With co-chair Leah Mulhearn presiding, the Educational Affairs Committee convened over Zoom for its monthly meeting on Tuesday, April 26. CSD Assistant Superintendent Dr. Tamara Thomas Smith and Director of Special Education Dr. Beverly Gallagher shared updates about the district’s comprehensive and special education plans.
Dr. Smith shared an overview of the planning requirements for the 2022-2025 comprehensive plan, timeline, steering committee, initial components, and opportunity for committee feedback. Dr. Gallagher provided a timeline for the current special education plan and an update concerning the revised date of May 2024 for the completion of the next plan. Dr. Gallagher gave an overview of the plan outlining several of the components and highlighting the feedback received from the committee meeting in March. The special education plan will be presented to the school board and a public review of the draft special education plan will be available for 28 days before it’s submitted to the state by July 31. Video>
With co-chair Julie Haywood presiding, the Educational Affairs Committee convened for its monthly meeting on Tuesday, March 15. The meeting featured an end-of-school year calendar change; a professional development proposal; and a two-part presentation from CSD Director of STEM Dr. Brian Reilly.
Due to unused snow days, the administration recommended the final student day be moved to Tuesday, June 14 and the final staff day be moved to Thursday, June 16. The board will vote on this at its April 19 legislative board meeting.The committee also presented a Wednesday professional development proposal, in which every other Wednesday would be an early dismissal. This time will be utilized for the purposes of ongoing professional development, guided collaboration, and review of, and action planning based on student data.
The first part of Dr. Reilly’s presentation was an update on the progress the Pennsylvania Department of Education has made on updating its science standards. The new standards will feature performance expectations for grade bands, and will incorporate the concept of the three dimensions of learning science (disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and science/engineering practices). The second part of the presentation was a showcase of some of the projects completed in the project based learning classrooms at CBK and CHS. Dr. Reilly provided information for and student artifacts from each of the 12 projects. Two themes prevalent across all of the projects were authentic student engagement in the feedback and revision process and connecting the students’ work to the larger community. Also included in the presentation were links to a series of podcasts produced by High Tech High that allows listeners to hear about the vision, challenges and successes of project based learning in CSD from its inception through the pandemic. The next Educational Affairs meeting is Tuesday, April 26 at 7 p.m. Video>
With co-chair Leah Mulhearn presiding, the Educational Affairs Committee convened on Zoom for its monthly meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 15. CSD Director of Special Education Dr. Beverly Gallagher made a presentation focused on providing the full continuum of autistic support in the Cheltenham School District. General information about autism and the continuum of special education services was reviewed. The rationale for increasing autistic support services in the district was shared, along with planning for this transition to include staffing needs. Dr. Gallagher provided information outlining finances with a cost comparison, which led CSD Interim Business Manager Chuck Linderman’s presentation of special education finances.
Mr. Linderman reviewed a presentation on special education data analytics using Forecast5. The presentation identified similar school districts in the Suburban Philadelphia area for comparison purposes. Enrollment information was reviewed as it relates to special education students and the different categories, along with a comparison of staffing among the identified peer set. Then a review of expenditures and revenues relating to special education over the past several years was shared. The board had many follow-up questions which will be answered in the upcoming months. Video>
During the January 18 Educational Affairs meeting, health, safety and wellness were discussed. On January 11, the Montgomery County Office of Public Health revised the recommended COVID-19 mitigation tactics recommended for school districts. These changes impacted CSD’s “Test To Stay” program, assurance testing for unvaccinated staff, and contact tracing. The implementation of a “Mask to Stay” program was also discussed. The district's health and safety plan has been revised to reflect these modifications. For the wellness portion of the presentation, CSD Director of Student Services Jessica Keene talked about the various in-school and out-of-school resources employed that address staff and student social and emotional well-being. Through the partnership with Effective School Solutions (ESS), CSD has been able to offer clinical support at Elkins Park School and parent/guardian and staff professional development. CSD has been utilizing the Second Step curriculum in its K-8 buildings, and is continuing its partnerships with Aldersgate and Lakeside. The next Educational Affairs Committee meeting is Tuesday, February 14 at 7 p.m. via Zoom. Video>
The Educational Affairs Committee convened over Zoom for its monthly meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 21. The agenda included several items, including information about the American Rescue Plan (ARP) of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III; Cheltenham High School course proposals; Cheltenham HS graduation requirements; and social studies course re-sequencing from grades 7-12. An overview of block scheduling was also delivered after a query from a community member. Video>
The Educational Affairs Committee met on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, at 7:00 PM via Zoom. The meeting gave building principals an opportunity to share baseline benchmark data for their respective buildings and improvement planning that complements the data. Video>
Acting Superintendent Dr. Nancy Hacker presented Pennsylvania Statewide Systemic Assessment (PSSA) and Keystone data results from the past five years. Six principals and the Glenside math specialist commented on the measures being taken in their schools to focus on and boost student performance. Measures discussed included critical professional development in reading, writing, and mathematics, use of teacher professional learning communities and grade-level meetings for collaborative discussions of student needs and common assessments, increased opportunities for critical thinking and problem solving, increased practice in open-ended math questions, utilization of intervention and support periods, increased focus on individualization and greater student engagement, and implementation of numerous standards-aligned resources, digital and in print, to support work with students.
