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2013-2014 Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District assessment report presented

Date: 11/13/2014

WILBRAHAM – At its Oct. 28 meeting, the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee was presented with a 2013-2014 school year assessment report for the district from administration officials and principals.

“I think it is our job to approach the world of standardized testing that we are in the middle of with healthy balance,” Superintendent of Schools M. Martin O’Shea said. “Frankly, I do agree that the pendulum has sort of swung too far in terms of the emphasis on standardized testing in education today.”

O’Shea said that although the assessment report focuses mainly on testing, in his opinion the data on student assessment helps educators understand areas for student improvement.

In grade 5 English language arts (ELA), the district ranked at 73 percent of students ranked proficient or higher, more than the state average of 64 percent, he said. Grade 3 math for the district also achieved 81 percent, significantly higher than the state average of 68.

“We’re fortunate in this district to have science specialists at the elementary level, O’Shea added. “Not all districts can claim that and I think that our schools are reflected in that.”

HWRSD stands at about 70 percent proficient and advanced in science and technology. Longmeadow is ranked the same and East Longmeadow has a 60 percent passing rate for science.

Areas for improvement in the district focus mostly with math, he explained.

Forty percent of district students in grade 4 were at least proficient, compared with the state average of 52; 59 percent of grade 5 students ranked proficient or higher with a state average of 61 percent, and grade 7 students were on par with the state average.

However, in grade 6, 68 percent of students received proficient or higher marks in mathematics. The state average was 60 percent.

District elementary schools have accomplished the implementation of the EnVision Common Core-aligned math program, developed and used district-wide pacing guides, established longer instructional blocks in math, and implemented universal screenings to identify student needs in reading and math.

Areas of focus and improvement include identifying materials and practices in the EnVision program to meet individual student needs and changing the structure of math instructional blocks.

“If you’re a math teacher and you’re explaining fractions, it’s not enough to understand how fractions work,” O’Shea said. “You need to understand how kids might misunderstand and you might need to understand three or four different ways how kids misunderstand.”

For the district middle schools, areas of focus include improving math scores with a focus on geometry and alignment to the Common Core state standards.

Middle schools are also focusing on expanding the understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as well as reviewing the possibility of expanding the formative assessment system for teachers universal screening tool.

Minnechaug Regional High School (MRHS) Principal Stephen Hale said the administration took a look at SAT scores during a five-year period.

The mean for critical reading during the 2013-2014 school year was 519 with 254 test takers. The mean math score was 539 with 254 students taking the test, and the average critical writing score was 505 with 254 test takers.

Hale said MRHS students during the past five years have scored fairly consistently.

“One of the areas that we were concerned about is that we dipped a little bit in critical writing,” he added.

For the 2012-2013 school year, the critical writing mean score was 516 with 262 students taking the test.

Hale said MRHS is designated as a Level 1 school, a designation only achieved by 22 percent of schools throughout the Commonwealth and has had zero failures on ELA Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests for three years in a row.

In other business, the committee approved a donation by Babson Capital Management for 100 desktop computers to be used throughout the district.

The committee also voted to approve an audit report from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for the new MRHS project.    

A draft audit report included a list or reimbursable items and those deemed ineligible, as well as a budget summary, O’Shea said.

The project will go to the MSBA Board of Directors in November to close out the $69 million project, he added. The MSBA is the state agency that awarded the project a 61.3 percent reimbursement rate in 2009, which accounts for about $34.8 million.