get -- guitar lessons, violin lessons in the fourth grade, French lessons starting in the second grade, sewing, woodworking, gardening, a regular instrumental program, and sailing in the spring.

K2 kids have homework beginning in January, and they have a week to complete their homework packet.

Half of their third graders were invited to do Advanced Work in the fourth grade last year. None of them decided to go that route; they all stayed at Manning. They all spoke highly of their new fourth grade teacher. Perhaps that’s a reason kids are not leaving for advanced work at that age.

Their library is about twice the size of the Mozart’s, but still nothing like Ohrenberger’s. They do have a full-time librarian. Faulkner Hospital funds hardcover books that get dedicated to students and staff on their birthdays.

As a self proclaimed word nerd, a little feature I liked was words with definitions (e.g. inaugurate, florid, hearsay) posted on the hallways of the schools.

Although they’re a small school, they do have a cafetorium. I imagine that this could be an indoor playspace during the winter months.


Kristina said...

Geeky Mama,
Thanks so much for writing this blog. It is fantastic that you are chronicling and sharing your visits.

I too was on the Manning tour yesterday. I agree with so many of your observations. I thought this school presented a very welcoming environment.

Just to note: the violin is only offered as part of the after school program.

Morning Meeting is a common teaching tool. Here is a book about it:

Thanks again. I look forward to reading your posts.

Geeky Mama said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Kristina. And thank you for the violin clarification. I changed the post to reflect this. These site visits can be a lot to take in.

mcentor said...

Since the Manning School is the closest one to our house and also where I vote, I've been interested in it for a long time. I was disappointed by the school's MCAS scores, but I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that they have so many special ed students? Do you know if special ed students take the MCAS and get factored in with everyone else?

Geeky Mama said...


I don't have an immediate answer for you. It appears there are several different versions of the MCAS that students can take. But I'm not sure how those are factored in to a school's overall score. If things go well this morning (i.e. no 2yo meltdowns), we'll head over to the Beethoven school preview. I'll see if someone there might know the answer.

Geeky Mama said...

The answer I'm hearing from people is that yes, scores from special ed students are incorporated into the school's overall score.