New MCAS standards take ORR by surprise

Oct 25, 2018

At an ORR School Committee meeting administrators presented the results of the new MCAS standards, which classified both the junior high school and the high school as partially meeting targets. The administrators explained that the Department of Education told them about the new system after students had taken the test and that they will work to meet the new standards next year.

Elise Frangos, the assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment, presented the new standards, which weigh the performance of all students and the lowest performing students equally in determining the school’s overall score.

High school Principal Michael Devoll and junior high school principal Kevin Brogioli then presented the results for their schools to the Oct 24 meeting audience.

Under the new standards, school scores are based on scores out of four for the following categories: achievement in English language arts, math and science tests, student growth, and a new factor, chronic absenteeism, defined as missing 10 percent or more of the school year.

Brogioli noted that the standards for absenteeism are particularly difficult because they do not differentiate between excused and unexcused absences. This means that if a student has to take a two month medical leave those absences will count against the school.

High school scores also consider the graduation rate, the extended engagement rate for students who take more than four years to graduate, and the percentage of students that complete advanced placement or International Baccalaureate courses.

At the junior high school level the lowest performing students earned 51 percent of possible points, outperforming all students, who only earned 28 percent of all possible points. When averaged, these two yielded a total score of 40 percent.

At the high school level all students earned 61 percent of possible points and outperformed the lowest performing students, who earned 14 percent of possible points. The averaged score was similar to the junior high school, at 38 percent, though.

Brogioli and Devoll then presented the results for each grade level and each subject area, as well as measures that they had brainstormed to improve scores on each test next year.

As a broader measure for both schools, administrators discussed getting students more used to taking tests on chromebooks so they will be more prepared for the new online version of the test. They also want to find ways to support the lowest performing students through increased social emotional connection.

Although their results mean that neither school qualifies for support from the state, beyond workshops on family engagement and social and emotional support, the schools may be able to turn to their strategic plans, which also value social emotional skills, to support underperforming students. 

To increase student support and tackle the problem of absences, Frangos suggested that teachers reach out to parents through the Remind app with personalized messages to show that they value and miss students when they are absent.

Overall Frangos is confident that despite these issues, “we will move into the ‘meeting target’ and ‘school of recognition’ categories now that we know the standards,” she said, referencing two of the higher designations that schools can earn on the test.