Key takeaways from the review of this extensive data, as shown in the presentation are:
1. The number of students who participated in taking these assessments in 2020-21 decreased sharply compared to pre-pandemic. When looking at scores, this lower population of test-takers should be taken into account.
2. English/Language Arts scores in CSD, similar to what has been a trend across the state, continue to remain higher than math performance on the same assessments.
3. The Science assessment, given only in fourth and eighth grades, resulted in high scores in fourth grade, and then declined in eighth grade. Scores in the end-of-course Biology assessment remain low.
4. Racial disparities in student performance continue to show that white students outperform all other racial and ethnic groups on the PSSA and Keystone in all grade levels.
5. Algebra I performance in middle school remains high as the result of the option to take either the standard course of mathematics or Algebra. Those who take Algebra tend to perform better in math.
6. Those who wait to take Algebra in high school tend to do significantly worse on the Keystone assessment in Algebra.
7. Special education student performance tends to lag behind that of general education students.
8. Overall, performance on the PSSA and Keystone exams has remained steady over time, excluding the pandemic year of 2020-21.
The Educational Affairs Committee met on Tuesday, Sept. 28 for its first meeting of the school year. The committee utilized this opportunity to update the community on critical areas and provided summaries and action items for the following topics:
- 2021 Summer Programming
- Elementary Summer Program
- Middle School Summer Program
- Panther Academy at CHS
- Extended School Year (ESY)
- COVID-19 Compensatory Services (CCS)
- The number of families who took advantage of Act 66, which allowed students to repeat a grade
- Social-Emotional Learning
- Instructional Technology
- Professional Learning
- Title I Schoolwide Programming
- Cheltenham ES
- Myers ES
- Elkins Park
- PDE Comprehensive Plan
- Special Education Monitoring and Plan
The next Educational Affairs meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. via Zoom.
With co-chair Jennifer Lowman presiding, Educational Affairs convened over Zoom on Tuesday, May 25. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Tamara Thomas Smith and STEM Director Dr. Brian Reilly presented on next steps for school closing and opening in the pandemic.
Dr. Reilly presented about 2020-21 data collection for elementary, middle school and high school students through assessments and standardized tests, as compared to the prior year. The pandemic impacted the reliability and validity of the data collected pertaining to academic performance and growth. Data is impacted by students taking the tests at home without teacher supervision and under extraordinary circumstances.
Dr. Smith spoke about learning loss, “any specific or general loss of knowledge and skills or reversals of academic progress, most commonly due to extended gaps or discontinuities in a student’s education,” and referred to four articles examining the issue. The theme of the articles is there is no consistent response to what learning loss means, how students have responded or how to measure the loss, and the school district is moving forward with the understanding many of our students responded differently to the pandemic and to the district’s different learning models. CSD is still gathering data about what students need to overcome the learning loss. Dr. Smith reviewed the manner in which the building-level administrators have supported students during this time. Looking ahead, the district will address learning loss in the following ways:
- Create and administer year end exams that focus on the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s priority standards
- Design and implement K-12 summer experiences to support instructional loss
- Design and implement a before and after school program for the 2021-22 school year.
- Full Day of Teacher Collaboration
- Professional Development for Staff
- Mental Health/Social and Emotional Support
The Educational Affairs Committee convened on Wednesday, May 19 via Zoom. Director of Special Education Dr. Beverly Gallagher provided a special education review presentation for the board and community. The presentation highlighted the accomplishments of the special education department in the past five years and included a review of the 2020-2021 school year. Some of the detailed subjects discussed included the implementation of programs in reading and social skills, professional learning in inclusive educational practices and the trauma-informed classroom. The presentation also included a review on the following topics:
- Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (A-TSI)
- Significant Disproportionality
- Reopening for in-person instruction
- Completion of evaluations following safety protocols
- Information about Covid Compensatory Services (CCS)
The final Educational Affairs meeting is Monday, June 14 at 6:30 p.m. Join the meeting at cheltenham.org/zoom.
