EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

September 28, 2006

North Andover High excels at math MCAS scores

Based on standardized test scores, it would seem human calculators roam the halls at North Andover High School.

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test scores for 2006 were released yesterday, revealing a dramatic boost in the number of students scoring in the advance math category in North Andover.

Across the river in Lawrence is a different story, with many more students failing the test than last year.

North Andover's advanced scores soared above the state average, with 52 percent of the class of 2008 scoring in the top category compared with 40 percent statewide. The advanced math scores represent a 7 percent boost from last year.

"We're really happy with the results," said Assistant Superintendent Dick Bergeron, who credits Diane Bassett, the school math chief.

"She really does a great job keeping effective mathematics instruction on the front burner," Bergeron said.

Meanwhile, Lawrence High School remains far above the state average for the number of failing students with 35 percent in English and 54 percent in mathematics. The state failure averages are 10 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

There is a boost in the number of students failing in Lawrence from last year when 32 percent failed English and 46 percent failed math.

"This is not good," said James Vittorioso, a School Committee member. "Evidently, the methods they are using are not reaching these kids. I'll repeat this 1,000 times. Our kids are not stupid. The way we teach them is stupid."

Vittorioso said Lawrence has a special situation because of its large immigrant population.

"It's the transient population we have," he said. "We still have a lot of children who have not mastered the English language."

Across Massachusetts, MCAS numbers are improving for 10th-grade students.

Statewide, 84 percent of students in the class of 2008 passed both the English and math exams, up from 81 percent in 2005 and 68 percent in 2001, the first year 10th-graders took the test as a graduation requirement.

The biggest gains in the class of 2008 were made by nontraditional schools such as Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School in Haverhill, and black and Hispanic students, who closed the gap with their peers of other races. Black students improved 10 percentage points and Hispanics improved 8 percent.

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