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Deberry Elementary classified level 4 by state education authorities

Date: 9/25/2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD — There was good news and bad news for the city's public schools last week. The bad news was the William N. Deberry Elementary School had been classified a level 4 by state education authorities based on scores from the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS).

The good news is "dramatic gains" have been made at four of the city's level 4 schools, according to School Superintendent Daniel Warwick.

He pointed out that at Alfred G. Zanetti Montessori Magnet School the students have made three years' worth of improvements in test scores in two years. The composite performance index at Zanetti for English Language Arts has gone from 71.9 percent in 2010 to 83.4 percent this year. For math, the score jumped from 74.2 percent to 78.2 percent.

Home Street Elementary School also made impressive advances, going from 59.9 percent to 74 percent in math and 63.1 percent to 71.9 percent in English.

Elias Brookings Museum Magnet School, despite having been hit by the June 1, 2011 tornado and its students now in temporary quarters, also showed improvement in both scores.

Another level 4 school, German Gerena also saw increases in test scores.

Warwick said the scores for the city's 10th graders have been the highest since MCAS was established.

Statistics released by the School Department indicated "in every grade level from third to 10th the gap between English Language Learners in the Springfield Public Schools compared to those in Massachusetts narrowed by between 1 to 8 percentage points."

Warwick said that while increases were seen in elementary schools, "we haven't been able to move the needle [as much]" in high schools and middle schools.

Scores for the High School of Commerce in English actually declined from 81 percent to 78.9 percent and from 61.4 percent to 52 percent in math. Warwick said Commerce has only had the funding for new programs to address these issues for one month.

If the Level 4 schools can hold onto the gains or improve even more they could be re-classified by the state in July 2013, Warwick said.

He added that Dewberry's classification was expected, but sees it as an "opportunity" to bring new practices to the school.

Warwick said no urban school district in the state is currently producing the test scores the state has set. He added that Massachusetts has the "hardest assessment in the nation" for students and school districts.

Programs now in place to increase literacy and proficiency in reading by grade three are important to improving test scores, Warwick said. He said that instituting universal preschool is also a goal.

One variable that affected the city's MCAS scores is the number of homeless students attending the district's schools. Warwick said the district has "a very mobile population."