MCAS Scores on the Rise Across District

Friday, December 22, 2017
By Transcript Staff

By Kate Anslinger

All of the school principals were present at Monday night’s School Committee meeting, and they brought an early Christmas present for the community. MCAS test scores are on the rise.

The good news started when Gorman Fort Banks Principal Ilene Pearson shared that the second grade DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) test scores are the best she’s seen in years. In a matter of three months, students at the second grade level have moved from 33 percent of students at the advanced or proficient level in reading comprehension to 53 percent of students at the advanced or proficient level.

“I believe that the gains with the students is due to the staff and the level of instruction,” said Pearson. “If this trajectory continues, I think I’ll be sending Mr. Heraty a very high-performing class next September.”

Pearson believes that comprehension is key and students cannot describe or explain something if they don’t understand it.

While writing and reading scores are on the rise, Pearson believes that the math portion of the curriculum is struggling more than it should due to the limited hours of extra instruction that the budget allows.

For the first time, students in grade 3 through 5 at the Arthur T. Cummings School received scores from the Next-Generation MCAS tests. In the ELA (English Language Arts) subject, 51 percent of third graders met or exceeded expectations, beating the state average of 47 percent. Grade 4 and 5 test scores resulted in 40 percent and 39 percent meeting and exceeding expectations, compared to the state average of 48 percent and 49 percent, respectively.

Over the last five years, the Cummings School has had three different exams and the Next Generation is essentially resetting the button on the test. Five-year targets will be created and Heraty would like to focus on the year-to-year gains.

The math results at the elementary level were as follows: 41 percent met or exceeded expectation in grade 3, coming in below the state by 8 percent. Grade four students only came in 1 percent below the state at 48 percent meeting and exceeding expectations and grade five came in 2 percent below the state average at 46 percent.

“The test has shifted significantly to focus on writing, which is something we’ve always struggled with,” said Heraty, who has already launched several writers’ workshops as a proactive way to improve writing among all students. “ It’s important that the committee and community realizes that any time there is a change in test design, there needs to be a change in instruction. I think next year we are going to see a pretty big bump in our scores, which is good since this is our benchmark year.”

The middle school brought in some pretty impressive gains, the majority of which were above state average. Grade six ELA came in at 52 percent meeting or exceeding expectations, which was 1 percent higher than the state average. Grade 7 came in 2 percent below the state at 48 percent and grade 8 came in exceptionally higher than the state at 58 percent meeting or exceeding expectations compared to the statewide 49 percent.

Fifty percent of sixth graders met or exceeded expectations in math, right in line with the state average. Grade 7 came in 5 percent below the state and 42 percent met or exceeded expectations. Grade 8 was again much higher than the state, as 54 percent of students met or exceeded compared to 48 percent statewide.

“We want to strive to get those scores up,” said Middle School Principal Brian Curley. “We want to keep raising the bar and keep raising the percentage.”

The high school test scores proved to have an interesting theme, as the scores dipped slightly during the transition from the new school being constructed but they shot right back up during and after the new school was built. Winthrop proved to be well above the state average at the high school level, having shot up from 39 percent of students at the advanced level in ELA in 2013 to 63 percent of students at the advanced level in 2017. “This is the highest ELA has been in the past five years,” said High School Principal Matt Crombie.

Out of 400 schools in the commonwealth, Winthrop came in at number 10 in ELA.

Math proved to make even bigger gains, driving Winthrop up to number 6 in the state, based on the test scores.

“Math has been a hot topic at the high school over the last few years so I’m glad to see this because it shows we are working hard,” said Crombie. “A lot of the growth that we’ve seen in both English and math can be attributed to having had a Curriculum Director and exposing sophomores to two math classes a year.”

There was a general sense of pride across the committee, and plans were put in place to keep the momentum going.

“I think the community owes a great deal of gratitude to the staff,” said School Committee Member William Holden.  “The progress reflects that the scores went back up after a tough transition “

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