A new beginning for MCAS
The recently released MCAS test results mark a fresh start for this important measure of student success. For the first time, all students in grades three through eight participated in assessments in reading or English/language arts and mathematics as well as science and technology in grades five and eight. High School students continued to participate in English/language arts and mathematics assessments. This establishes a baseline for the future and will assist us in looking at trends in these areas of the curriculum.
Previously the state Department of Education had released the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) statistics, which showed that the students on the Vineyard had done extremely well. AYP is calculated for each subject separately, and every school achieved this standard on the English/language arts assessment. In mathematics, schools across the Island met this standard with only Edgartown missing the mark for the first time.
At MVRHS, 98 percent of tenth graders passed the English assessment, and 97 percent passed the mathematics portion. These results place us clearly ahead of state averages where 93 percent passed the English portion and only 88 percent passed mathematics. While the scores of limited English and identified students lagged behind our overall results, here too we made significant progress in relation to State scores and last year's results.
At the elementary level, schools across the Island did well, with Oak Bluffs showing significant progress in several grades. In grade three, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and West Tisbury were well ahead of the State on both assessments with scores showing growth over last year. At the fourth grade level, our scores were well above the State results; however, several schools showed a slight decline from the previous year. At the fifth grade level, there were no tests in English/language arts or mathematics last year so comparisons were more difficult. Here again, we were generally well above the scores of the state.
At the sixth grade level, our elementary scores were mixed with some improving from the previous year and some not. Results for both grades seven and eight improved from those of last year in English/language arts and were at or above state levels in mathematics.
While these results appear to look positive for the schools on the Island, the No Child Left Behind Act raises the academic standards each year until 2014 when all students must be proficient. Like schools across the Commonwealth, Island schools will find it difficult to continue to make the progress necessary to reach this extremely high standard.
MCAS testing is just one tool we use to assess individual student progress and to help evaluate our curriculum and the various instructional strategies our teachers employ. It provides us with a valuable comparison with students and schools from across the Commonwealth and is a source of important data to help drive our program.
Should parents or members of the Island community have questions about these results and the overall trends they represent, I would urge them to contact their school principal or call me at the Superintendent's Office.
James H. Weiss is superintendent of Vineyard schools.