District, HHS Leaders Unveil Plan to Improve State Ranking

Haverhill High School

In spite of rising graduation rates, falling dropout rates and standardized test scores at or above state averages, Haverhill High School is ranked among the bottom 10 percent of high schools in Massachusetts.

That fact rankles School Committee member Paul A. Magliocchetti.

“It’s almost personal,” said Magliocchetti, a Haverhill High grad. “I don’t understand it. We have a talented core of teachers and good students.”

Answering Magliocchetti’s request for an explanation of the ranking and what’s being done about it, Haverhill High Principal Beth Kitsos, district Director of Strategy and Accountability Darshan Thakkar, and several HHS staff members spoke about programs and efforts to improve student achievement.

Thakkar said the high school’s ranking may rise soon as a result of a change in the way the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education weighs certain benchmarks.

Currently, schools with high rates of progress in performance on state standardized tests are rewarded with higher rankings. The state is expected to expand the types of measures it uses to judge schools beyond test scores and graduation rates to include metrics such as:

  • Reducing the dropout rate
  • Improving absenteeism rates
  • Passing all ninth-grade classes
  • Providing broad access to advanced coursework
  • Improvements in instructional quality

Thakkar introduced a document called the Haverhill HIgh School Plan for Improving Student Achievement, which includes three categories:

  • Achievement and accountability
  • Academics
  • School quality

A dramatic shift in rethinking education is taking place at Haverhill High School, Thakkar said, by transforming classroom teaching to focus on individual learning and measuring achievement using standardized grading.

Rather than lectures and memorization, students learn concepts at their own pace by applying them to solve problems posed by their teachers.

“Not everyone learns at the same rate or in the same manner,” Thakkar said.

One of the areas in which Haverhill High School scores low on the state’s accountability report card is in the number of core academic subjects taught by “highly qualified teachers,” meaning teachers certified in their subject areas. To rectify this, Thakkar said, professional development will focus on credentialing and licensure rather than skills workshops.

Kitsos said administrators and teachers are focusing heavily on at-risk students with several programs, including:

  • After-school MCAS tutoring
  • Back On Track program, after-school remediation for freshmen failing in their classes
  • Second Chance Gateway, after-school tutoring for upper-classmen in danger of failing to graduate

Kitsos said the only teachers not certified in the subjects they teach are in special education, where competition for highly qualified teachers is intense.

Superintendent James F. Scully has asked for additional special education teachers in next year’s budget, and Kitsos said she hopes to replace unlicensed special education teachers with licensed ones next year. Thakkar said special-ed teachers, especially those teaching English and math, are taking part in professional development in order to be considered highly qualified, which would help to raise the high school’s ranking.

Kitsos urged School Committee members to look beyond the state’s ranking.

“That’s not all we’re about. There’s so many things we deal with. Teachers work hard to make sure we meet the needs of all our students.”


5 thoughts on “District, HHS Leaders Unveil Plan to Improve State Ranking

  1. This article is NOT what Mr. Mayor said at his State of The City address at Hunking School earlier this week. Mr. Mayor painted a GLOWING picture of the High School; and yet —- Mr. Magliocchetti was in the audience and said not a word to contradict Mr. Mayor. Why is all of this coming to light AFTER this glowing picture was painted with respect to the progress made at the high school? One would think, based upon Mr. Mayor’s State of The City address, that all problems have been solved and resolved, and that all is hunky-dory at HHS.

    Beth Kitsos says the state rankings are not what the high school is all about? What say???? She had better believe that’s just about the only way prospective city residents can measure the school system, and then she should begin to consider that fact and take the rankings seriously..

  2. Jack from Haverhill is missing one significant actor, the mayor. The condition of our streets showed all his management style. Everyone who has visited his office clearly sees he is on Facebook and tweeting all day promoting himself for the upcoming election.

    • Hi Kathy,

      You are right…I didn’t mention the mayor in this article. I thought it more important to point out past behavior of Magliocchetti specifically showing what a phony he is.

      Kathy, that’s a great way to describe the mayor…as an actor. If you notice I take literally every opportunity possible to point out on this public forum what a corrupt and incompetent Fake Mayor he is. Your point about his self-promotion given the upcoming election is very true. I talk to a lot of people on a weekly basis who live in Haverhill and it amazes me how many of them have no idea the harm the mayor has personally done to the quality life in the city.

      Keep making comments and telling the truth on here Kathy. Hopefully, someone will run against this Fake Mayor and we can get him out of office finally.

  3. Paul Magliocchetti….it’s laughable watching you try to play two sides of an issue.

    You know exactly what the problem is at HHS. You know full well that the large transient. non-proficient English speaking Hispanic student population at HHS is what is bringing down test scores. You know it so well that in order to garner future votes you invited The Haverhill Hispanic Coalition to a school committee meeting last year so that they could drill Supt Scully publicly in the way he did his job. And what did that group propose? They advocated for more instruction in Spanish which will do nothing but bring test scores down further. Thankfully, Supt Scully isn’t having any of it.

    It’s too bad that the Haverhill school system is full of liberals pushing a politically correct agenda and can’t tell the truth about this.

    • I agree in part with this sentiment.

      There are clearly some outstanding teachers in Haverhill, unfortunately some have left as The City simply could not afford to retain them. Some teachers are better than others, sure, but to not hold parents accountable as part of the child, teacher, and parental responsibility for a symbiotic pathway to success is a problem.

      Haverhill is a poor community, it has been for a long time, The Mayor, and part of City Council, for some reason believes in attracting even more of the poor and uneducated (including Invaders) will resolve child performance at Haverhill Public Schools. That is a severe disconnect from reality. If you look at top performing schools (MCAS scores), including charters, they are in well educated and wealthy municipalities, with BOTH parents involved and or able to actually help their children. There are teachers that can make even the poorest and uneducated child succeed, but they can’t do it alone, and certainly not without holding parents and politicians accountable.

      There are teachers who have personally stated to me that parents are simply using the school system as a child care service. The typical demographic of being poor and uneducated themselves, with no motivation to see their own children strive for success. That is a travesty, and not the fault of children at early ages. Unfortunately the political climate in this city and state continue to pretend they are helping by throwing money at a problem the pols created themselves in the first place. Good luck with that.