Dartmouth Public Schools

iInspire, Kindness Matters, You Matter

Dr. Bonny Gifford

Given the debate about time and resources dedicated to MCAS in comparison to the question of its value, we are primed to hear some indication from the state that changes may be on the horizon or that the assessment itself may undergo scrutiny. To that end, I would like to share recent comments posted from the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (M.A.S.S.) with regard to the recent decision by Commissioner Riley to eliminate an MCAS writing prompt on this year’s test. As you may or may not know the questionable prompt asked students to write a journal entry from the “perspective of a white woman who uses derogatory language toward a runaway slave and is conflicted about helping her.” As you might imagine students experienced various reactions to the scenario, promoting district leaders to share objections with the Department of Education. What follows is the statement issued by M.A.S.S. “As district leaders there are often issues that arise that provide opportunities to learn and improve. This question is one such moment.


We would like to commend the Commissioner for his decision to eliminate the question. He could have clung to policy or standard procedures. Instead, he chose to listen to students and their teachers. That this question was on a “high stakes” test further stresses the importance of his decision.

The true champions of learning in this situation; however, were the students. There is a great deal of jargon in education. One characteristic that we promote is student agency. The students who acted to express their feelings on this question demonstrated agency in a manner that no multiple choice test could ever measure. We commend these students for their persistence and for their active role in creating and questioning the climate of their public schools.


We also recognize, however, that this flawed question highlights the inadequacy of our statewide accountability system. Massachusetts Superintendents are all for smart accountability. In addition to content-based questions, we need to include more authentic opportunities for students to demonstrate the characteristics needed to address new challenges, like a poorly crafted, high stakes MCAS question. Applying knowledge to novel situations is the true measure of preparedness for life after high school.

As Superintendents, listening to all perspectives is a regular part of the job. In this cacophony of voices, the student voice needs to be encouraged and cherished. Thank you Commissioner Riley for putting the students of the Commonwealth first. The real struggle is not whether we challenge our students to debate the issues of race in our assessment test but whether we provide the right learning conditions in our schools that allow students to discuss these critical issues in a civil and impactful manner.”


Observing Commissioner Riley’s decision making in this situation and listening to his thoughts about scaling back the statewide assessment as well as desire to lead Massachusetts in its quest to create more innovative schools that honor performance in all areas, I am hopeful that we will regain some of what was lost with the advent of the state testing system while remaining accountable and becoming more relevant and purposeful!

Professional Development Opportunity

Lesley's Center for Advanced Professional Studies in Education (CAPSE) is to support educators across their career span. CAPSE will offer a comprehensive program of advanced professional study to address critical areas of students' needs.

Professional Development Opportunity

Teachers College Reading and Writing project offers summer institutes on the teaching of reading and writing.

Word Choice

Dartmouth Middle Schools' 7th graders are discovering how an author's precise word choices can convey mood based on their connotation. They analyzed two excerpts from chapter 3 of William Golding's Lord of the Flies - one focusing on Jack's hunt for food, the other on Simon's. By targeting only the actions and descriptions Golding used in these two similar passages, students saw how similar passages felt very different based on the ideas and feelings associated with the author's intentional word choice.

The Magic of Reading!

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Massachusetts Educator Licensure Videos

Take a look at Massachusetts Educator Licensure Series (MELS), which is a sequence of informational videos that streamline the educator licensure process for Massachusetts educators.

Learning from Real Life

Ms. King. Library TA at DHS, was a guest speaker in Mrs. Cohen's Physiology Honors classes. Ms. King discussed her five cardiac issues and gave the students a first hand account of cardio vascular disease. She discussed etiology, symptoms, medications, and multiple procedures associated with treating Hypertension, Atrial Flutter (AF), Atrial Septum Defect (ASD), Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), and Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy. The students asked many questions and Mrs. King answered them and provide real life examples.

Tradition with Innovation

This is an old clip but the message is even more relevant today! DPS has a set of powerful instructional traditions we need to keep and add a bit of innovation to help our students succeed in our new world.

Second Graders perform contraction surgery!

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Energy Quest at DMS

Energy Quest™ is a fully interactive, technology-based program that transforms students in grades 6-8 into home-energy investigators. Students move through an inflatable home and use visual cues to locate areas where electricity, water or gas is being used. Upon locating these areas, students interact with a provided tablet to test their knowledge and learn about better energy-conservation methods.

Through this program, Eversource aims to provide students with real-world examples of how they can be more conscious of their daily energy use. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week our 7th grade students took place in this program during their science classes.

Highlander Blended and Personalized Learning Conference

Dartmouth High School was well represented at the 2019 Highlander Blended and Personalized Learning Conference. The conference highlights best classroom practice that are happening today, in classrooms.


On Friday , Ross Thibault; Rachel Chavier; Mr. Alexander Lee; Will Higgins, Bridget Taylor; Ann Fifield, participated in full day workshops that supported the current initiatives at DHS. At Saturday's Symposium, participants attended a range of sessions and an opportunity to see students and teachers in action then.

