This site aims to inform and mobilize Beverly parents to take an active role in all issues related to the funding and operation of the city's schools. It was launched in the spring of 2008, when the city saw its first-ever override attempt fail, followed by the closure of a nearly-new elementary school. Subsequent years have seen further cuts that have led to larger class sizes across the district. While the opening of an impressive new high school and plans to replace the city's aging middle school give us reason to be optimistic, the school community must be ever vigilant in demanding appropriate school funding by city and state governments, and better community communications from the district and School Committee.

Friday, September 23, 2011

MCAS Scores a Mixed Bag

The local media this week chose to look at the good news contained in the just released 2011 MCAS results: higher scores, and a narrowing of the achievement gap for high-needs students in 10th grade:

From the Salem News:
...Beverly High and North Shore Technical High in Middleton were commended for "narrowing proficiency gaps for high-needs students...

...Beverly Assistant Superintendent Maryellen Duffy said the state commended Beverly High for making strides in math with low-income students. Schools that were commended by the state had to meet certain improvement targets for low-income students for the past two years in math. 

"We have always met it in English/language arts," Duffy said. ...
Overall the progress at the high school looks good, with scores improving, and the school meeting AYP (adequate yearly progress) in all 4 categories (English & Math Aggregate and Subgroups).

But a closer look at the scores shows that the rest of the city's schools didn't fare as well, some showing lower scores than in 2010, particularly at the elementary level.

Briscoe improved scores slightly in all categories, but only rated AYP in English Aggregate, and is still rated as "Restructuring" in both English and Math.

All of the elementary schools missed AYP in multiple categories: Ayers missed all 4, and is listed as "Restructuring" for English; Centerville missed both Math categories for the 3rd straight year and is listed for "Corrective Action"; Cove also missed both Math categories for the 2nd straight year; North Beverly missed all 4 categories and its scores dropped in several categories.  It's listed as "Corrective Action" in English and "Restructuring" for Math. And Hannah, which had been the only school in the district to meet AYP in every category every year going back to 2004, not only missed AYP in all categories this year, but showed significant drops in scores compared to 2010 in aggregate and all subgroups.

Specific reports on the schools are shown here:

Ayers/Ryal Side
North Beverly
Briscoe Middle School
Beverly High School

Beverly is certainly not alone in its plight. A story in yesterday's Boston Globe stated that 82% of state schools missed the increasingly unrealistic targets, and it is a generally accepted view that the AYP targets, which require 100% of students to be proficient by 2014, are unachievable. The Federal Government has even begun to issue waivers from the targets to many states. [Note: Just this morning, President Obama announced a plan to exempt districts from some of the more unrealistic aspects of the No Child Left Behind Act, such as the AYP standard.]
That so many schools missed their targets for No Child Left Behind frustrated state education officials, who emphasized that the vast majority of the schools are doing a good job of educating the state’s children. Mitchell Chester, the state’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education, pointed out that MCAS scores at the majority of the schools this past spring either held steady or showed improvement.

But the federal law requires a more robust increase in scores, as all schools work toward a federal requirement of having all students — regardless of a learning disability or inability to speak English fluently — proficient by 2014.

“The federal [standard] is not helping us to distinguish who we should be the most concerned about,” Chester said in an interview before the results were released this afternoon at Lowell’s Murkland Elementary School.
But the significant drop in scores at Hannah and the lesser drop at North Beverly is particularly concerning, and underscores what many parents see as a connection between class size and MCAS scores. Last year was the first year that students in two of the grades tested at Hannah (3rd and 4th) had been compressed from 3 classes into 2, resulting in class sizes in the upper 20s. North Beverly's 5th grade was third in size projections (27) among the elementary schools that year.

Is it just a coincidence that these two schools saw the largest drop in scores the year after this consolidation? It's a question that parents bring up every Spring, but something the administration and school committee seem unwilling to acknowledge when putting together budgets.

9/24 UPDATE:  Here's another very interesting breakdown, provided by the Boston Globe, that shows grade by grade and school by school rankings compared to all other schools in the state.

9/29 UPDATE: The Beverly Citizen has more on the district's MCAS scores.