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MCAS test scores, assessments concern Petersham officials

  • Superintendent Tari Thomas —



For the Athol Daily News
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

PETERSHAM — Superintendent Tari Thomas Monday night presented Petersham School Committee members with the most recent MCAS and STAR test results. They showed a mixed bag of results for the Center School, which serves students in grades 1 through 6. Thomas pointed out that some scores can be misleading, explaining that even one or two students doing poorly in a small class of 18 or 19 students can skew the overall results.

Among the results of greatest concern when it comes to the MCAS Next Generation – or MCAS 2.0 – exam is was a drop of 25 percent in the number of 6th-graders meeting or exceeding expectations on the English Language Arts portion of the test. In 2017, 67 percent of those students met or exceeded expectations, a figure that plummeted to 42 percent this year.

At the 5th-grade level, the number of students that met or exceeded expectations on the ELA portion of the MCAs exam fell from 50 percent to 38 percent over the same period. Results for 4th-graders were relatively unchanged, with those students meeting expectations dipping just 5 percent from 2017 to 2018 on both the ELA and mathematics sections of the test. Fifth-grade results on the math test also held steady.

There were some positive signs, however, as the number of 5th- and 6th-grade students meeting or exceeding expectations jumped 8 percent and 9 percent, respectively, on the math exam.

Those students who fare best were Center School 3rd-graders. Those meeting expectations on the ELA exam increased by 12 percent, while the number jumped by 10 percent on the math test.

Fifth-grade scores on the science and technology exam remained essentially unchanged from 2017 to 2018, with 39 percent and 38 percent meeting or exceeding expectations in the respective years.

Overall, however, the numbers show – for 2018 – just 42 percent of 6th-graders meeting or exceeding expectations on the MCAS mathematics exam, with only 25 percent of 4th-graders falling into that category, and just 6 percent of 3rd-graders making the grade.

According to Thomas, 95 percent of all Center School students participated in the MCAS exam in 2018.

The Benchmark Assessment System employed by the school shows 75 percent of 1st-graders reading at or above grade level, while that number for 2nd-graders stands at 60 percent for the fall of this year.

However, the Standardized Testing and Reporting test used at the school indicates only 35 percent of 2nd-graders reading at or above grade level. The STAR shows similar problems at grades levels 1 through 5 in both reading and math, according to assessments done this fall.

The only bright spots were in 4th-grade, where 57 percent of students are reading at or above grade level, and in 6th-grade, where 56 percent read at or above grade level.

The STAR assessment is done three times per year, with the next round coming this winter.

School Committee member Jennifer DeJakome expressed concern over the figures presented.

“Looking at the 4th grade,” she said, “if only 25 percent of them are meeting or exceeding expectations (on MCAS), that means 75 percent – three-quarters – aren't doing so well.”

She asked what steps may be taken in an attempt to boost test scores.

Principal Joanne Menard said administrators and staff would take a look at instituting a new curriculum. She said the curriculum currently being followed was instituted before her arrival some four years ago. She also explained, in response to a question from DeJakome, that the current curriculum does meet state requirements and also falls in line with Common Core.

“But it's old and we really need to make some changes,” said Menard.

In other action, Thomas announced the Center School would be receiving a $7,100 Rural Aid grant from the state Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education. Director of Finance Daniel Haynes explained the funds are not earmarked for a specific program or line item, but go into the school's general budget to be used as needed.

Menard also updated the committee on the Center School safety plan.


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