GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

September 27, 2013

ME school holds high MCAS marks

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — The latest set of scores show that students across the Manchester Essex Regional School district improved on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System — or MCAS — tests compared to last year, though some groups dropped slightly since 2012.

Overall, the district has improved in eight areas and dropped slightly in nine others since last year’s MCAS scores.

However, the average of students that scored proficient or higher on the test are still well above the state averages.

In third-grade reading this year, 77 percent of students scored proficient or higher. While that’s down from 87 percent last year, it remains well ahead of the 2013 state average of 57 percent.

The district did well as a whole, with the lowest percentage of students scoring proficient or higher listed at 64 percent in eighth-grade science. That figure, again, was down from the 78 percent posted last year but still above the state average of 39 percent.

In addition, student growth and achievement improved since the previous year, with scores up in nearly all areas.

”What we’re always shooting for is high growth, high achievement,” Superintendent Pamela Beaudoin said.

In that vein, Beaudoin and the school’s sights are dead on.

In English this year, 98 percent of all high school students scored proficient or higher, up from 97 percent last year. In middle-school English, scores of proficient or higher were also up one percent since last year, coming in at 94 percent.

In lower grades, Essex Elementary school stayed steady at 75 percent in English Language Arts. Manchester Memorial Elementary students, however, fell to 84 percent proficient or higher in English compared to 94 percent last year.

In math, Essex Elementary students led the charge in terms of growth and achievement; 76 percent of students scored proficient or higher this year, up from 73 percent last year, while Manchester Memorial Elementary School students remained steady with 86 percent proficiency in math.

The upper classes, however, were down slightly in math proficiency, with middle-school students scoring at 77 percent proficiency or better compared to 79 percent last year.

At the high school, 96 percent of all students achieved a score of proficient or higher in math, but that was down one percent from 2012.

Scores show, however, that overall growth improved at the high school math level.

Beaudoin attributed district growth and achievements to curriculum alignment.

“We continually look at our alignment to state standards,” she said.

Curriculum committees also take a look at the data and the review process to allow for more growth, she said.

Teachers and department heads collaborate, analyze what the state is putting out in terms of a curriculum and assessments and look at any gaps year to year.

“It’s our version of looking at the game tape,” she said.

She said the MCAS scores are generally consistent from year to year among different groups of students, but growth scores are more promising.

“You see a pretty upward trend for those kids,” she said.

Beaudoin said the MCAS scores are used more globally than on a student-by-student basis, with progress monitoring for students conducted multiple times a year.

“(MCAS) gives us a look back, as opposed to real-time information to use for kids,” she said. “(MCAS) is that snapshot at the end of the year.”

She added that the district’s faculty and staff work hard to meet the desire to score well on tests, while also delivering a well-rounded education to students.

“Overall, I think we are very steady in MCAS; we don’t get many surprises,” she said. “We are consistent.”

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.