MCAS results show steady improvement
Island school students continue to improve their scores on standardized state tests, according to preliminary results of the 2009 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exams released at 11 am yesterday. While scores for a few student subgroups in some schools remain areas of concern, school administrators are pleased overall with trends over time.
"I think our kids did extremely well if you compare their individual growth from year to year, Island-wide, we did extremely well this year in student growth," superintendent of public schools James Weiss said yesterday. "Our kids have learned a lot, and it's obvious from the tests."
Mr. Weiss qualified his enthusiasm by noting that MCAS testing is just one of many measures that the Martha's Vineyard Public Schools (MVPS) use to determine how well students learn. One factor to keep in mind when looking at MCAS results, he said, is that the standardized tests match scores from different groups of students from year to year.
"One of the things that I have Laurie Halt do for me is to prepare some information comparing a student who took the test in third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade, and following the student over time," Mr. Weiss said. "And if you look at those numbers, they are constantly getting better and better. Kids are moving from the needs improvement to the proficient to advanced across the board, and that's what we want to see."
There are some areas of concern, Mr. Weiss said, in a few Island schools that did not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in some student subgroups. Those include Oak Bluffs School and Edgartown School.
"We will of course look at that data and do some other examination of the kids in terms of assessment and try to determine what they need, and we'll focus our energy on
things that need to be improved and continue to work on that," Mr. Weiss said.
Overall, however, he said he is pleased with the individual progress of Island students. "If you look at the results at Tisbury, West Tisbury, Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, kids every year have done better than the previous year, and that's what we're after," Mr. Weiss said.
Under the provisions of the No Child Left Behind Law, by 2014, all students are supposed to achieve proficient scores in English language arts (ELA) and math. "That isn't going to happen," Mr. Weiss said. "We want them all to make progress, but 100 percent perfect is not going to happen. Our kids are learning a lot, and this is just one measure of many," he concluded.
As assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, Ms. Halt will be analyzing and studying MCAS results in fine detail. "I would just like to say that overall, we are extremely pleased with the students' performance on the spring MCAS across the Island," she said.
Teachers and administrators look at MCAS scores a little differently, Ms. Halt explained. "We're looking at how the eighth-graders did compared with their performance in seventh grade and sixth grade," she said. "We look at advanced and proficient combined, and by and large, our cohorts have shown improvement. There are a few isolated cases where a cohort did not make progress, but for the most part, it's pretty remarkable."
It is important to take the MCAS data and really dissect it, Ms. Halt said (see related story, "Making the most out of MCAS results.")
For schools seeking to address areas where MCAS scores are low, it is a combination of meeting their targets in performance and improvement, Ms. Halt said. The hard thing about looking at subgroup scores is that often a student is a member of several different subgroups, she added.
"But for all of our aggregates, in every subject, the performance rating was either high or very high," Ms. Halt said.
By looking at student cohorts and individual students and charting their progress, Ms. Halt said the schools are seeing tremendous growth across Martha's Vineyard.
"We really do not want to be measuring our schools against each other," Ms. Halt said. "What we really want to be looking at is the progress that the cohorts of students have made. We really should be celebrating."