Chester Academy Middle School Moves to Trimesters

CHESTER – The school board has decided to move grades five through eight at Chester Academy to trimesters. While the younger grades have been on the trimester system for years, the upper grades have been using quarters.

An investigation into bringing all grades under the same system was undertaken by eighth grade science teacher Karen Lacroix, as previously reported by the Tri-Town Times. Lacroix apprised the school board of her work at its May meeting, explaining that the idea had been discussed among middle school teachers for years.

During its June 5 meeting the school board undertook the discussion again, but looked for guidance from superintendent Jim Gaylord and principal Leslie Leahy because it isn’t the school board that would implement and run the new system.

Chair Royal Richardson said Lacroix made some persuasive points, but that at the end of the day it wasn’t the school board that would have to administer the change.
Leahy said she was amenable to either trimesters or quarters, as she had seen them both work.

One of the biggest advantages of trimesters, said both Leahy and Gaylord, is the increased instructional time they offer. Trimesters cut down on testing and grading and increase the time spent on curriculum, explained Gaylord. A downside, however, is the potential for low grades to more adversely affect a student’s overall average when grading is given three times a year instead of four, said Leahy.

To counteract that downside, Lacroix explained previously, there has to be more communication with parents. Leahy said there may also need to be more opportunities for kids to bring up their grades. “That model is great, but it is important then for parents to get ample opportunities to interact with their children because if it’s a trimester, they really should be given lots of opportunities to improve their grade,” said Leahy.

“Teachers would need to be committed to touching base not just once in that trimester but a couple of times to say, ‘This is where their grades are at.’”
Leahy added that the teachers were in favor of the move and that she had confidence in their abilities to make the system be successful.

Gaylord said that in his experience the first part of the school year in a quarter system is overburdened with testing. “I like the trimester. I think it gives a better picture of the child,” said Gaylord. The board unanimously decided to change to trimesters. Leahy said the teachers would be thrilled.

In other business:
• Merit pay was given to the members of the Chester Education Association (CEA) as stipulated in their contract, which ties compensation to student and teacher performance. The pay is an across the board 1 percent of current salary payout.

The first two goals are based on students’ amalgamated standardized testing scores (on two different tests, the Group Reading Assessment and Diagnostic Evaluation (GRADE) and Group Mathematics Assessment and Diagnostic Evaluation (GMADE)).

The goals state that students in grades one through eight must achieve an average composite grade equivalency, as determined by the Director of Academic Programs, at a minimum of one grade above their expected grade level on the GRADE and GMADE.
Students performed more than a full grade higher than was required.

The other two goals were based on teachers’ use of the HomeworkNow system and time spent on professional development. Teachers far exceeded the requirements for both goals.

• The school received a donation of $2,700 for technology equipment from the winners of a 5K road race, the American International College’s Run for Education. The team that won the race had $2,500 donated to the school of their choice and they also donated prize money they won individually.

The team members were Russell Johnson, Jacob Brewer, Troy French and Ben Mears. Johnson is the son of Chester Academy athletics director Nyles Johnson. The money was used to purchase student computers. Both the school board and administration noted their thanks for the donation.

• Richardson was again chosen to serve as chair, and Mike Romick was chosen vice chair.

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