The April Educational Affairs meeting was rescheduled for May 5, when Director of STEM Dr. Brian Reilly and Supervisor of Professional Learning and K-12 Gifted Education Mr. Matt Pimental shared the most recent information from the Office of Innovation including developments on curriculum, instruction and professional learning. The agenda included updates on science and professional learning, computer science/STEM pathway development, and a project based learning showcase. Educational Affairs convenes next on Wednesday, May 19 at 6:30 p.m.
With co-chair Pamela Henry presiding, Educational Affairs convened over Zoom on March 16. The agenda included two items: Proposed change to the English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum at Cedarbrook Middle School, and mental health support for students.
Director of secondary education Charlene Collins presented the proposed ELA changes at Cedarbrook. The current curriculum includes English 7 and 8, English 7 learning support for students with IEPs, enriched English, ESL, and reading class for students with difficulty in reading comprehension. A literacy workshop is also available in lieu of a world language. The proposed changes call for combining grade-level and enriched English classes. English 7 and 8 would be aligned with the Common Core state standards and emphasize writing. Students will have core and independent texts from which to choose, and book clubs will be integrated into the ELA curriculum so students can engage with different types of texts. The proposal eliminates tracking by ability.
Director of Student Services Dr. Cheryl Horsey and several organizations who partner with the district spoke about trauma and COVID-19’s impact on the brain. Lakeside NeuroLogic Initiative Director Joshua MacNeill delivered an in-depth presentation of how trauma impacts the brain and what it means for student behavior in the classroom. He stressed it’s also important for people who work with students to understand how certain behaviors can manifest themselves as a result of trauma. Representatives of Effective School Solutions (ESS) presented about the traumatic impact of COVID-19 on students and the mental health continuum’s best practices to support students. They also reviewed results of a mental health readiness program which was conducted in the district. One ESS recommendation was to create a comprehensive mental health action plan to support students.
The next Educational Affairs meeting is Tuesday, April 20 at 6:30 p.m. Join the meeting at cheltenham.org/zoom.
Educational Affairs convened on Zoom on Tuesday, Feb. 16, and the agenda included one item: Class rank and course weight recommendations. CSD is considering a change to class ranking, which is how academic achievements are measured among classmates. A course’s degree of difficulty and a student’s grade determine their GPA. The higher the GPA, the higher the class ranking. At one time, class rank was a major component in deciding students’ entrance into colleges and universities. In recent reports, more than half the high schools across the country (and a number of neighboring schools) are no longer using student rankings. Because of different curricula and standards at different high schools, college admissions officers do not see class rank as an accurate factor in determining college admission. Some students select courses with more weight to better their rank status. Administrators and counselors at the high school feel students should be choosing courses that would be of more interest to them.
Under the leadership of Assistant Superintendent Dr. Tamara Thomas Smith, the CSD Office of Education is scheduling morning and evening meetings to discuss the elimination of class ranking and the proposed course weight changes for the 2021-2022 school year. At the meetings, office of education personnel will explain how changes will enhance the learning of high school students and address and answer parent/guardian questions and concerns.
The next Educational Affairs meeting will be held Tuesday, March 23 via Zoom.
The Educational Affair Committee convened over Zoom on Tuesday, January 19. The agenda included new high school courses and implementation of the hybrid instructional model. CHS Vice Principal Dr. Ben Hammond spoke about new course offerings for CHS students, including Digital/Audio Production (basics of sound & mixing production) and Digital Age Entrepreneur (for students interested in owning their own business). Assistant Superintendent Dr. Tamara Thomas Smith reviewed the soon-to-be implemented hybrid instructional model, which includes remote and in-person learners. Planning and implementation of this model is dependent upon staff availability at each building. Some students’ teachers and/or classes will have to change, but the majority will remain with their same teacher and schedule. Class size is not universal due to the varying sizes of student capacity. Dr. Smith ensured secondary students will receive a content area work from content area certified teachers, and reiterated remote students will not be left behind in the hybrid model. K-12 students will receive synchronous learning Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, with Wednesday remaining as asynchronous. Due to lack of staff, the CLASP program will not be offered, and remaining available CLASP staffers will be utilized to help support in-person learning. All principals created a reopening plan and are in the midst of hosting virtual town hall for families. The next Educational Affairs meeting will be Tuesday, February 16 at 6:30 p.m.
