High marks – WHS students perform very well; other grades need to improve

Friday, October 23, 2009
By pete.legasey

Last year’s MCAS scores were recently released, and Winthrop Curriculum Coach Coin Moore delivered a presentation on the results at least week’s School Committee meeting. Moore’s presentation focused on the District’s Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) repot, which uses MCAS data for grades 3-8 and grade 10 to show progress towards having all students reach grade level proficiency by the year 2014. The No Child Left Behind Act mandates that all public schools must have 100% of their students reach proficiency in math and English by that year.

On the whole, Winthrop students performed well on the exams, particularly at the high school level, where all but five percent of the class of 2010 achieved a passing score (220 or higher) in mathematics and all but three percent received a passing score in English Language Arts (ELA).

Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) reports make separate determinations for ELA and math. They evaluate schools and districts based on the overall performance of their student body and also make evaluations based on the performance of specific student subgroups (high income, low income, special education, African American, Hispanic etc.).

The goal for every school and district is to achieve an affirmative AYP determination in aggregate and within each subgroup. The determination is made using a formula that looks at participation, performance and improvement. This year, the state performance target was for 90.2 percent of students to pass the ELA exam (up 4.8 percentage points from 2008), and for 84.3 percent of students to pass the math exam (up 7.8 points from last year).

Schools that do not meet AYP requirements for two or more consecutive years in the same subject are assigned a “status” based on their progress or lack thereof. The statuses identify schools as needing “improvement,” “corrective action,” or “restructuring” to focus efforts on improving student performance. Schools and districts with an accountability status that meet the AYP requirement for a single year remain at the previous year’s status.

As a district, Winthrop earned achieved a positive AYP rating for the fourth consecutive year, both as aggregate and at all subgroups. The overall success of the district had much to do with the performance of Winthrop High, which was not given an accountability status in either ELA or mathematics and achieved AYP in every subgroup in both subjects. Winthrop High has made AYP in each of the last nine years, and has done so for all student groups since NCLB required subgroup data reporting in 2003.

Winthrop Middle School made AYP in ELA for the aggregate, but not in the special education or low-income subgroups. The school did not meet AYP in mathematics for the subgroups or in total. The school is now has an “improvement year 1” accountability status in ELA, and a “corrective action” status in math. The Arthur T. Cummings School faired worse, failing to meet this year’s performance requirement as aggregate and in all subgroups in both ELA and math. The school now is stuck with a “corrective action” status in math, and a “restructuring year 1” status in ELA. Only the Hispanic subgroup met its improvement target for the year on the ELA exam.

Last year’s third graders appear to be the group with the most glaring need for improvement. Only 39 percent of the class achieved a “proficient” or “highly proficient” score on the math exam, and 27 percent of them failed the exam outright. 34 percent earned a passing score but need to improve their performance to achieve proficiency (a score of 240 or higher). The third graders performed only slightly better on the ELA exam, with 43 percent achieving a proficient or highly proficient score.

The most impressive overall group in the district was easily the tenth graders. 78 percent of the class of ‘10 achieved proficiency or better on the math exam, with more than half (54 percent) of them earning an advanced score. The tenth graders were equally impressive on the ELA test, in which 85 percent of them achieved proficiency or better, with 34 percent earning an advanced score.

Administrators from each school will attend the October 28 School Committee meeting to present their plans for improving scores a their respective schools.

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