Rochester Memorial hits stride with new MCAS tests

Nov 15, 2018

ROCHESTER — A new type of MCAS exam did not stop Rochester Memorial School students from outpacing state scores in nearly every category or prevent the school from achieving under a new accountability system. 

Rochester Memorial School Principal Derek Medeiros said at a Wednesday school committee meeting that this year’s scores are a point of pride for the school.

Last year, the new computer-based “next-generation” MCAS tests were introduced to students in grades three through eight across Massachusetts, to replace old paper and pencil exams. The new test focuses primarily on critical thinking, knowledge application and making connections between reading and writing. 

Score results fall into four categories: exceeding expectations, meeting expectations, partially meeting expectations and not meeting expectations.

The state scores, in a combined “meeting or exceeding” expectations category, are 51 percent for English language arts and 48 percent for mathematics. 

The combined scores for Rochester students, grades three through six, were 58 percent in English language arts and 54 percent in mathematics, just above the state.

Rochester’s scores are impressive when considering specific scores at each grade level.  

The sixth grades scores at Rochester Memorial were particularly high, with 72 percent of students meeting or exceeding expectations in English language arts and 69 percent in math.

Additionally, there were no fifth grade students in the “not meeting” expectations category in mathematics.

“Some of our ‘exceeding expectations’ numbers are up and that is something that is definitely a point of pride for us,” said Medeiros. He added that the third grade scores in the exceeding expectations category have increased from zero to six percent this year. 

A new accountability system was unveiled this year for schools and districts. Previously, schools were rated on a system of levels from 1 to 5, with 5 marking state receivership.

Elise Frangos, the assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment, briefed the school committee on the new measures which track the lowest performing students and ask schools to elevate the learning of these students. 

“It’s about how do our students achieve and how do we bring up our lowest achievers,” Frangos said. 

The new rating system takes into account scores out of four possible points in the following: academic achievement in science, mathematics, and English, student growth, and chronic absenteeism, denoted as missing 10 percent or more of days attended by individual students. Frangos added that the new absenteeism measure does not differentiate between excused or unexcused absences.

Scores are tracked for the overall student population and the lowest performing students.  

Rochester Memorial received a score of four points in the achievement category for all students and the lowest performing students in both English language arts and mathematics. In science, the school received a zero out of four points for achievement. 

Frangos explained that the school was unaware of the targets set by the state prior to the exams, which inevitably impacted the assessment scores. 

Under growth, the school hit scores of three out of four in English language arts overall and in the lowest performing subgroup. In mathematics, the met the targets and received scores of four. 

A point of future improvement for the school is their absenteeism score for lowest performers, which was zero out of four. The score suggests that lowest performing students exceeded the amount of days allowed for absences. 

Under the new scoring system, schools are designated as either: a school of recognition, meeting targets/partially meeting targets, requiring targeted assistance or requiring broad comprehensive support.

Rochester Memorial is considered to be “meeting targets” under the system and received 82 percent of the possible points.

Frangos added that Rochester Memorial School aims to move into the school of recognition category next year and that faculty members are working hard to identify and support the lowest performing students.