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MCAS scores increase in Springfield’s public schools

Date: 9/26/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – School Superintendent Daniel Warwick tipped his hand a bit at the School Committee meeting on Sept. 19.

Although the details about the increase in the 2013 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) were to be revealed at a press conference the next day, he clearly couldn’t resist sharing some of the good news.

Three of the city’s Level 4 schools – the level a step above to the one at which the Commonwealth takes over the management of the school – are no longer at that classification.

Warrick said that Homer Street and German Gerena Community School are now at Level Three and Alfred G. Zanetti has risen to Level 1.

“It’s really a tremendous accomplishment,” he said at the meeting.

Two other schools, Elias Brookings Museum Magnet School and Brightwood, made “notable gains,” Warwick added.

Other Springfield schools that showed a change in status included Alice B. Beal School improving from Level 2 to 1; Frank H. Freedman School going from Level 3 to 1; Glenwood School improving from Level 3 to 2; and Frederick Harris School jumping from Level 3 to 2. Daniel B. Brunton School, formerly a Level 2 school, received a Level 3 status.

The High School of Science and Technology and Milton Bradley Elementary School, which had been Level 3 schools, will now have “the opportunity for intense support as Level 4 schools,” according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Warwick said that of the 20 schools in the Commonwealth where at least 90 percent of the student body falls within the poverty level, Springfield has 13 of those schools. The high level of poverty adds to the challenges of teaching, he added.

“The CPI Index is up in every subject,” he added. “The news is really good.”

“CPI” stands for The Composite Performance Index, which according to the Massachusetts Department of Education website “is a 100-point index that assigns 100, 75, 50, 25, or 0 points to each student participating in MCAS and MCAS-Alternate Assessments.”

The information Warwick released on Sept. 20 showed that “from 2012 to 2013, Springfield Public Schools gained 2.2 points in science, compared to the state’s average of just 0.4 points. In the subject of math, Springfield students gained 2.0 points while the state average is 0.9 points. In English Language Arts, they gained 0.6 points compared to the state average of 0.1 points.”

The scores also indicated, “English Language Learners (ELL), for example, made gains that are as much as three times higher than the state averages. In math, Springfield’s ELL population made a gain of 3.4 points compared to the state’s 1.3 points. ELA gains by ELL students are 3.3 points, while state improvement is flat in this area. In science, Springfield’s ELL students gained 3.4 points compared to 0.8 for the state.”

The School Department also reported that attendance has increased to 92.2 percent from 91.8 percent and that truancy is down from 4.4 percent to 3.8 percent. In-school suspensions are down 20.2 percent while out-of-school suspensions have dropped 16 percent. Arrest of students plunged 37.4 percent while reports of bullying have decreased 9.2 percent.

Mayor Domenic Sarno said at the School Committee meeting, “Slowly but surely we are pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.”

Warwick also added that enrollment is increased this year and the district has 427 more students than it did last year, mostly in the middle and high schools.

The superintendent said the increase had been anticipated and additional teachers had been hired.

At the meeting, Warwick introduced the new student representative to the School Committee, Dominique McMillan. McMillan is a senior at High School of Science and Technology where she is enrolled in Advanced Placement courses. She is a member of the school band and the captain of the girls’ varsity basketball team.

“She exemplifies what we have in Springfield,” Warwick said.