The Educational Affairs Committee convened on Tuesday, Dec. 15 over Zoom. The meeting featured the district’s instructional technology team presenting about its support of remote and hybrid learning. After COVID-19 changed learning in the United States and around the world, CSD found alternative, creative ways to teach students, including professional learning for staff, devices for students, the launch of a mobile scholars website, and support for families to assist in navigating the virtual learning experience. Technologies highlighted in the presentation included Google Classroom (supporting asynchronous and synchronous learning), Canvas (utilized pre-pandemic in some classrooms), Google Meets for K-12 (supports face-to-face synchronous learning and has a variety of features to engage students), Classlink (a single sign-on platform simplifying teacher and student access to various other tools), and Smart Learning Suite Online (interactive lessons, games, real time feedback collaborative work space and other features). The presentation also featured additional tools available to support student learning and engagement. The district has received feedback that its instructional tools are high quality, and while these tools have enhanced remote learning, they will continue to be utilized as the students return to their buildings. Committee co-chair Pamela Henry acknowledged the instructional technology team of Tom Cook, Tami Flood, Amy Flynn, Kevin Murphy and Lisa Rock for an amazing job managing educational technologies in the remote learning model.
With co-chair Pam Henry presiding, the Educational Affairs committee met via Zoom on Tuesday, Nov 17. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Tamara Thomas Smith reviewed the district’s proposed calendars for the next two academic years, noting these calendars do not have any substantive changes relative to the current school year’s calendar. The 2021-22 school year will begin August 31 and finish June 17. The 2022-23 school year will begin on August 29 and wrap on June 17. Both calendars include school closures in observance of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, and contain professional development days. Four snow days are included in each calendar, though it was noted, with remote learning becoming a reality, snow days may be coming to an end. The calendars will be brought up for a vote at the December 8 legislative board meeting. The next Educational Affairs meeting is Tuesday, Dec. 18 and will focus on educational technology.
The Educational Affairs committee convened on Zoom on October 20, and the agenda featured a three-year review of the district’s professional learning. The presentation was broken into three sections:
- Where we started - A review of the documents, data, and rationale prompted changes to CSD’s Professional Learning System;
- Student-centered, systematized professional learning - A look at CSD’s professional learning system cycle and the instructional practices forming the core of its learning objectives; and
- CSD’s COVID-19 Response - A theoretical framework and how its practices support teachers and students through remote learning
The first section addressed the items uncovered in the March 2017 curriculum audit, such as the need for observation and feedback, data-informed professional learning system, and professional learning centered on best instructional practices. The second section focused on student systematized professional learning, including collecting and analyzing data, determining professional learning goals, freshman learning and follow through. The third section made mention of high-quality pedagogical practices and effective use of instructional technology as the core components requiring instructor mastery in remote education. CSD repurposed remaining Act 80 available professional learning hours from 2019-20 as half day sessions every other Wednesday. The inclusion of asynchronous Wednesdays in 2020-21 has allowed weekly professional learning to be devoted to instructional technology and pedagogy. The next Educational Affairs committee meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 6:30 p.m.
With co-chair Pamela Henry presiding, the Educational Affairs Committee convened over Zoom on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. CSD Director of Secondary Education Charlene Collins presented on the “Five Pathways to Graduation.” Ms. Collins spoke of the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Act 158 of 2018, which provided a blueprint for the graduation pathways but did not include the Keystone Exam cut scores for pathways 2 - 5. As of this spring, PDE released the cut scores and detailed the expanded pathways 2-5 for students to meet the new graduation requirements starting with the Class of 2022. A one-page explainer document has been released to the community so that students and their families will have a better understanding of the alternative ways in which to meet the graduation requirements. The next Educational Affairs committee meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 6:30 p.m.