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Kindergarten Non Fiction Writing

his is writing from the IF Then unit: All About. The children had mini lessons and time to practice this informational writing. Lessons included coming up with a topic, planning across pages, learning about the Table of Contents, headers, bold words and pictures that teach. They also learned how to write an Introduction page and where to add it to there books. Children wrote 2-5 books throughout this unit. The children really enjoyed this type of writing.

MCAS Assessment Development Committee (ADC)

Mrs. Anne Brown, Math Coach at DMS, has been a member of the MCAS Assessment Development Committee ADC committee for over 10 years and has participated as the MCAS test and standards have transitioned and evolved. During her years teaching she sometimes thought about the released questions and wondered how a particular item could be on the assessment; to her it seemed too difficult or not reflective of the standards. This thinking is what prompted her to apply to be a member of the ADC. As a member of the committee she is one of a group of grade level specific teachers from around the state of Massachusetts. One of the side benefits of being on the committee is the opportunity to network with other math educators from all over the state.


There are a number of committees associated with the MCAS each with their own task. Such as calibration of open responses or the bias committees who ensure test items are not culturally biased. All of the committees have teacher participation in one form or another.

While serving on one such committee, Mrs. Anne Brown has learned about how MCAS tests are created and what goes into creating a test question before it can become a testable item. The ADC committee's charge is to look at potential testing items and decide if the item meets the standard it is assessing; is the item age appropriate for the grade level, is the item mathematically sound, is it formatted or presented in an appropriate way. The committee does not just look at test questions, but also the distractors or wrong choices that are presented to students. As a team we check the distractors to ensure they are derived from common mathematical misconceptions.


Once an item leaves ADC it moves on to Bias Committee and then into the test bank where it can be selected to be on the state test. At this point the item is not counted towards a student’s score, but piloted to assess the data to ensure that the test question is valid. The data from all piloted items is collected and than the questions along with the data is reviewed by the ADC. At this point the committee is not able to edit the item, the item it is either rejected or accepted. The committee looks at the data for any statistical abnormalities that would lead to rejecting the item. Questions can be rejected for many reasons including, differences on how different populations perform, too many students get the item correct, or not enough students get the item correct. After this process all accepted items go to the bias committee; once the bias committee accepts the item it is now ready to be placed on the MCAS as a testable item.


Mrs. Brown reports she no longer looks at testing items the way she did prior to her experience on the ADC. She realizes how rigorous the process is for items to get on the assessment, and the commitment and dedication to create an assessment that is fair and appropriate.

Centers in Specialist

Mrs. Beth Neto, Elementary Art Teacher tried some rotating centers in Art Class giving students voice and choice with their learning.

DESE Standards Navigator Updated

Take a minute to check out DESE Massachusetts Standards Navigator, which now includes content standards and practices from the 2018 History and Social Science Framework and maps showing how standards connect to one another within and across grades and content areas. Educators, can use the Standards Navigator to explore the Massachusetts learning standards and find related resources like student work exemplars, quick reference guides, and definitions of terms.

Targeted Math Instruction

A Positive Start to MCAS Testing

Teachers and students all over Massachusetts are preparing for the start of MCAS Testing. The lengthy testing schedule starts with ELA followed by a short break and then launch into the math MCAS. Veteran teachers have been through the inception of MCAS, the transition to the 2011 standards, PARCC, and finally the 2017 standards and the new MCAS “Next Gen” testing platform. Pictured below, younger students at Potter School line the halls and cheer on third, fourth and fifth graders before MCAS testing begins

Staff Spotlight - Melissa Pickering

Name: Melissa Pickering

School/Postion: Grade Two Teacher DeMello School

Hometown: Scituate, Massachusetts

Education: Bachelors: Elon University in North Carolina

Masters: University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

One goal I have achieved in my career so far that I feel most satisfied about: Completing my Master’s Program

A long term goal I am working toward: Teaching pre- service teachers at the college level

Role model or someone who has had a great impact on my life: My parents are incredible role models for dedication, work ethic and the true value of family

If I could travel anywhere in the world it would be:I would love to explore Paris , France

If I could eat dinner with someone famous, dead or alive, it would be: It would be so fun to have dinner with Julia Child

Pet Peeve: Loud chewing is my biggest pet peeve

Favorite leisure time activity: Reading at the beach

Favorite movie: Hallmark Movies

Favorite book: The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton

I think the world’s greatest invention is: Voice to Text

My favorite motto or saying:Go big or go home ...

What I like best about working at DPS: I can’t say enough about the staff, it truly is a family. I have been incredibly blessed to teach with the most thoughtful humans and for that I will always be grateful.

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FOOTLOOSE THE MUSICAL

Do not miss this production by Dartmouth High Theatre Company! Click here to order tickets.