LAWRENCE — It was a cake and ice cream day Friday for teachers and students of the Guilmette and Wetherbee schools.
Superintendent/Receiver Jeffrey C. Riley visited both schools and rewarded them with "Level 1" parties to celebrate reaching the top designation in a five-level accountability system that measures scholastic performance in the MCAS tests.
"You're all getting ice cream, but you've got to do me a favor and save cake for your teachers," Riley was overheard telling students at both schools. He and his staff arrived at each school with balloons, a sheet cake with a giant "1" and ice cream.
Riley is planning similar parties this week for the South Lawrence East Elementary and Frost Middle schools — last year’s Level 1 designates — to acknowledge their efforts to stay at Level 1.
"It's a pretty impressive accomplishment to double the amount of Level 1's," Riley said in an interview, reflecting on one of Lawrence Public Schools' (LPS) major highlights in the MCAS results released by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
"Both of these new Level 1 schools were designated as Level 3 last year. So they have made substantial progress," Riley said, noting the schools were among the lowest performing 20 percent of schools across the state. Students at the two schools performed so well they skipped Level 2, which includes 776 schools or 48 percent of those taking the MCAS.
The city's school district now has four schools among the 500 Level 1 schools statewide that are in the top tier for progress made, 31 percent of the 1,614 schools rated under the system. That's a sign of significant improvement for a school district ranked as the worst in the state.
"I'm not sure how many (Level 1's) we should have," said Riley, who is now in the 18th month of a 3 1/2-year contract overseeing an urban education system of 13,585 children taught by 1,200 educators in 30-plus schools.