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Mixed MCAS Results for Mendon Upton

The Mendon Upton Regional School District's 2013 MCAS results included both "highlights" and "lowlights" as the district's accountability score drops to a level 3 rating this year, due mainly to not meeting proficiency targets in the High Needs subgroups at Clough Elementary School. In 2012 the district was rated as Level 2.

The High Needs subgroup is comprised of students who receive special education services, get free and reduced lunch, or are English Language Learners.

Superintendent Dr. Joseph Maruszczak and new Director of Curriculum Maureen Cohen presented the results to the School Committee at an October 21 meeting. Cohen began the presentation pointing out some of the major accomplishments that the district has seen this year over last, such as an increase of students scoring proficient or higher in Math district-wide of 5 percent (to 72 percent) and in ELA (English Language Arts) of 3 percent (to 81 percent), an increase in students scoring proficient or higher in 3rd grade Math of 15 percent and 3rd grade ELA of 7 percent, an increase in students scoring proficient or higher in 8th grade Math of 14 percent, and increase of students scoring proficient or higher in 10th Grade Math of 7 percent. "Certainly, there are many areas we can say we are making positive gains," said Cohen.

Cohen walked the Committee through the districts scores per grade and subject matter, using a five year-trend analysis to show performance over time. "Overall we have improved a lot over five years; we are heading in the right direction," she said. Cohen said that although areas such as 4th grade math, which decreased 3 percent this year, the 5-year trend is positive. "We are down this year but if you look at the overall trend we are up about 5 percent," she said.

Cohen also pointed out the 5th grade math score, which increased only 1 percent, and has remained flat from five years ago. "This is one area that we are going to dive into. We have been flat while the state has been gradually improving," she said.

After her presentation of the scores, Maruszczak explained the complex formula used to determine accountability classifications for a school district. Schools can be classified as a Level 1-5 (1-highest, 5-lowest) depending on various factors including hitting targets for increasing the percentage of students scoring a proficient or better on the exams. The level designation also takes into account graduation rates and dropout rates in a district.

Maruszczak informed the Committee that although the scores for the High Needs at Clough Elementary School improved this year versus last year, the growth target assigned by the state was not hit for multiple years in a row, and therefore the school was designated as a Level 3 school, which means the district is designated as Level 3. Maruszczak cautioned the Committee, however, that there was a need for perspective when looking at the accountability ranking system. "Clough and Memorial are both outstanding schools with fine principals and highly committed staffs. We have to be careful and say who are some of our neediest students in terms of learning and what are we going to do to give them targeted interventions," he said.

This year Memorial Elementary School was classified as Level 1, Miscoe Hill School was classified as a Level 2, and Nipmuc High School was designated as a Level 1 mainly because of their high graduation and low dropout rate.

Maruszczak told the Committee that they are developing action plans based on disaggregating the data. "We need to ask ourselves 'what we are doing to better serve some of these students?'," he said, speaking about the students in the High Needs subgroup and about the inclusion model the district has adopted this year for those students. Maruszczak also said that they are also currently looking into a comprehensive K-8 writing program to teach all of the students about the writing process, something that they have not had in the past.

School Committee Member Philip De Zutter asked Maruszczak to present at a future time more detailed analysis of the MCAS data. "It would be great to see the next level down analysis," he said.


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