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Districts post encouraging MCAS marks

Date: 9/24/2014

GREATER SPRINGFIELD – The Department of Elementary and Secondary Educations (DESE) recently released the latest batch of Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test results and local districts again stood out.

Longmeadow and East Longmeadow public schools and the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District (HWRSD) continued the trend of maintaining well-above-average scores, when compared with the rest of the state.

In Longmeadow, Superintendent Marie Doyle praised what she called “improvement in every area.”

She pointed out that among the major successes in 2014 was Glenbrook Middle School advancing from Level 2 status to Level 1. Glenbook students scored proficient or higher 92 percent of the time in English language arts (ELA), while 79 percent of test takers received favorable grades in math, well above state averages of 74 percent and 55 percent, respectively.

Eighth graders saw a 5 percent increase in students scoring proficient or higher in ELA and a 6 percent jump in passing grades in math, according to annual comparison data provided by the DESE.

Seventh grade saw 96 percent of its students score proficient or higher in ELA, a 5 percent increase, including 9 percent more testing in the advanced category. Meanwhile, math scores jumped dramatically to 85 percent from 73 percent in 2013.

While the rate of sixth grade students scoring proficient or higher in ELA remained at an 88 percent clip, the number reaching advanced status improved from 27 percent in 2013 to 35 percent this past spring. Math scores slipped, with only 82 percent receiving passing marks, compared to 90 percent a year ago; however, an additional six percent scored in the advanced range.

“That’s thanks to the hard work of the staff there at Glenbrook,” she said.

Doyle is among those who have long stressed that grade 10 test scores represent a culmination of a student’s experience in the district, and those numbers remained high in 2014.

In ELA, 98 percent of 10th graders scored proficient or higher, up 2 percent from a year ago.

Math scored fell in the high school, however, with only 65 percent of 10th graders scoring advanced compared to 72 percent a year ago. Overall, 87 percent of high school students placed proficient or higher in math, compared to 92 percent a year ago. The percentage of passing grades still exceeded the state average of 79 percent.

“We’re looking into the math scores,” Doyle said. “There has been dissatisfaction with the math program, especially at the middle school level. We have a committee that will determine the future of our math curriculum.”

Doyle also said the district is examining recently applied ELA strategies and assessing how those programs have affected test scores.

“We’re focused on literacy initiatives that we have implemented at the elementary levels and are watching those results carefully,” she said. “We have already seen some improvements.”

Doyle indicated that with Longmeadow students taking both the MCAS exams while also piloting the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) assessment at all grade levels, students displayed a level of testing fatigue.
    “Students felt oversaturated with testing,” she said. “We continued the MCAS while piloting the PARCC testing at all levels for the continuity of data, but it was a burden on the students. This year, [the School Committee] decided not to take part in the PARCC pilot until its issues are worked out.”

HWRSD also performed well, especially at the high school level, with 97 percent of students scoring proficient or higher in ELA, 7 percent above state averages, and 87 percent of those tested scoring in that range in math, 8 percent higher than the rest of the state.

“An important indicator for us is how students perform after having the benefit of experiencing our entire curriculum up to grade 10, the final tested grade,” HWRSD Superintendent M. Martin O’Shea said. “Every elementary and middle school educator is involved in laying the foundation for student success at the high school where 97 percent of students were proficient or advanced in ELA and 87 percent were proficient or advanced in mathematics. These scores remain well above the state average.”

O’Shea said the district is in the process of assessing the data provided by the DESE and would provide a full report at an upcoming Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee meeting. The data provided by the state is a key component in curriculum development and determining areas of need for the district, however, it is not the sole factor in those decisions.

“Each year the scores give us reason to celebrate and also help us identify opportunities for growth and targets for improvement at the district, school and individual student level. Our HWRSD teachers and administrators carefully study student performance and use the scores to improve instruction or measure individual student growth over time,” he said.

“At the same time, we understand that the scores are a single data point. We measure our success and children’s development in many different ways. A child’s love of learning, his or her creative talents, his or her ability to think critically and reason soundly. These are all qualities that MCAS does not measure, but are critical aspects of our educational mission,” he continued.

O’Shea added the district would send home students’ individual test scores when they become available.

East Longmeadow High School students also performed well on the ELA assessment with 98 percent scoring proficient or higher. By comparison, 91 percent scored proficient or higher in 2013.  In math, however, only 83 percent reaching that level in math with 47 percent scoring advanced, whereas a year ago 84 percent were at least proficient with 54 percent in the advanced range.

Among the biggest improvements in East Longmeadow were those in middle school math.

In sixth grade, 64 percent of test takers were proficient or higher and 25 percent scored advanced. In 2013, 61 percent scored at least proficient, including 15 percent in the advanced category.

In fifth grade, 75 percent had passing marks, including 41 percent scoring advanced, compared to 65 percent and 29 percent, respectively, in 2013.

East Longmeadow Superintendent Gordon Smith did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

Complete MCAS information for all districts is available on the DESE website,