Superintendent's October 2018 Newsletter

I am delighted to share with you that the School Building Committee will conduct three Community Forums regarding the Elementary School Building Project in November.   Since March 2018, the School Building Committee has met regarding the various options to provide the best possible learning environments for Watertown's children.  We are currently in the schematic design phase and are seeking input from the community regarding the proposed plans.  Community Forums will be held as follows:

  • Cunniff Elementary School:  Wednesday, November 7   6:00-8:00 pm
  • Hosmer Elementary School:  Wednesday, November 14   6:00-8:00 pm
  • Lowell Elementary School:  Wednesday, November 28   6:00-8:00 pm

The Community Forums are open to anyone who has an interest in learning more about the proposed schematic designs for each of the schools and provide the opportunity to give feedback as well,  If you are interested in learning more about the projects, please visit the following website:

October is the month in schools when routines have finally taken hold and students are comfortable interacting and engaging with their peers and their teachers.  For educators, October is generally the time that we dig deep into student data, looking for trends and patterns that inform our practice for all of the students in our classes.  In this newsletter, I will provide you with a brief overview of how we use this data to inform instructional decisions.

If you have children in grades 4-11, you recently received the MCAS results from the Spring 2018 administration and more than likely have reviewed those results with your child.  Teachers also reviewed MCAS reports on how their current students performed last year, and how their previous year’s class performed as well.  The former provides teachers with insight on areas of strength and opportunities for growth for individual students in their classes now, while the latter helps to drive instructional decisions based on overall grade-level performance against the State standards. Teachers work in teams to analyze the data and to set goals for improvement for the current school year based on this analysis. 

Additionally, this fall the District implemented the diagnostic assessment tool i-Ready for all students in grades 1-9 for both literacy and math.  The results are delivered in real-time to teachers, as soon as students complete the test.  The information that teachers receive helps target instruction based on the results of the diagnostic assessment both for individual students and the class as a whole.  Students will take the assessment a second time to measure growth, ensuring that all students are making significant progress throughout the year from wherever they started.  This type of teaching, learning, and assessment is dynamic, adapting to the unique needs of the students in the moment.

This year, the District universally offered the PSAT assessment for all students in grades 10 and 11 for many of the same reasons we administer i-Ready, and with the added benefit of exposing all of our students to this particular type of practice college entrance exam.  By taking the PSATs as sophomores, ideally our students will be ready and comfortable when taking the assessment again as juniors and then the SATs before applying to college.   Teachers will also receive detailed information about their students similar to the data gleaned from the i-Ready assessment and will use the data in much the same way.

Below, you will find an article written by me that was published in the Watertown TAB on October 5, highlighting the District’s accountability data, much of which is drawn from the 2018 MCAS results. You can also find excellent information about the Watertown Public Schools on the profile page of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's website.  I welcome you to join me at my Coffee on October 29 at either 9:00 am or 7:00 pm in room 301 of the Phillips Administration Building, 30 Common Street at which time I will be more than happy to review our District and school accountability and MCAS results, along with other WPS news and updates. 


Dede Galdston, Superintendent


Article published in the TAB:

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently released the 2018 accountability and MCAS data for all districts across the State.  New this year, the accountability system uses seven criteria to determine and report both district and school performance with two basic levels:  Meeting Targets and Partially Meeting Targets.   The criteria and indicators in the new system include ELA, mathematics, and science MCAS achievement; student progress or growth as measured by MCAS; high school completion; progress towards English proficiency for English learners; chronic absenteeism; and advanced coursework completion for students in grades 11 and 12.

The Watertown Public Schools performed quite well with the new criteria, which are based on targets set by the State.  For our elementary schools and middle school, the achievement and growth targets were set based on the results of the 2017 MCAS assessment, with the high school achievement and growth targets based on the Legacy MCAS.  Overall, the District is partially meeting targets at 73 percent.  It should be noted that 75 percent is considered Meeting Targets, with Watertown narrowly missing the 75 percent mark.  Compared to districts and charter schools across the State, our performance places us in the top 25 percent with regard to meeting targets for the seven criteria.

New this year in the accountability system, schools and districts are equally accountable for the success of ‘all students’ and students who are our ‘lowest performing students’ subgroup.  As a district, our lowest performing students Met or Exceeded more of the targets than our students in the aggregate.   For our K-8 schools, 82 percent of all possible points were attained, with the high school achieving 88 percent of the possible points for our ‘lowest performing students’.  Watertown is able to have such a high success rate for these students in part due to our low teacher to student ratio, our strong layers of social/emotional support, our strong parent/school partnerships, and our dedicated teachers who set high expectations for all students with appropriate levels of challenge.  Furthermore, it is through the strong financial support from the Town and the broad-based support for our schools from the Watertown community that we are able to prepare our students for their future success.

We are particularly proud of the success of our elementary schools, with two out of three meeting the improvement targets for the various criteria.  With 75 percent considered the benchmark for Meeting Targets, the Cunniff achieved 95 percent of the total points possible and the Hosmer hitting 92 percent.  Watertown High School also met its targets achieving 80 percent of the total points possible.

The growth that the District experienced on the 2018 MCAS and accountability results, especially at the elementary level, may in part be due to strategies that the District has in place for improvement.  We  implemented several evidenced-based programs and supports at the elementary level, including partnering with the Teaching and Learning Alliance to strengthen the Balanced Literacy program, adopting the Fundations phonics program to provide all students with important early literacy skills, and implementing Math in Focus, our elementary math program, which is based on the approach to teaching math in Singapore.  Singapore leads the world in math achievement, and our program is based on many of their best practices.  New last year, literacy and math coaches support elementary teachers every day as they implement these important curricular resources.  We are also examining our secondary instructional practices, with a focus on project-based learning, differentiated learning experiences, and inclusive practices.

While we still have many areas for growth and improvement, two additional initiatives underway that should prove to be of great benefit are the full alignment of our curriculum to the State standards and the implementation of universal diagnostic screening assessments for all students in grades K-11.  Our teachers, curriculum coordinators, and assistant superintendent are engaged in the multi-year process of aligning curriculum to the State standards, utilizing the Understanding by Design framework, which promotes deep and engaging understanding of the content being delivered to all of our students.  And to better engage children at their appropriate level of challenge, our students in grades K-9 are participating in the i-Ready diagnostic assessment for literacy and math three times a year, with all students in grades 10 and 11 taking the PSATs in school on October 10.  The information that these assessments yield will allow teachers to adapt instruction based upon the students they have in their classes this year.

Our mission states that WPS prepares all students for life by engaging them in a challenging and meaningful education within an inclusive, diverse community.  The most recent District-level accountability results demonstrate that the work of our mission is fully underway and that we are on a well-articulated path to continued success.