At least one segment of the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School’s 2012 MCAS scores indicate that the school has made academic gains over the past year, school officials say in the GCACS annual report filed Thursday with the state.
The report states that the school’s preliminary results from the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests in English language arts show improvements by up to 19 percentage points.
“Only the preliminary results are out at this time, so the comparative data on math and science is not yet available” the report states, “ however the ELA scores have improved for every cohort.”
In grades 3 through 5, 43 percent of the students scored proficient and, in grades 6 through 8, 80 percent of students scored proficient or better, the report indicates. In the 2011 tests, the school’s then fourth-grade students scored at just a 24 percent proficiency rating, while 43 percent scored as proficient in grade 5.
The school’s grade six scored 48 percent proficient, while grade 7 scored at 70 percent, the report shows.
Last year, students at the charter school scored well below the state average, and in many cases, well below city middle and elementary school students on all the 2011 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests.
In fourth and seventh grade mathematics, more than 90 percent of the charter school’s students failed to meet the MCAS proficiency standard in 2011, none of the school’s grades scored at higher than 30 percent proficient in mathematics.
The 2012 MCAS data for mathematics and sciences isn’t in yet. Tony Blackman, the charter school’s executive director, said Thursday that the results cited in the charter’s annual report are preliminary and given to principals by the state.
The full results are expected and will be announced publicly sometime in September. The statewide tests are aimed at evaluating schools’ student progress and academic programs.
The charter school filed its annual report yesterday with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The report paints the charter as a school that’s made improvements, but still has work to do.
While this year’s results came in better than last year’s, Blackman said in the report, the numbers don’t show a trend anymore than the 2011 results. Blackman said those results represented the first MCAS students took with the charter, some only having been there for a few months.
This year’s results, he said, show the effect of the charter’s program on students that have been there for two years.
“We want to see this happen again next year,” he said.
If it does, Blackman said that would show the school’s academic program is working and the charter is viable. If it continues for five years, there shouldn’t be a doubt about renewing the school’s charter, he added.
“While one year is not a trend, whether good or bad the momentum and trajectory of (the charter school) is clearly in the right direction,” Board of Trustees Chairman James Caviston wrote in a letter attached to the report.
Caviston’s letter states the school has improved despite two years of budget cuts measuring 30 percent each year after enrollment came in well below expectations.
In the school’s first year “marked by a four-week delay and a tumultuous late-September opening, 26 of 90 students withdrew after state Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, citing delays and other problems, questioned when the school was still “viable.”
Last year, 137 of an expected 190 students showed up on the first day.
Caviston’s letter also states that the school has a pre-enrollment of 212 students going into its third year. The charter is budgeted by the state for 180 students; the school is also adding a kindergarten and first grade for the first time, completing its K-8 grade structure as planned and chartered.
Caviston’s letter also cites the school has having an “exceptional faculty,” citing the MCAS improvement and staff retention.
The school filled most of it’s nine openings last week, but, according to the annual report, has just a 55 percent retention rate of administrative staff and teachers.
Steven Fletcher can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3455, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StevenGDT