Tilton School, Grove Street.
At least one Haverhill School Committee member has declared the “level three” Tilton Elementary School is “on the rebound” following a progress report on efforts to “stabilize the environment and improve the academic standard.”
A presentation at Thursday night’s meeting, from first-year Tilton Principal Bonnie Antkowiak, highlighted newly-released statistics showing academic improvement due to “changes in instruction and programming” at the school, among other things. Five months into the school year, according to Antkowiak, student attendance has increased each month compared to last year; decreases in the percent of students falling under a “warning” category in math and reading courses as well as upward shifts in “needs improvement,” “proficient” and “advanced” categories. She said among other measures, more help will be coming with math through an intervention program funded in January by the state Department of Education.
“Because we’re a level three school, we got a grant funded in January. All of our teachers, every single one of them who teaches math, are starting to be trained (this) week in “pathways and pitfalls.” It’s a “tier one” and “tier two” intervention. This intervention, once it is taught, will be able to have, in the grant, extended learning time before school or after school with our students who need it. So we are going to give those students the extra push they need this year with extra time,” Antkowiak said.
Among statistics provided by Antkowiak, fourth grade math testing, for example, showed a 13 percent decrease of those placed in a “warning” category, down from 58 percent to 45 percent; students in the “needs improvement” category increased by 2 percent to 41 percent; “proficient” category students increased by 11 percent; and no change in “advanced” category. However, Antkowiak noted, in time, “it will come.” Also, test scores in fourth grade reading found a 21 percent decrease in the “warning” category; increases by 10 percent in “needs improvement” category, five percent to “proficient” category and a six percent increase to the “advanced” category.
Antkowiak also highlighted measures for “school community and safety,” which she said she believed “changes everything” among teachers and students.
“I believe that if you respect where you are, if you respect the people that you work with and you have high expectations for students and they know what those expectations are they will rise to them. No matter if they’re poor, they’re rich, it doesn’t matter. You give a child an expectation and they will rise to it. And they are so proud when they reach it,” Antkowiak said.
School Committeeman Paul A. Magliocchetti, who placed the update on the meeting agenda, said after his latest tour of the school during the week, he found “something really special” in enthusiasm from the leadership, from the superintendent on down to staff and students. While he agreed with Antkowiak more time for further acheivement is needed, he believed the school was “headed in the right direction” and the goal to bring Tilton to a “level one” school would be reached “sooner than later.”
“I was amazed, with all the fresh paint and everything, it was pretty good. You’ve really made that school look like a welcoming environment to get the kids energized. It’s one of the cleanest schools I’ve been in. I don’t know how you’re doing it. Some of these increases are pretty phenomenal. I mean 31 percent, 22 percent, these are very impressive numbers. So, like I said, I do believe that Tilton’s turned a corner. Now it’s a question as to when we can get them up to the level where they should be,” Magliocchetti said.
Mayor James J. Fiorentini, committee chairman, told Antkowiak he and the superintendent would explore, within the next several weeks, additional resources from state education officials, including the potential of bringing extended learning time at other city schools as well.
Fiorentini: “I think everybody here is willing to give you time but it’s not us you have to worry about. And I know you had a great talk with your staff about what happens if the state comes in, which we are in no danger of that happening today. But it’s the state you have to worry about for time, not through us.”
Antkowiak: “Well, if you give us our support and you believe and these people believe and then within two years we will have it up—significant progress. We will be there.”
Among other statistics reported by Antkowiak, 80.7 percent of the 519 Tilton students are “economically disadvantaged,” 24 percent are enrolled in special education and 16 percent make up an “English language learner population.”
Last May, Superintendent James F. Scully named Antkowiak to “assume the principalship at the Tilton School” during a series of district leadership changes to face “academic and financial challenges” in the current school year.