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Districts score well above MCAS state averages

Date: 9/25/2012

By Chris Maza

GREATER SPRINGFIELD — Area school districts are upbeat after their initial look into the latest batch of Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) scores, which were released on Sept. 19.

East Longmeadow Public Schools, Longmeadow Public Schools and the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District (HWRSD) all posted Composite Performance Index (CPI) scores well above the state averages in English Language Arts (ELA), mathematics, science and technology and engineering for the tests administered in the spring of 2012.

A district's CPI is a score that is calculated by adding together individual scores (on a scale of 100, 75, 50, 25, or 0) and dividing that total by the number of participants for an average score representing the district's performance as a whole.

Longmeadow students posted CPI scores of 93.9 in ELA, 89.9 in math and 90 in science, beating out state averages of 86.7, 79.9 and 78.6, respectively.

While Longmeadow scored impressive numbers as a district, Superintendent Marie Doyle singled out the 10th grade scores as a major success.

Ninety nine percent of students scored proficient or higher in ELA, while 93 percent scored in that range in math and 90 percent in science.

"We are delighted with the cumulative product — the success of our 10th grade students on the MCAS tests," she said. "Our students rank in 17th place in the State in ELA, 44th place in the state in math and 36th of 341 schools in science."

All three of those scores posted were improvements upon Longmeadow High School sophomores' impressive 2011 scores of 93 in ELA, 91 in math and 88 in science.

As a district, 84 percent of Longmeadow students ranked proficient or higher in ELA, 74 percent in math, and 75 percent in science, all well above state averages by double-digit margins.

Longmeadow also saw a jump in the number of students scoring advanced on the test. Advanced scores in ELA jumped from 26 percent to 29 percent in 2012, while increasing from 31 percent to 35 percent in math.

Longmeadow students also had combined scores of 56 and 55 in ELA and math in the Student Growth Percentile (SGP), which measures students' academic improvement from one year to the next compared to their academic peers. The ELA score was a two-point improvement over last year's numbers, while the math outcome was a marked improvement over the 48 percent score posted in 2011.

East Longmeadow students throughout the district achieved CPI scores of 91 in ELA, 83 in math and 84.2 in science.

Overall, the district increased the number of students scoring proficient or higher from 75 percent in 2011 to 78 in 2012 ELA and from 60 to 62 percent in math. Eighteen percent of test takers scored advanced in ELA, compared to 15 percent last year, while 23 percent of students were advanced in math, up two percent from last year's mark of 21 percent.

East Longmeadow Superintendent Gordon Smith indicated that he and his staff have not yet completed a thorough assessment of the results, but said he was pleased with the initial scores.

"We have not gone into depth with all of our results and we are planning on doing an MCAS presentation with our scores at the Oct. 15 School Committee meeting," he said. "I think we continue to make growth and our aggregate achievement has been very good."

Smith said that continued analysis of the scores will shed light into how programs, such as interim assessments in grades 2 through 10

"What we want to do now is see how well the things we've put in place over the past two years are helping us," he said. "[Interim assessments] give us a quicker look at how our students are making progress in ELA and math and it can point out to teachers certain standards in their classroom."

East Longmeadow students also posted significant gains in SGP. Test takers posted SGP scores of 51 in both ELA and math, representing five- and four-point improvements, respectively.

Like East Longmeadow, HWRSD Director of Curriculum and Instruction Timothy Connor said that the district had yet to perform in-depth analysis of the numbers.

"We will formally begin to analyze the results with the building principals on Monday [Sept. 24]," he said. "We were very pleased with the effort our of children and the hard work of the teachers, administrators and parents to assure that are children reach their highest potential. We use the MCAS data in conjunction with other assessments to improve instruction, align curriculum, make appropriate curriculum changes and inform interventions."

HWRSD also posted comparable district-wide CPI numbers to last year with slight increases in ELA and math at 92.7 and 85.9. HWRSD's science CPI score was 86.8.

HWRSD was also able to make modest gains in the percentage of students, district-wide, who scored proficient or higher in ELA and math with outcomes of 80 and 67 percent, respectively.

Students also bested the district's 2011 mark of 21 percent of students scoring advanced in ELA with 23 percent achieving that score in 2012. Meanwhile, 30 percent of students scored advanced in math this year, compared to 26 percent in 2011.

The data also indicated gains in SGP where the district had a score of 51 in both ELA and math. A year ago, those scores were significantly lower at 44 percent in ELA and 48 percent in math.

Connor added that the district was pleased some outcomes in specific grades.

He lauded the performance of 10th grade students, 97 percent of who scored proficient or higher in ELA, while 89 percent hit that mark in math and 84 percent in science.

He also pointed out significant jumps in SGP in the fourth grade, which improved from percentages of 30 in ELA and 27 in math in 2011 to 40 and 48, respectively.

Still, Connor said, all numbers must be looked at in the proper context.

"We have always been very cautious in not over celebrating our successes or over criticizing our lulls," he said. "We prefer to continually look historically at data to give us a better picture of areas we can improve on."