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November 5, 2012

Essex school targets time 'disparity' with Manchester

ESSEX — Officials at Essex Elementary School, seeking to better align its students’ programs and schedules with those at Manchester Memorial Elementary, have reallocated recess times, without cutting minutes, after a district-run study of the two schools last year.

A district-appointed committee investigated the amount of time each elementary school spent on actual learning over the 2011-2012 school year, with the committee finding a “great deal of disparity between the two schools,” Essex Elementary Principal Jennifer Roberts wrote in a November Essexpress school newsletter. And that disparity has sparked the recess time changes,

Pamela Beaudoin, Superintendent for the Manchester Essex Regional School District, which runs both elementary schools, said the schools had previously followed their own time schedules – neither necessarily better than the other, she noted.

“What we knew was we did it differently in both places,” Beaudoin said. “It just wasn’t consistent across the board.”

Beaudoin and other district administrators said the change is no reflection of Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test scores, which show that, on average 13.4 percent more of Manchester Memorial Elementary’s students scored proficient or higher than Essex Elementary students in each subject and grade.

In fourth grade language arts, 94 percent of students scored proficient or higher, compared to 62 percent of Essex Elementary students. For fourth grade mathematics, 18 percent more Manchester Memorial students scored proficient or higher. For fifth grade mathematics, however, 4 percent more Essex Elementary students scored proficient or higher than at Manchester Memorial.

“There was just a reorganization to make sure we were on the same page,” Beaudoin said, emphasizing that changes were unrelated to test scores.

Parents opposing the change said they feared a future further erosion of recess time, which is important in helping their children relax during the day and develop positive social behaviors.

Parent Teacher Organization members were unavailable or declined to comment Monday. But the district’s director of curriculum, Scott Morrison, said he understands the importance of recess and stretch time.

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