GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

September 25, 2013

City schools chief weighs students' test scores

By Ray Lamont
Staff Writer

---- — Gloucester Superintendent of Schools Richard Safier said Tuesday he won’t have any specific recommendations for additional program steps of changes tonight when he makes his annual report to the city’s School Committee on students spring scores in the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System standardized tests.

But Safier acknowledged Tuesday that there are some issues “that require a closer look” toward needed improvements, even while noting that a wide number of students, classes and schools within the district met or exceeded state-developed “targets.”

In a draft of is report to the committee — to be delivered tonight in a 7 p.m. meeting at Gloucester High School — Safier touted several of what he labeled as “proficiency positives” noted in the test scores, which were released last Friday.

Among the highlights:

All student “populations” within Gloucester High School posted a rating of “above target” in English language arts, primarily reading comprehension and writing skills. In terms of hard numbers, the results showed that 91 percent of all GHS students achieved scores of “proficient” or advanced” in ELA, equal to the state average.

All GHS populations also placed “on target” or “above target” in science as well.

At O’Maley Innovation Middle School, four of the school’s five populations scored above target in math — a positive sign for a school that has emphasized the so-called STEM programs of science, technology and math.

At Veterans Memorial Elementary School, all of the school’s individual subgroups improved in both English Language Arts and in math.

Those numbers aside, however, Safier Tuesday noted some trouble spots as well.

At O’Maley, all three grades placed below the states target in English Language Arts — though the school’s seventh- and eighth-graders topped the state averages, with proficiency marks of 72 percent and 83 percent respectively, compared to the state’s norms of 71 and 78. Of O’Maley’s sixth-graders, just 62 percent tested as proficient or advanced in English, as opposed to the state’s average of 67.

And while Safier and other educators have noted that fourth-grade math scores are down across the state — with just 52 percent of all Massachusetts fourth-graders scoring as proficient or advanced, scores in three of Gloucester’s elementary schools remain below 40 percent.

While East Gloucester’s fourth-graders soared to a proficiency rating of 65 — up from 55 percent a year ago — and West Parish students topped the state norm at 53 percent, just 21 percent of the fourth-graders at Beeman scored as proficient or better, while Plum Cove registered a mark of 39 percent and Veterans scored at a proficiency rating of 38.

Veterans’ figure, however, was a marked jump from the 22 percent math proficiency rating posted by its fourth-graders a year ago, while even Beeman’s 21 percent score represented a gain of 2 percentage points from its 19 percent fourth-grade mark a year ago.

Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3432, or at rlamont@gloucestertimes.com.