Record MCAS scores but news not all good

Record MCAS scores but news not all good


Fourteen Massachusetts schools designated “underperforming” in 2010 have met three-year turnaround goals and will shed their Level 4 status, but four turnaround schools could fall into state receivership, state education officials announced Wednesday.

Fourteen of the 34 Level 4 schools have increased student achievement and demonstrated significant progress in improving school and district conditions, according to the Department of Education, which credited the use of tools stemming from a 2010 reform law aimed at lifting low-performing schools.

Gov. Deval Patrick on Wednesday visited the Orchard Gardens School in Boston, which is exiting its Level 4 status, along with four other schools in Boston, three schools in Springfield, and two each in Fall River and Lynn. Patrick in a statement credited the “renewed commitment” of teachers and investments of “time, money and new ideas” for the improvement. “We need to keep that going,” he said.

However, 15 turnaround schools will remain Level 4 after showing insufficient improvement, the Level 4 Lord Middle School in Fall River closed, and four Level 4 schools are being considered for a “chronically underperforming” Level 5 designation that would trigger state receivership – the Dever Elementary School and Holland Elementary School in Boston, the Morgan K-8 School in Holyoke, and the Parker Elementary School in New Bedford. Under Level 5, the state education commissioner is responsible for creating a school turnaround plan for a school and potentially naming a “receiver” to implement the plan.

State education officials also announced “record high performance” on MCAS exams in 2013, with 91 percent of grade 10 students scoring proficient or higher on English language arts, 80 percent in math, and 71 percent in science and technology/engineering. On the downside, 40 percent of students who graduate from public high schools in Massachusetts and enroll at post-secondary campuses are placed in developmental, non-credit bearing courses, according to the state.

Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester said in a statement that “it’s clear that MCAS is not providing us with the signal or rigor we need to tell us whether students are on track and ready for college-level work.” Chester said schools are implementing new “college and career ready standards” and the state is developing a “next-generation assessment system.”

The schools exiting Level 4 status are: Trotter Elementary School (Level 1), Orchard Gardens K-8 School (Level 1), Harbor Middle School (Level 3), Blackstone Elementary School (Level 3), and John F. Kennedy Elementary School (Level 3) in Boston; Kuss Middle School (Level 1) and Doran K-8 School (Level 2) in Fall River; Murkland Elementary School (Level 1) in Lowell; Connery Elementary School (Level 3) and Harrington Elementary School (Level 3) in Lynn; Zanetti K-8 School (Level 1), Gerena Elementary School (Level 3), and Homer Elementary School (Level 3) in Springfield, and Union Hill Elementary School (Level 3) in Worcester.

Schools remaining at Level 4 are: Dearborn Elementary School, Burke High School, The English High, and Greenwood School in Boston; Dean Vocational Technical High School in Holyoke; South Lawrence East Middle School and Arlington Elementary School (grades 2-4) in Lawrence; Brookings Elementary School, Brightwood Elementary School, High School of Commerce, White Street Elementary School, Kiley Middle School, Chestnut Street Middle School, and John F. Kennedy Middle School in Springfield; and Chandler Elementary School in Worcester.

Meet the Author
Chester plans to hold meetings over the next month in Boston, Holyoke and New Bedford to hear from school community members before making a final determination about assigning Level 5 designations to the four schools under consideration for receivership.

The 2013 MCAS results broken down by district and school will be released on Friday, Sept. 20.