Martha's Vineyard MCAS test scores please educators, highlight problems
Preliminary results from the 2008 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exams, released at noon yesterday, show continuing performance improvements in many grade levels in Island schools, but also areas of concern in scores from some student subgroups.
After an initial look at the results, superintendent of public schools James Weiss and assistant superintendent Laurie Halt said in phone calls late yesterday afternoon that they are pleased with the progress that has been made, although they recognize areas in which some work needs to be done.
"We're very fortunate on Martha's Vineyard that in a sense we are not leading the pack with problems in MCAS," Mr. Weiss said. "Yes, we have some issues with adequate yearly progress [AYP] and they will grow over time, like they will everywhere. But on an individual basis, the vast majority of our students do very well, at a very high level. Some of our subgroups do cause us some concern, and that's where we have fallen down."
Mr. Weiss said Ms. Halt will begin working immediately with principals and staff Island-wide to analyze data and decide what to do. "We will start that process this week, and over the next couple of weeks, move forward on that very quickly, to try to come up with plans for adjusting our curriculum and our instruction," he said.
Ms. Halt said she will look at every test and set of results. In her preliminary review, she said she did find some results "that just jump out at you." For example, she said the percentage of Edgartown School students achieving proficient scores in third grade math scores rose from 28 percent last year to 68 percent this year.
Mr. Weiss, asked if he has concerns about any specific Island school's results, revisited the discussion about AYP results that took place at Monday night's All-Island School Committee meeting. "I think if you look at the AYP data, we are concerned with Oak Bluffs from the point of view that this is the second year in a row that some of their subgroups have not made adequate yearly progress - and that's a red flag kind of situation," he said. "So we need to look at that closely. And there are consequences under No Child Left Behind regulations."
AYP data from the regional high school and Tisbury School has begun to show signs of weakness in MCAS scores from some student subgroups, Mr. Weiss said.
"The other schools have managed to stay above those cut scores, those target scores, and that's a good thing," Mr. Weiss pointed out. "But there are still individual students at all the schools that have both strong areas and weak areas, and we want to address each and every one of their learning challenges."
In reviewing MCAS scores, Mr. Weiss said it is important to look at trends and patterns over time. "You don't make huge decisions based on one administration of the tests, although there are consequences that have to do with adequate yearly progress [AYP] based upon one or two administrations of the test," he said.
"So initially, [while] I'm pleased with the progress we're making, we want to analyze the data some more, especially for those subgroups that appear to be weak, and we'll keep moving forward," Mr. Weiss concluded.
In a phone call late Wednesday, Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School (MVPCS) director Bob Moore said the charter school's 2008 scores reflect a positive direction. "Across the board, our percentage of advanced or proficient scores remain the same or increase - so that's a good measuring stick for us," he said.
Math scores have increased school-wide, Mr. Moore said. "Our language arts scores have traditionally been good and remained good," he added. "I think the one thing that bounced off the board when I looked at the preliminary scores is that I was happy overall with the middle grades, five to eight, and how they did in English language arts and math, particularly." In addition, he said, "According to the information I have, all our tenth graders have moved on through all their testing, so that's good."