Monday, December 1, 2008

Lyndon school preview - Nov. 21

The Lyndon is one of our zone’s pilot schools, which means they get a set dollar amount per pupil and have more flexibility in how they use those funds. This also means they can be more flexible with the curriculum. If you’ve been attending school previews and talking to current BPS parents, you’ve probably heard of TERC Investigations by now. It’s a way of teaching math that’s a lot different than the way we all learned it. Here’s an overview of the Kindergarden curriculum. I hear most kids don’t mind it, but it can be really frustrating for parents trying to help their kids. So Lyndon pulls the best elements from several different math curriculums, including TERC.

Another unusual thing they do is keep students with the same teacher for two years. So students are together from K2-1, then 2-3, and 4-5. I guess that limits the transition time at the beginning of the year.

Lyndon is one of the few existing K1-8 schools in the West Zone. I know a lot of parents, myself included, are concerned about their child transferring to another school for the middle school years, so this is a great option. It’s a rather large school with about 475 students. There are 44 available K1 spots (2 classes, each has a teacher and a paraprofessional). A parent that was along for the tour estimated that about 10 K1 spots (+/- 5) would be filled by siblings next year. Quick reminder – here is how BPS determines priority in a given school: 1) Siblings of current students who also live within the school’s walk zone, 2) siblings, 3) walk zone students (a priority for the 50% of available seats), 4) then random number.

About 16% of their students are in special education. They plan to integrate special ed students into all classes. Right now, all students are together for the special classes (see below) and homeroom. The Lyndon also has a sheltered English program for Spanish-speaking students (about 6% of students are bilingual). They hope to mainstream those students by the sixth grade.

K1 students have weekly music, gym, and art classes. Computers and science as special subjects begin in grade 1. They have band class for students in grades 6-8.

They just opened a new K1 class this year. The new K1 classroom isn’t as well furnished as the other classrooms. For instance, they don’t have a computer in that classroom yet. But it’s certainly a functional classroom.

They’re exploring a comprehensive after school program. They’re looking at something more enriching. I know they have a before-school program across the street at the West Roxbury Y.

The Lyndon loses almost half their students after sixth grade to go to exam schools. Children who qualify for advanced work tend to stay at the Lyndon (which doesn’t have advanced work), rather than transfer to another school.

As I’ve said before, my son’s really active and needs a place to run around. They do have an auditorium and a gym, but I heard that their outdoor playspace is minimal. I don’t think they have much extra room on that property. I didn’t do a full walk-around of the building, so I can’t give you a first-hand account. They said they’re getting a new play yard.

We began our tour in the library. Currently, the library is run by parents because they lost their librarian to budget cuts. I seem to remember another school’s library being parent-run, maybe Ohrenberger’s? I hope this doesn't become a trend at other schools.

As I’ve gone on several of these tours now, I’m beginning to put less stock in MCAS results. There are so many other factors that could make a school a good fit for a family (general vibe, size, parental involvement, extra-curriculars, proximity to home, great teachers and administrators, etc.). That said, Lyndon’s scores are pretty impressive, comparatively speaking. About 85% of the students are passing English. The scores are pretty consistent until you get to 7th grade math – 59% of the students failed in 2007, according to the school’s report card. To their credit, that rate dropped down to 36% the next year. But like I said, a school is not its test scores.

1 comment:

6p01053649a80f970c said...

I agree with the MCAS comment. I am on the tour curcuit too now and quickly realized that all of the school switching that goes on between 4th and 8th grade in boston makes MCAS scores for these grades useless as a reflection of the quality of education at the school: between 3rd and 4th grades the best test takers will switch to schools with advanced work (or private schools if they don't get a spot); then between 5th and 6th grades the deck is shuffled again when all those kids from k-5 schools look for a place to go, sometimes switching into k-8 schools; then the best test takers again leave for exam schools (or if they don't get a spot, to private schools). So really the only scores that you can really look at are the 3rd grade scores. who knew 3rd graders even took tests?