High Scores : MCAS Results Mixed for CPS; High School Shows Strong Signs of Improvement

There were a lot of areas to be concerned about for Chelsea’s public schools when MCAS test scores came out late last week, but there were many points to celebrate as well – and Superintendent Mary Bourque said one of those positive areas is at Chelsea High School (CHS).

Bourque indicated that students at the high school – who took the test last spring – logged one of the best English Language Arts (ELA) scores that has been seen in some time.

“Math and ELA scores are up at CHS this year, but I am particularly proud of that ELA score,” said Bourque. “Students scored an 86.6 overall on the test, which means that 68 percent achieved proficiency. When you think about the fact that many of our students don’t have English skills when they come to us and have to learn English when they come here – that score becomes even more significant. I really don’t think we give enough credit to our students who score proficient on ELA tests in our district – given what many have to overcome.”

Not everything was as rosy as CHS, though, and Bourque said there were concerns that are already being addressed.

“Right now, we have mixed results overall,” she said. “Certainly we’re extremely proud of the students and kids who worked so hard on this test. Again, I’m certainly proud of CHS in particular due to its really strong areas of achievement. Grade 8 at our middle school did well, especially Clark Avenue. Grade 7 at the Browne and Grade 8 at the Wright were notable. However, we saw a troubling dip in our Grade 3 ELA scores. We also saw some concerns at Grade 5, which is a statewide phenomenon.”

Bourque elaborated that Grade 5 scores went down all over Massachusetts and Chelsea followed that trend. She said that the administration is in the process of figuring out what caused the problem in Chelsea, and perhaps what might be awry all over the state.

“I don’t know what it is, but it’s a statewide problem and we’re digging in to find out what might be causing that dip,” she said. “There might be some systemic curriculum issues. Part of what we struggle with here is at the end of Grade 4, we see a lot of kids who leave us for the Charter Schools like Excel. Those students that leave are typically our stronger performers too.”

At Grade 3 and 4, student performance declined on the ELA test – which Bourque said would have to be addressed. However, as students trend toward the higher grades, ELA scores tend to skyrocket – indicating that perhaps as students get older, they get a better grasp of English and test better.

Also in Grade 3, there was a notable 10 point drop in the math test as well.

Grade 5 science was also a major concern as test results declined to the “very low” score level.

Alternatively, on the math test, the Hooks and Kelly Schools met or exceeded the state average, and had “high performer” status on those tests. Likewise, the Clark and Browne Middle Schools had notable proficiency rates on the ELA test – both well over 50 percent proficient.

Overall, the scores tended to be all over the map, with no real identifiable trends to be seen immediately. With that in mind, Bourque said they have already put together an intensive middle school intervention and tutoring program that will serve identified students on individual weaknesses that showed up on the test.

“What we are doing at the Wright and Clarke Middle Schools is going to a very intensive intervention and tutoring program three times a week,” she said. “The Browne already has an extended day due to the ELT state grant at that school, but at the other two we’re going to introduce this program after school. We’ll be offering two, 40 minute classes with a 10 minute break. So, it will be 90 minutes total for this extra intervention and tutoring…We’re actually quite excited about it and are anticipating seeing some really good gains.”

The program will run for 10 weeks in the fall at both schools, and then for 15 weeks in the spring at both schools. It will take place after school for students who have been identified as needing extra help.

“We’ll have it running on three-week cycles based on subject matter for grades 5, 6, 7, and 8,” she said. “Students who need help in certain areas will get that quick intensive tutoring and then they’ll pull out someone else who needs help in some other area.”

Meanwhile, Bourque said that the schools will also be working hard to implement the new national Core Curriculum program being adopted in Massachusetts. More than a year ago, the state agreed to discard the successful Massachusetts curriculum and go to the national curriculum formulated by the federal government.

“The curriculum is changing and this will really change the landscape of education and that will be for the better,” she said. “The shift will take three full years and we’ll have it fully implemented by June 2014…This will be the closest to a national curriculum that we’ll see in our lifetime.”

One example, she said, was that skill levels now taught in sixth grade will be taught at Grade 3 instead. Getting teachers trained and adjusting that curriculum will be a challenge – especially on top of changes made as a result of this year’s MCAS scores.

“It’s a lot of changes coming to us all at once,” said Bourque. “Education isn’t getting a break when it comes to change, but in all that what we’re trying to focus on is the kids and the students that are in front of us so that we can help them grow as learners.”

2012 MCAS Superintendent’s Report:

Highlights English Language Arts (ELA)

•District grade 10 student performance improved 4.6 points to an all time high of 86.6 achieving high performance status for the second consecutive year. Sixty-eight percent of all first time tested students achieved proficiency.  Analysis of grade 10 student performance indicates steady significant improvement from grade 6 through grade 10.

•Clark Avenue School grade 8 student performance continues to achieve high performance status in ELA.

•Browne School grade 7 student performance in ELA was strong with 53% of all students tested achieving Adv/Proficient status.

•Wright School grade 8 continues to achieve high performance status in ELA with 62% of all students tested achieving Adv/Proficient status.

Areas of Concern English Language Arts

•District grade 3 Although 34% of grade 3 students tested achieved proficient, overall student performance declined.

•District grade 4 student performance declined by 3.2 points.  Of grade 4 students 30% achieved proficiency.

•District grade 5 student performance continues to struggle. Grade 5 across the State has a pattern of decreased student performance annually.

Highlights Mathematics

•District grade 10  Fifty-four percent of all grade 10 students tested achieved proficiency with 24% of tested students achieving Advanced status. This is an increase of 2.8 CPI points.

•District grade 6 student performance in mathematics improved by 7.4 points moving into the moderate performance range for the first time since testing began in 2006.

•Hooks and Kelly Schools student performance in mathematics continues to meet or exceed the state average achieving at high performance levels year after year.

•Chelsea High School grade 10 student aggregate performance in mathematics improved (2.8 points) moving up in the moderate performance range with 26% of tested students achieving Advanced status.

•District grade 4 student growth percentile of 61 place grade 4 in the High growth range.

•Hooks, Kelly, and Sokolowski School student growth percentiles indicate high growth.

Areas of Concern Mathematics

•District grade 3 student performance declined by 10.7 points moving out of the high performance range back into the moderate performance range.

•District grade 5 student performance in mathematics declined by 6.3 points moving back into the low performance range. Grade 5 in the State also struggles in mathematics.

•District grade 7 student performance in mathematics declined by 8 points moving back into the very low performance range.

Highlights Science

•District grade 8 and grade 10 student performance in science at the Advanced/Proficient level improved by 5% and 4% respectively.

•District grade 10 student performance improved  and just missed (by two-tenths of point (69.8)) moderate performance range.

Areas of Concern Science

• District grade 5 student performance in science declined by 3.6 points moving back into the very low performance range.

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