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In Accreditation Process, Stoughton High Hangs its Hat on Diversity, Student Achievement

Stoughton High School is in the midst of an evaluation visit conducted by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which started Sunday, March 6 and concludes Wednesday, March 9.

As part of a panel presentation this past Sunday before members of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Principal Matt Colantonio emphasized that SHS was indeed the embodiment of its own mission statement: "The Stoughton High School community fosters the development of responsible citizens who value high academic expectations, diversity, and excellence."

Stoughton High is taking part in a once in a decade conducted by the Commission on Public Secondary Schools, which is part of the larger New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The evaluation visit, which runs from Sunday, March 6 until Wednesday, March 9, is part of Stoughton High’s accreditation process.

"The purpose of this evaluation visit is to review and determine from an outside professional viewpoint the extent to which the school is meeting the Standards for Accreditation,” Colantonio said in a statement. “As part of the evaluation, the visiting committee will meet with all school constituents, review the school’s self-study, visit a number of classes, and examine examples of student work submitted by the school.”

“Our purpose in visiting Stoughton High School is not to criticize it but to assist the faculty in its pursuit of quality education for its students," Leslie Murray, the chair of the visiting committee, said in a statement.  

The panel presentation in the Stoughton High auditorium on Sunday afternoon kicked off this evaluation process, discussing the school’s strengths, as well as areas where it can stand to see improvement. Students, teachers and administration spoke to a crowd that included the visiting committee as well as other school administrators, school committee members, parents and community members.

Student achievement, communication between faculty and students and technology were touted as strengths, while the building itself was seen as an area of major need.

The diversity of the student body—in a socioeconomic, ethnic and academic sense—was a constant theme, and something school officials and students said was one of Stoughton High’s biggest assets.

Colantonio spoke about a presentation given by five students earlier this school year who came to Stoughton after being dispersed following the devastating January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. He said these students were able to share lessons from their experience with other SHS students.

“Any school can offer calculus, but only this type of learning can happen with diversity,” Colantonio said on Sunday.

Nearly 30 percent of the student body (1,098) are minorities, including 19 percent African American, 4.6 percent Hispanic and 4.1 percent Asian.

Low income students make up 28.1 percent of the student body, 13.2 percent receive Special Education and 12.3 percent are classified as “English Language Learners.”

Colantonio said the school values students who think through a problem and are committed to “active reading” and “problem solving.” Using a sports comparison, he said the school rewards effort over talent.

A large majority of SHS students go on to pursue forms of higher education: 61 percent attend a four-year private or public college, while 27 percent attend two-year schools. Five percent enter the workforce and 3 percent serve in the military.

Four students—senior Damani Barboza, junior Jasmine Scott and freshmen Alec DeNapoli and Tim Porter—spoke about what makes SHS special, from the award-winning music department, to Knightline, a student-run morning headlines television show, to Step-Up to Excellence, a mentoring program for low-income students, to the athletics department.

Colantonio said the school emphasizes citizenship and giving back to the community, beyond the walls of SHS. He pointed to a volleyball game against Sharon this past fall, where the players, dressed in pink during the game, helped to raise $1,800 for the American Cancer Society.

While technology was seen as a strength—widespread use of Smartboards, an engineering and robotics lab, teacher-created class webpages, etc.—Janet Sullivan, director of the Science Department, said it was important to keep the technology up-to-date.

In presenting the school’s “Two-Year Targeted Plan,” Sullivan said SHS wants to see collaboration “within and between departments” in terms of a more uniform rubric for grading and assessing student progress and in terms of students studying across the curriculum.

As an example, Sullivan said the popular American Studies program, which blends English with Social Studies, is a course that does this with success.  Sullivan said she’d like to see a cross-listed science and social studies class that blends forensics and law. 

John Gallivan, the director of the History and Social Studies Department, in presenting the school’s “Five-Year Targeted Plan,” said it was a goal to provide “complete electronic curricula for all departments.”

But, most of Gallivan’s presentation dealt with the facility itself. While he said he didn’t think you could find a school with a better maintenance staff, he likened the school to a Honda Accord with 150,000 miles on it, in need of new breaks, tires and an exhaust system—“It’s not going to last forever,” he said.

He said the school, originally built in 1923, with additions in 1952, 1955 and 1965, has physically reached the point where it has to be renovated or rebuilt.

The current heating system needs improvement, there is no handicapped accessibility to the fourth floor of A-building and the auditorium and gymnasium can’t fully accommodate the whole student body, among other issues.

The visiting committee concludes its evaluation visit Wednesday, March 9.

“The goal of an evaluation visit,” Colantonio said in a statement, “is to stimulate a continuing drive for improvement in the school."

View Stoughton High’s PowerPoint presentation to the visiting committee in the media gallery above.

Christine Iacobucci March 09, 2011 at 12:55 AM
This seems to be a great accreditation process and thank you, Jeffrey, for letting everyone know about our high school's strengths and areas of opportunity.
Snyder's Stoughton March 09, 2011 at 03:00 AM
Since I missed it, I'm glad you were there to cover it. Patch on the scene.
Pat March 09, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Mr. Pickette said " a crowd...parents and community members" . I guess somehow I missed that the Sunday event with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges was open to parents and the community. I thought it was a meeting between the school committee and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Could anyone please point out where I went wrong ? I must have missed " community members and parents are invited or encouraged to attend " I did not see it listed on the School Calendar or anywhere else that I can remember. I was at the school committee meeting where it was said that it was mandatory for committee members to attend. There was discussion that they were not required to post the meeting. I get the Stoughton Patch newsletter everyday, I read the Journal and the Pennysaver. I try to stay informed. I like to be an informed town meeting rep especially as budget discussions are underway and town meeting is close. Please I really want to know how I missed this. Anybody ? Also is there time or room for any public input or discussion with NEASC ?
Julie Widrow March 09, 2011 at 03:15 PM
When will we learn the results from the Committee? I'm anxiously awaiting the feedback!

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