Strong progress on MCAS for junior high, high school

Dec 7, 2017

Old Rochester hasn't let a new form of MCAS testing get in the way of scoring well. Students from the junior high and high school remained well above the state average in 2017.

Old Rochester Regional Junior High School Principal Kevin Brogioli and Old Rochester Regional High School Prinicipal Mike Devoll explained the scores to members of the Old Rochester Regional School Committee on December 6.

At the junior high, students took a new version of the MCAS, called MCAS 2.0. "You'll see there was a different approach in assessing students, so we can't compare these to results in previous years," Brogioli said.

Meanwhile, the high school took the traditional pen-and-paper test, the MCAS "Legacy" format.

In the Science portion of the test, junior high students scored 12 percent higher than the state average for students scoring "proficient" or "advanced." The school was also nine percentage points below the state average for students failing the science portion of the MCAS exam.

"Students did especially well on questions relating to the physical sciences and engineering, as well as communication, manufacturing and transportation technologies," Brogioli explained.

The high school sees only freshman sit a science portion of the exam—Biology. The number of students who scored "advanced" or "proficient" went up 10 points this year, from 78 percent to 88 percent.

When it comes to English Language Arts, Grade 7 was top of the pack. Students scored 24 percent higher than the state average for students meeting or exceeding expectations on this portion of the exam.

At the high school, there was little room for improvement—but improvement there was. The percentage of students who scored "advanced" or "proficient" in the Language Arts section of the MCAS increased from 98 to 99 percent in 2017; 64 percent of students scored "advanced," an increase of 9 percentage points since the 2016 exam. Only one student failed the Language Arts section altogether.

Students' mathematics scores were also ahead of the curve. In Grade 7, students scored 18 percent higher than the state average for students meeting or exceeding expectations; Grade 8 students were nine percent above the state average.

At the high school, more improvement could be seen. On the mathematics portion of the test, the percentage of students who scored "advanced" or "proficient" rose from 88 percent to 95 percent in 2017, 12 percent higher than the state average. Again, there was only one failing score.

What are the schools' next steps for continued success?

At the junior high, Brogioli plans to expose all junior high students to computer science and coding by adding a class on the subjects to every students' schedule—but this class is budget dependent, and will only be finalized if the school's budget can afford it.

Meanwhile at the high school, Principal Devoll is working on increasing student access to Chromebooks, to train them in taking online tests.

Both principals, though, stated that the biggest priority was implementing social and emotional learning strategies to allow for student voices to be heard, allow for more self-advocacy from students, and encourage cooperative learning.

“If you look at the students who don’t score well, it’s not a curriculum issue, it’s a social-emotional issue of things getting in the way of them learning and accessing our curriculum," Devoll said. "We have great teachers and opportunities but some students can’t access them because of other things that are happening in their lives.”