District Dissects MCAS Results
By: Alex Scofield
After a month of looking over the results of Sandwich’s most recent MCAS results, which were released in September, the district’s four principals are ready to discuss what went right and what went wrong.
Each of the district’s principals presented their MCAS results to the school committee earlier this month.
Forestdale School Principal Sharon Bellao provided evidence of the school’s continued improvement on MCAS, while Sandwich High School Principal Ellin S. Booras praised her students for their sustained excellence on the exam.
Though each of the district’s schools performed at or above the state average in both math and English on last year’s exams, there were also some red flags raised by last year’s results.
Chief among those concerns was the Oak Ridge School’s failure to reach the Department of Education’s performance benchmark known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in both math and English.
Special education students from the Oak Ridge School have also done poorly, according to state standards on the MCAS test in recent years, as students in that subgroup failed to make AYP for the fifth year in a row in math and the third year in a row in English.
Due to its results on the test, the Oak Ridge School has been put into state-mandated restructuring for its special education subgroup, which requires it to present a formal plan to the Department of Education to address its flagging test scores.
Despite his school’s difficulties on MCAS, Principal Thomas C. Daniels was hopeful that some changes recently implemented at the school would make for improved test scores in the years to come.
He said the implementation of the Everyday Math program in kindergarten through grades 4 would help address students’ struggles in the open response portion of the math program, which was an area of concern at each of the schools.
He added that continued professional development for teachers through the Lesley Literacy initiative would also boost scores in the portion of the test that requires students to respond to open-ended questions.
Mr. Daniels also pointed to recent improvement of the Forestdale School as a beacon for the Oak Ridge School.
Forestdale students in both traditional and special education classrooms were able to meet AYP in both math and English in 2008, after years of failing to do so on the English portion of the test.
Though the Forestdale special education students were not able to make AYP for two years in a row in math, they were able to reach the benchmark in English again in 2009.
“We’re learning from the Forestdale School,” Mr. Daniels said.
In addition to banking on new professional development initiatives to pay dividends, Mr. Daniels said a restructuring committee has also been formed with the goal of responding to data from this last year’s MCAS exam and determining feasible improvements that can be made in the classroom.
After outperforming its counterparts for most of the decade, Henry T. Wing School Principal Matthew J. Bridges admitted that test scores at his school had been “kind of stagnating” in recent years.
Though traditional education students have annually met AYP at the Wing school, special education students have failed to meet the marker four out of the last five years, and in the last two years in a row.
Special education students at the Wing School also failed to reach AYP last year, the third time in the last five years that they have not met the mark.
Mr. Bridges said that, after examining the test results, he saw that his students, like those at the Oak Ridge School, struggled on open-ended questions.
Superintendent Mary Ellen Johnson told the school committee that she was dedicating more professional development to improving student achievement in the K-8 Schools on the MCAS.
She said that Sandwich will be the first town in the commonwealth to have representatives from the Department of Education come to town to lead a workshop for teachers. These are the same people who were in part responsible for creating the open response questions on the MCAS exam.
“We want to hear [how we can improve student performance] straight from the horse’s mouth,” Dr. Johnson said.
The workshop is scheduled to take place on Friday, November 13.
Dr. Johnson pointed to the continued high performance of Sandwich High School students, who have for years far surpassed state averages on the MCAS, as proof that Sandwich students were capable of earning higher marks on the test.
“Obviously there’s something more we need to be doing,” she said. “Because our students are smart, and they can do it.”
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