With co-chair Tyrone Scott presiding, and co-chair Pam Henry, board members, administrators, teacher and community members in attendance, the Educational Affairs Committee convened in a Zoom seminar room on Tuesday, June 16. The agenda’s lone item was the progress made during the fourth year of the strategic plan, Five Pathways, One Destination. Administrators from the offices of education and communications presented updates on the yearly milestones in each of the pathways: Curriculum and instruction, student achievement, professional learning, holistic experiences and communications and engagement. Watch the meeting>
With co-chair Pam Henry presiding, and co-chair Tyrone Scott, board members, administrators, teacher and community members in attendance, the Educational Affairs Committee convened in a Zoom seminar room on Tuesday, May 19. The agenda’s lone item was the new elementary reading series. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Tamara Thomas Smith presented on four different vendors and highlighted the collaborative selection process involving district reading specialists, elementary-level members of the Curriculum Instruction Professional Development committee and the community. View the presentation>
The Educational Affairs Committee convened in a Zoom seminar room on Tuesday, April 21 with board members, administrators and community members in attendance. The Office of Education provided an overview of special education, including information about Child Find with a six-year overview, continuum of services and supports provided for the students. Interventions for reading, math, social and coping skills were highlighted, as well as professional development provided to special education teachers, paraprofessionals, administrative assistants, and administrators, and the partnerships with outside agencies, contract services, and parent group. District challenges including the designation of “significant disproportionally” were addressed, in addition to looking forward to strategies to implement in collaboration with stakeholders. Questions and comments followed the presentation. The Educational Affairs Committee will meet next on Tuesday, May 19.
The Educational Affairs committee convened on Tuesday, Feb. 18 with board members, administrators and community members present. The agenda included outcomes from the April 2019 homework survey and ongoing homework community meetings. The presentation included common resources about homework, definition of “effective” homework and how homework can serve as feedback for a teacher. Themes from the open-ended family survey questions included no homework in early grades, consistency in the assigning of homework, impact on the home, length of time to complete homework, instructions/ examples for parents, homework informs parents of student learning, homework is necessary, homework as optional and grading of homework. Themes from the open-ended student survey questions included no homework, homework is stressful, impact on extracurricular activities and sports, consistency of assigned homework, communication between teachers about homework, preference for more classwork than homework and length of time spent on homework. The presentation also includes draft language for a homework administrative regulation and educator concerns. The Educational Affairs committee will next meet Tuesday, March 17 at the Administration Building.
The Educational Affairs committee convened on Tuesday, Jan. 21 with board members, administrators and community members present. The agenda included new high school courses. New courses to be added for student selection during the 2020-2021 school year include Government, Game Design, Cybersecurity, Student Independent Project (Gifted Department), Digital Music Lab and Intermediate Guitar. The presentation includes information about rationale and staffing, materials and cost implications for the district and families. The Educational Affairs committee will next meet Tuesday Feb. 18 at the Administration Building.
The Educational Affairs Committee met on Tuesday, Dec. 17 with school director Pam Henry presiding and all school directors present. The agenda included three items: 20-21 school year calendar, challenge program and special education. More than 10 community members attended the meeting.
CSD Assistant Superintendent Dr. Tamara Thomas Smith presented three options for the 2020-21 school-year start: Pre- and post-Labor Day and a flexible start based on when Labor Day falls. The administration recommended the pre-Labor Day start, and the board will vote on this recommendation at its Tuesday, Jan. 7 legislative meeting.
Supervisor of Gifted Education Matt Pimental presented on the district’s challenge program continuum. The district recognizes the need for objective criteria to determine who receives math and/or literacy support. Focusing on these two areas presents the challenge of ensuring students identified through the multi-tier system of supports (MTSS) process receive needed support. As a solution, entrance into the math and literacy supports will be based on the objective criteria of performance-based locally normed common data. Additionally, students will be reevaluated at the end of each report period.
To give CSD families the opportunity to learn more about the Challenge program and its proposed changes, Pimental will deliver his presentation at the Administration Building on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, at 10 a.m.; Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, at 2 p.m.; and Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, at 6 p.m.
The final presentation of the evening was the district’s special education attorney Andy Faust from Sweet, Stevens, Katz & Williams LLP speaking about a new federal guidelines about disproportionality, in which schools must determine whether rates at which minority group members are identified as disabled are placed in restrictive settings once identified, or are subject to exclusionary discipline exceeds rate for all other group members. As a district with significant disproportionality, the District must set aside 15 percent of its 2019-2020 Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) subsidy, approximately $133,000, to develop a targeted regular education intervention programming that addressed the problem.
The November Educational Affairs meeting convened on Tuesday, Nov. 19 and covered the district's Future Ready PA Index results. "The Pennsylvania Department of Education recognizes that students – and the schools that serve them – are more than just standardized test scores. Launched in November 2018, the Future Ready PA Index is the result of discussions with thousands of educators, parents, advocates, policymakers, and business leaders across Pennsylvania about how communities should evaluate schools." After presenting their schools' results, principals walked the attendees through the steps taking place to improve student academic achievement and growth. Various CSD teachers from varied content areas supported the presentation by providing additional information and demonstration lessons on diverse instructional initiatives.