High school, junior high administrators pleased with MCAS results

Oct 24, 2019

Principals at Old Rochester Regional Junior and Senior High Schools made it clear on Oct. 23 that they were pleased with their schools’ Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System results in presentations to the Old Rochester Regional School Committee. 

Superintendent Douglas White said that under the new computer-administered “next-generation” MCAS, performance is based on the result of all students and the lowest 25% of the class, which is specially weighted. Targets also include accountability measures and are  custom to each school and class, and always moving. 

Even with the new standards, which came out just two years ago Junior High Prinicipal Silas Coellner said “over the last ten years I’ve been here this is one of the best years we’ve had.” 

The junior high school made significant growth on two accountability factors: achievement, where the school jumped from 25% to 83%, and attendance, where it jumped from 0% to 75%.

Both seventh and eighth grades beat the state on their English scores, with 74% in the top two categories for both grades vs 52% at the state level in seventh grade and 49% at the state level for seventh graders.

Eighth graders decreased slightly in math scores, from 69% to 58% in top categories, but beat out the state’s average of 46%. And with the seventh grade at 70% meeting or exceeding, they still solidly outperformed the state average of 48%. 

Coellner saw exceptional growth in the low-performing ELA scores. He credited some of this growth to a switch in intervention tactics, having students take an extra English or math class as they needed it. 

He also said there is a clear correlation between higher word counts and better scores, so he wants to continue to improve his students’ writing stamina. 

School committee member Heather Burke asked if he was concerned about the math program, given the slightly lower scores. 

He said he was not concerned, that the school has a new math teacher, and that the teachers seem to be working well together. 

At the high school level Michael Devoll said that his students “hit a home run this year.” with some of the “strongest growth in my career.” 

This year was the first year of the next generation MCAS, and the last year that ninth graders will take science MCAS with a pencil and paper. 

In addition to the accountability factors that other students face, high school targets are also set using how many students take advanced coursework (at least one Advanced Placement class), the graduation rate, and the dropout rate. 

Old Rochester students exceeded the state by ten points in meeting or exceeding English standards and by 15 in meeting or exceeding math standards. 

The lowest performing students at the high school also still performed very well. 

Devoll says that the school has started using its flex block for academic intervention for low-performing students, so he is not surprised to see the increase.  

To continue to improve, Devoll has changed the attendance policy to cut down on chronic absenteeism (missing 18 classes or more), and also adopted an on-the-spot resolution to work on writing stamina. 

School Committee member Tina Rood was concerned that the stricter attendance policy would lead students to come to school sick. 

“We’re not asking kids to come to school sick,” Devoll said. 

Cary Humphrey said that he was disappointed to see that the school district has been “openly criticized for our performance.” 

“There is nothing mediocre about our school district,” one administrator said.