Cohasset Public Schools

Q&A with Louise Demas

Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development

Prior to 2007, Cohasset Public Schools in Cohasset, Massachusetts, was experiencing higher than average pass rates for the statewide assessment. After implementing Galileo K-12 Online in 2007, the percentage of Cohasset students passing the state assessment has continued to rise: 17 percent in math and 14 percent in English language arts (ELA) for 10th graders from 2007 to 2012. During this time, Cohasset pass rates for 10th graders exceeded the state average by, on average, 14 and 19 percent in math and ELA respectively. Louise Demas, Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development, attributes this continued success to collaboratively reviewing trends in assessment and instruction, looking globally at the district's efforts, and a unique point of view on student performance.

What were the main things that the district implemented that you believe were responsible for your success?

Louise Demas – Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development:
"We have a district that is very collaborative in its efforts to deliver instruction and learning, including … very supportive [parents and] very skilled teachers.

"The thing we implemented that we attribute to Galileo is that we utilize [Galileo] assessments two times a year for grades three through eight. We have done English language arts and math in grades three through eight as well as a STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] formative assessment in grades four and eight. What we've done is, when we get the [Galileo] results, which are very quick to get, we give them to the teachers and we collaboratively look for trends. That implementation has really helped us direct our instruction."

How did you identify students needing intervention?

Louise Demas – Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development:
"We use Galileo, [and] we also refer to our state assessment [Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, MCAS], which comes in in August through September. We also have a writing assessment and we look at that and the classroom formative assessments as well. We gear our interventions that way.

"Massachusetts has implemented a form of RTI [response to intervention], the Massachusetts Tiered System of Support, and we really focus on that and try to reach those students very early and quickly, which has been working for us.

"We do a great deal of … more individualized instruction, more direct instruction. We have a totally inclusive model. We try not to pull kids out of the classroom at all; we pull in, as opposed. We do much of the layered teaching right within our classrooms, which leads to the interventions."

How did you plan what to teach students who needed additional assistance?

Louise Demas – Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development:
"We look at data. When we get the Galileo [assessment results] we don't look just at the standards. We look at the questions and we look at the number of questions and say, ‘What do they all have in common?’ Example in point, we were looking at the math assessment yesterday and saying, ‘Okay, if we look at these four questions, they all deal with some form of visualization.’ So in our curriculum as a whole, let's start looking at how kids visualize things. So we look at what individual students are unable to do, and then we look at the more global picture. We try to hit it from both sides. Then we identify where we're going."

What advice would you give to other districts who might want to implement an approach like yours?

Louise Demas – Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development:
"What I say to my teachers, and when we use data of any form … we look at the things we need to work on the most. My theory has always been, ‘Go deep, not wide.’ Look at the things where you can have mastery and then look at the more global picture. We look at trends, we look at specifics, we take everything in place and we say, ‘Okay, where is it we need to put the biggest impact?’ When we look at the math assessment we say, ‘Okay, word problems are an issue, but within the word problems, where is the issue? Is it understanding words, is it breaking down pieces?’ And once we have that we make it our focus and not just in one subject area. We try to make everything interdisciplinary."

Any additional thoughts?

Louise Demas – Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development:
"The one thing we do is … really look at a more global aspect of what the assessments tell us about our instruction, as opposed to student performance. We try not to be myopic and say, ‘This is how this student performed,’ we really look at how we’ve been instructing. It’s a different point of view. And that has led us to have some very good results."

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