State test scores show M.V. students’ perseverance 

Schools work to better support students. 

0
Martha's Vineyard students showed a positive trend in their MCAS test results. — Eunki Seonwoo

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released the 2022 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test results on Thursday, Sept. 29. According to the press release, these results provide the state with “its second overview of statewide learning since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

According to the release, the results from the spring MCAS tests were mixed. Math and science scores improved since 2021, but English language arts scores declined, indicating that the overall results compared with prepandemic levels “show continued need for improvement.” The release noted some changes to how the tests were administered over the past few years: 2019 had the full tests administered to students starting in third grade through high school, 2020 did not have the tests, 2021 had students grades three to eight take half-tests while high schoolers took the full tests, and this year saw a return to the full tests administered to students starting in third grade through high school. This year’s complete results can be found at bit.ly/3Ee6k1E.

A couple of test results are not online, and that is because “we don’t post achievement level percentages for groups with fewer than 10 students,” according to DESE media relations coordinator Jacqueline Reis. 

“These results show that it may take a few years for students to recover academically from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many students need more time learning, whether it is in the form of tutoring, acceleration academies, early literacy, afterschool programs, or summer learning,” education secretary James Peyser said in the release. “We have committed approximately $130 million in federal and state funds to these efforts. We know school districts are using these funds to increase instructional time and implement other proven strategies for improving student outcomes.”

The release said students “have lost in-person class time” during the pandemic, so various types of programs and funding options were pursued to help affected students. These include the test-and-stay-program introduced in August 2021 “to keep kids in school after they were exposed to COVID-19” that over 90 percent of schools participated in, acceleration academies, federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, and other methods. 

“We know that with time and the right support, our students can achieve and exceed their previous successes,” Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Jeffrey Riley said in the release. “We also continue to work with teachers and districts to improve early literacy instruction and, through deeper learning initiatives, make Massachusetts schools more relevant, engaging, and creative places to be a student or teacher.”

Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School director Peter Steedman told The Times he “was so proud of the work that our teachers have put in, and our students.”

“When we think back on what our community endured these past two years, facing this massive omicron surge that took place in November and had really tremendous impacts on our community … and the fact we stayed true to our mission and we ensured our students and community were safe, I just can’t say enough about the work our teachers did and the perseverance of our kids,” he said, adding that the Charter School students were above the state average for meeting or exceeding expectations. 

Steedman also mentioned how the Charter School’s high school students did well in their International Baccalaureate (IB) exams. However, he underscored that “we are not all about the scores.”

“The MCAS, the IB, these are just one measure of student learning,” Steedman said. “Our first priority continues to be the social and emotional learning of our students in an atmosphere that is safe and supportive.” 

Martha’s Vineyard Superintendent Richie Smith said the pandemic “had a profound impact on education.”

“I think we’re seeing across the state and here on the Island the impact of children not being in school as much, and the impact of masking,” Smith said. “We’re definitely seeing the impact for that — the emotional side and now on the academic side.”

Despite it “being a somber time for education,” Smith said he was encouraged and pleased with the students’ test results. 

“We have seen some loss in our composite scale scores, but maybe half of what the loss is across the state,” Smith said, adding that there weren’t “more profound dips” for subgroups of students with higher needs, such as children in special education or at lower socioeconomic levels. However, the composite scores of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School saw improvements. 

Smith also said the student growth percentiles showed “typical growth,” although some schools, like Tisbury School and Oak Bluffs School, had “high typical growth.” 

“Typical growth in an atypical time is pretty remarkable, and that’s what’s encouraging,” Smith said, adding that chronic absenteeism has also decreased.

Now the data will be assessed to “determine areas we can improve upon to better support our students,” according to Smith.