Marion School Committee, administrators react to MCAS scores

Oct 17, 2019

MARION — When it comes to Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System testing, Sippican School is holding its own and solidly better than the state, but looking for ways to push students to the next level, Old Rochester Regional Superintendent Doug White told the school committee on Oct. 16.

He explained that this is the second year that the school has taken the new “next-generation” test, and that they performed well first year. The new test is administered on a computer, and has new academic and accountability targets that students must must meet. The state sets accountability targets for each school each year based on previous year.

Students are ranked on a system of “exceeding standards,” “meeting standards,” “partially meeting standards” or “not meeting standards.” 

Statewide statistics show that 52% of students in grades three through eight met or exceeded expectations on the English Language Arts tests, and 49% met or exceeded math expectations. At Sippican School, overall scores show that, 61% of students met or exceeded English expectations, and 59% did so in math.

At the third grade level, 66% of the students met or exceeded standards on the English test. At the fourth fifth and sixth grade levels 55%, 63% and 62% met or exceeded English standards.

For the math exam, 60% of third graders, 53% of fourth graders, 55% of fifth graders and 66% of sixth graders met or exceeded standards.

Only fifth graders took the Science and Technology/Engineering test, but Sippican again outperformed the state average, with 60% of students at Sippican School meeting or exceeding standards compared to 48% across the state.

The school’s Principal Marla Sirois said the results left her with “lots of really cool stuff to look at with teachers.”

She added that based on the results she can consider development needs at Sippican School and craft professional development that focuses on the school, rather than district strategic plans.

One of the things that she wanted students to do was to continue to use the Chromebook computers that they use to take the test, particularly in writing.

In reviewing the test, administrators know the standards behind each question, but not how it was asked.

The school will also focus in on compare and contrast problems, which require high-level thinking that students may not have had a chance to practice as much, Sirois said. 

One strategy for the school’s improvement is to look at how a grade level has done on standards across multiple years by considering (say for third graders) “not just what is taught in third grade, but first and second,” Sirois said. 

She also pointed out that there may only be one or two questions on a standard that is covered in Kindergarten but not again until fourth grade.

White also said the district should check how students are doing throughout the school year, not just after it is done.

School Committee member Ron Gerhart, who teaches math at Bridgewater State, said that at a college level he most often sees gaps in skills with fractions, decimals, percentages, and asked the school to focus on “whatever you can do to emphasize that piece of it.” 

Nichole Daniel noted that she had seen her daughter doing take home exercises for MCAS when she was at Sippican School, but not her son. White explained that the school encourages staff to look at many different ways to present information. Daniel then asked if a change in curriculum be presented to School Committee members. White said it would be.

Committee Chair Michelle Smith noted that the “work that we do now we won’t see till next year.”