The MCAS is the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, a test used to measure student performance in grades 3 through 12.
At the School Committee meeting last Wednesday, Assistant Superintendent Edwin Walsh presented his summary of the results of MCAS, which were mostly positive.
In his presentation, which is available on the school administrator’s Web site along with the 2012 MCAS executive summary report and the district MCAS summary report, Walsh explained that in almost all areas, the schools are “on target” for their improvement rating.
From a district-wide perspective, Duxbury schools performed well on both the English language arts (ELA)and the math MCAS tests.
“The advanced and proficient categories have increased this year,” said Walsh.
For the district performance on the ELA test, the numbers show student improvement: more students scored in the “advanced” and “proficient” categories in 2012 than in previous years and a lower percentage of students scored in the “needs improvement” category. However, the percentage of students in the “warning” category stayed the same.
On the math MCAS, the percentage of students who scored in the “advanced” category increased, while those in the “proficient” category decreased by one percent. The “needs improvement” figures stayed the same and the “warning” category percentage dropped by one percent.
In the state’s MCAS report, the Alden Elementary School was “commended for high progress” including “narrowing proficiency gaps” and “meeting gap narrowing goals.”
In third grade, 98 percent of students passed the English Language Arts test and 95 percent passed the math test; in fourth grade 99 percent of students passed both tests; in fifth grade, 98 percent passed the ELA test, 96 percent passed the math test and 97 percent passed the science test.
At Duxbury Middle School, the results were similar with the standout statistic of 100 percent of students passing the seventh grade ELA test.
At the high school, the high scores continue: 100 percent of students passed the ninth grade science test and 100 percent of tenth graders passed both the ELA and math tests.
However, the school district needs to improve the scores of special needs students in the Middle School as this is a category that the MCAS report states “did not meet target.”
School Committee member Gary Magnuson posed the question to school leaders: “What do we make of the disparity between “advanced” and “proficient” in the ELA versus the math?”
For the past three years, scores in the “advanced” category for the English Language Arts test have ranged from 24 to 28 percent, while the percentages of students who scored “proficient” is higher, ranging from 61 to 60 percent.
District Superintendent Dr. Ben Tantillo said this disparity “follows through to the SAT scores.”
“ELA is on my radar because of that,” said Tantillo.
He said he is addressing that issue with the curriculum supervisor.
Magnuson also noted the consistently lower percentage of students in the “advanced” category for the eighth grade science MCAS.
“To my mind, there’s an outlier, and that would be eighth grade science (scores),” Magnuson said, adding: “And it’s not just this year.”
Only four percent of students scored in the “advanced” category for eighth grade science over the past three years of MCAS testing. The percentage of students scoring in the “proficient” category for 2012 was 59 percent and 35 percent of students scored a “needs improvement.” Two percent were listed in the “warning” category.
Walsh said that the eighth grade MCAS science test tested students on all different science subjects. In comparison, he said, the ninth grade science MCAS focused only on biology and 100 percent of students passed the test, with 55 percent scoring “advanced,” 42 percent scoring “proficient,” and only three percent scoring a “needs improvement.”
“I’ve been questioning why we are not spiraling science through these (middle school) years,” said Tantillo.
Walsh said that the school district will carefully analyze the MCAS data and that each school will use it as they develop their curriculum action plans and student improvement plans.
In other business, the School Committee:
• Listened to a report from member Maureen Connolly who is the Duxbury School Committee’s representative on the board of directors for the Pilgrim Area Collaborative, which provides educational services to children with significant learning challenges whose needs cannot be met at their home school districts. Connolly said the board of directors meets monthly and that she will give the school committee reports from the organization. Currently, there are six Duxbury students enrolled in the Collaborative.
• Recognized high school students who were granted the AP Scholar award and the AP Scholar with Honor award as well as those who qualified as National Merit Scholars. Students who earned the AP Scholar award have completed three or more AP examinations with scores of three or higher. Those who received an AP Scholar with Honor award earned an average of 3.25 on all AP Exams taken and grades of three or higher on four or more of these exams. Qualification to be a National Merit Scholar is based on the students’ PSAT scores in their junior year.