To the editor:
Consider two recent Times headlines:
“City (Gloucester) marks mixed on MCAS test,” from Saturday, Sept. 21, and “Rockport shows gains on MCAS,” from Wednesday, Sept. 25.
A casual reader could be forgiven for believing that Gloucester’s MCAS scores have declined, while Rockport’s have improved. But a close reader, familiar with the Times’ seeming tendency to paint the Gloucester Public Schools in a negative light, would look at the numbers behind the headlines.
In 2012, Gloucester’s overall proficiency in all tests was 56.7 percent. In 2013, that improved to 57.7 percent. Between 2012 and 2013, Gloucester’s proficiency levels improved on 11 of the 17 individual tests.
Suggested headline: “Gloucester MCAS scores show slight improvement.”
In 2012, Rockport’s overall proficiency was 71.7 percent; In 2013, it was again 71.7 percent. Between 2012 and 2013, Rockport’s proficiency levels improved on 9 of the 17 individual tests.
Suggested headline: “Rockport MCAS scores show slight improvement.”
Standardized test scores are a particularly poor measure of a school’s effectiveness. They mostly correlate with family income, family education levels, and English-language learners. And they offer little insight into the quality and commitment of the teaching staff.
But since they are a popular shorthand for labeling school districts “good” or “bad,” it seems that the GDT should do a better job of reporting the facts.
MARTIN DEL VECCHIO