Foran passes NEASC accreditation review

Foran High School recently passed its review by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), meaning the local high school continues to be accredited for another 10 years.

Jonathan Law High school passed a similar review last year.

“This evaluation process requires hundreds of hours of self-evaluation, research and data gathering, retrospection, and analysis of current and future practices,” states an announcement on the Milford Board of Education website.

“Last year, a team of representatives from NEASC conducted a four-day in-person review at Foran to view the practices, procedures, and philosophies in place and their connection to accreditation requirements. The process is, indeed, daunting and confirms the excellent quality of teaching and learning occurring at Foran,” states the website announcement.

The accreditation program for public schools is a threefold process: A self-study conducted by staff, an on-site evaluation by the committee's visiting team, and implementation of recommendations in the study.

A visiting team spent four days at Foran in October, reviewing self-study documents, meeting with administrators, teachers, students and parents, shadowing students and visiting classrooms.

The 116-page report, which is available on the Board of Education website, contains a number or commendations and recommendations for the local high school.
The study contains plenty of praise for Foran’s staff and curriculum, as well as the school building itself.

“Joseph A. Foran High School has challenging and measurable 21st century learning expectations for all students that address academic, social and civic competencies and target high levels of achievement,” the report states.

The report praises the correlation between the written curriculum and the way it translates in the classroom, citing one biology class as an example. The biology curriculum says students will illustrate and predict the movement of materials across a selectively permeable membrane, and in the classroom, students demonstrate mastery by investigating permeability in potatoes.

“They identify variables, hypothesize about what will happen and explain how and why materials move across the potato's membrane. Thus, written curriculum and taught curriculum are aligned through student engagement in this learning activity,” the report states.

The school received praise for its safe, positive culture; professional development offered to the principal and staff, and the integration of library/media services into curriculum and instructional practices.

The report also notes the quality of the building.

“Joseph A. Foran High School develops, plans, and funds programs to ensure the maintenance and repair of the building and school plant, to properly maintain, catalogue and replace equipment, and to keep the school clean on a daily basis,” the report states.
Principal proud of staff
Foran Principal Max Berkowitz said he is most pleased with the report’s comments about how well school staff support students.

“I was pleased with the report and am very proud of our faculty and staff for their unwavering dedication to our students,” Berkowitz said. “This sentiment was evident throughout the report and was highlighted by NEASC as one of the major strengths of our school community. These strengths are a result of our staff's hard work and commitment to the success of our students.”

Strengths that he highlighted from the report include the safe, positive, respectful and supportive culture that generates a sense of community and pride among students and staff; the genuine interest exhibited by the staff in student success and making strong connections with the students both in and out of the classroom, and the steps that the professional staff take to establish connections with parents and families.

Berkowitz also highlighted the report’s acknowledgement of the numerous learning opportunities available to students, the use of authentic tasks that allow students to apply their knowledge and skills, and the classroom tasks “that emphasize inquiry, problem-solving and higher order thinking.”
Areas for improvement
The report notes some areas to target, including the grading policy. The report notes that policy allows acceptance of late work from students and test retakes, where “students must request and complete a plan of action outlining what they will do to increase their mastery of the assessed skills and content to be eligible for a retake.”

“Students report that there is some inconsistency over the process in implementing a plan of action in allowing retakes,” according to the report. “Some teachers allow students to retake assessments without the completion of a plan of action while some teachers require that the student meet to review concepts prior to the retake.”

Class size is also discussed. The report  notes that in some cases students drop their chosen AP class, in English for example, and this results in an unplanned increase in the number of students in Level 2 English

“This influx of students into English 3 level 2 after the schedule has been built with balanced course loads results in an unexpected increase in students into some classes,” the report states.

The report recommends reviewing and adjusting grouping processes and reviewing yearly scheduling information to balance enrollment in classes and to balance course offerings.

The report also notes the use of dividers to separate some large classrooms into two classrooms, and says sometimes noise from one room to the other is distracting.