EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 20, 2013

MCAS scores up in math, lag behind in English

Haverhill compares favorably to other cities, but trails state averages

By Shawn Regan
sregan@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — Students in the city’s public schools are performing better in math, but lag behind in English, according to an analysis of Haverhill’s latest MCAS scores.

Math scores improved at all nine city schools where the most recent MCAS test was given last spring to students in grades three through 10, school officials said. On the English portion of the test, scores improved at five of Haverhill’s nine schools. The scores were released today.

The percentage of Haverhill students who scored proficient in math rose by 6 percent to 47 percent this year, but is still well below the state average of 61 percent. In English, the percentage of Haverhill students who scored in the proficient range dropped by 1 percent to 55 percent, also well below the state average of 69 percent.

Students are ranked in four categories: Warning/failing, needs improvement, proficient or advanced. The state goal is that all students score proficient or advanced, which equates to students performing at or above their grade level.

“There are still some people who aren’t as focused as they need to be on English,” Superintendent James Scully said. “We’ve made a real strong effort to improve our math scores and we’ve made great strides thanks to great work by our math teachers. Now, we have to bring that crusade to English.

“We are still falling a little short in helping students do better in reading comprehension and writing, basically story telling,’’ he said.

Haverhill’s scores compare well to those of similar urban school districts.

Mary Malone, Haverhill’s assistant superintendent for instruction and curriculum, said the city’s 55 percent proficiency rate in math compares favorably to the state average of 51 percent for urban school districts. In English, Haverhill’s 47 percent proficiency rate also topped the state average of 44 percent for urban districts, she said.

Malone said MCAS proficiency is on the rise in the district, having increased this year at eight of the nine Haverhill schools were students were tested. Bradford Elementary School had the highest gains, improving from 60 percent to 70 percent in the proficient category. At Haverhill High School, 70 percent of students scored in the proficient category, up from 66 percent a year ago.

Scully said the district expects to receive individual student scores from the state Monday and that parents can expect to receive their children’s scores in the mail by the end of next week.

Scully said administrators will be giving a detailed presentation on the MCAS results to the School Committee at its next meeting, Thursday at 7 p.m. in City Hall.

A passing score on the MCAS test is required for students to receive a high school diploma. Statewide, 88 percent of students met the minimum requirements on their first try at the test this year, up from 86 percent a year ago.

According to a press release put out by the School Department, five of the nine Haverhill schools scored among the top 80 percent of schools statewide for overall MCAS performance: Bradford, Consentino and Golden Hill elementary schools; and Hunking and Whittier middle schools. Those school placed in the state’s level 2 category. The other four schools — Havehill High School, Nettle Middle School and Pentucket Lake and Tilton Elementary schools — scored in the level 3 range.

Schools are ranked by the state from 1 to 5, with 1 being the best.

Golden Hill improved from level 3 to level 2 this year and Nettle missed jumping up to level 2 by one percentage point.

Malone said Haverhill students improved across the board in math. She said every school had increased scores on the state’s Mathematics Composite Performance Index, the standard by which the state determines whether schools are meeting their yearly goals and narrowing the improvements gap.

Malone said the average CPI increase at city schools was 2.8 percent, with Tilton Elementary leading the way with a gain of 5.5 percent.

The state also ranks school districts against one another across the state. The statewide median growth score was 51 this year. Median scores lower than 40 illustrate low student growth; scores between 40 and 60 indicate typical growth; and scores above 60 indicate high growth.

In math, the student growth percentiles for Haverhill students rose by 6 points to 53. Seven of the nine Haverhill schools where testing took place increased their median student growth percentile, indicating that student growth in mathematics is improving, Malone said. Students at Bradford Elementary and Whittier Middle showed the highest growth rate compared to their peers in other school districts, with both schools scoring 61.

Growth at the nine Haverhill schools in English was in the state’s “typical” range, Malone said. Some city schools showed small gains on that indicator, while others had declines.

Middle school students were also tested in science, but a detailed analysis of those scores wasn’t yet available. Malone said a preliminary review of science scores shows they are up at the district’s middle schools, with the exception of Hunking.