MCAS Scores Show Gains in Elementary, Still Work to Do at Middle School Levels

By Seth Daniel

Revere School officials have been crunching MCAS numbers and reported that scores are strong in the elementary schools, though certain subgroups in the high school are weighing down that school’s overall achievement.

The schools presented the analyzed scores to the School Committee over the last week, and noted that even though scores are steady and mostly at or above the state averages – scores of those in the English Language Learners (ELL) subgroup at Revere High School (RHS) have caused the school to be knocked down to a Level 3 school.

Just a few years ago the high school was celebrated as a Level 1 school.

The frustrating part about the lower designation, Supt. Dianne Kelly said, is that most scores have stayed at the same high level for several years.

In 2014, in math, RHS 10th graders (the only high schoolers who take the MCAS) scored 76 percent advanced/proficient. This year, they scored a 75 percent.

For English Language Arts (ELA), in 2014 they scored 88 percent, and this year they also scored an 88 percent.

What’s happened, Kelly said, is that some sub-groups – including the ELL students – have not met their benchmarks for improvement. Not meeting one’s benchmarks in a subgroup, under the scoring rules, causes the entire school to be knocked down a level. That has happened now twice, with the high school going from Level 1 to Level 2 and now a Level 3.

“A school is judged on its lowest subgroups and every single subgroup has to be at a high level for the entire school to be at a high level,” she said. “Having that does help us focus more on areas we need to focus on, certainly. It’s just that one subgroup is the only way they characterize achievement at RHS. That’s too bad because we know there are very great things continuing to happen at the high schools, things that are beyond just MCAS.”

That said, Kelly indicated they have come up with a plan to work on getting ELL student scores up.

She said it is a challenge, though, as so many students in that population come and go between districts. For example, between September and June last year, more than 100 new ELL students entered the high school. To know that they were brought up to where they are now is certainly an achievement, but Kelly said Deputy Supt. Danielle Mokaba is leading a plan to study and overhaul ELL education in Revere.

“One thing the high school has done to counter this is to increase the numbers of teachers for ELL,” she said. “That scaling up seems to be a way to give the kids everything they need to be successful, and will help us close this gap in achievement.”

Beyond the high school, scores are looking very good in the elementary schools districtwide.

In Grade 3, which has been a struggling point for many urban schools in the past, Revere scored well above the state average in both math and ELA. In ELA, Revere scored 49 percent advanced/proficient and the state average was 47 percent. In math, Revere scored 53 percent advanced/proficient while the state average was 49 percent.

Historically speaking, the district at one time used to celebrate hitting the stage average at just one school or within one subgroup on one test. Now, an entire grade districtwide is achieving beyond the state average in multiple tests – a figure often lost in the translation of so many numbers and so many high expectations.

In fourth grade, students also scored beyond the stage average, but in fifth grade, scores came in just below the state average in advanced/proficient. That was the same case in sixth grade as well – which is technically the first year of middle school nowadays – with scores coming in only a few points below the state average.

Things, however, took a dip in the seventh and eighth grades, which has been a common refrain in the Revere schools for quite some time.

“We have a little more work to do in fifth grade,” she said. “We were a little behind the state average in math and ELA. That’s going to be an area of focus going forward. In sixth grade, we’re not quite out of the woods in regards to the state average, but when you look at the other urban school’s scores, we are head and shoulders above the rest.”

In seventh grade, students on ELA scored 45 percent advanced/proficient, with the state average being 50 percent. In math, they scored 37 percent and the state average was 47 percent.

In eighth grade, it was 45 percent in Revere, with the state average at 49 percent in ELA. Scores in math were 39 percent in Revere and 48 percent for the state average.

Both science tests in fifth and eighth grade were also significantly lower than the state average districtwide. For the eighth grade science test, Revere scored 26 percent advanced/proficient, while the state average was 40 percent. The fifth grade science test had Revere students at 40 percent and the state average being 46 percent.

Some interesting tidbits about the test, which was taken by students last spring, is that it is a new generation of MCAS test – often called MCAS 2.0 in the media. In Revere, all students took the test on computers; no one used a paper test in the district. Some school districts are still transitioning students to computerized testing, but Revere is far ahead of that curve.

The scoring terms have also changed in the MCAS 2.0, with advanced/proficient now being known as Exceeding Expectations and Meeting Expectations.

“This year is like a baseline and then next year we can really begin to compare these results from the new test with like results going forward,” said Kelly.

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