The statewide results from the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) taken by all public-school students last spring have been released. The tests are administered to students in Grades 3 through 9 as well as Grade 10 and cover the subjects of English and language arts (ELA), mathematics, and science and technology engineering. The MCAS were established in 1993 in accordance with the standards adopted in the Education Reform Act of 1993.
All students in the appropriate grades educated through the state’s public funds are mandated by law to take the tests. The MCAS-Alt was developed to ensure that students with significant cognitive disabilities that would not be able to take the standard tests even with appropriate accommodations be able to be assessed.
As a district, Silver Lake has a higher percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations in all categories than the state average. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has various designations assigned to a school’s progress. Silver Lake Regional High School was determined to be making moderate progress toward their targets. In addition, SLRHS is meeting the state target for the four-year graduation rate. In all eligible subgroup categories, the number of students completing advanced coursework improved. Of particular note, 73 percent of students at the high school are meeting or exceeding new and rigorous math standards set by the state. “Teachers at the high school and middle school have been working on aligning courses with the new state frameworks for history and will use a backwards design approach to create curricular units that are more closely aligned with state standards ELA, Math, and Science,” Assistant Superintendent Jill Proulx said.
Like the high school, students at Silver Lake Regional Middle School were found to also be making moderate progress toward their targets. Notable achievements by the middle school students included high growth scores in ELA for all students as well as exceeding the state’s target for students with disabilities in ELA. In addition, chronic absenteeism declined from 10.6 percent to 8.4 percent.
Both the Dennett Elementary School in Plympton and Halifax Elementary were designated as having made substantial progress toward their targets. Students in Plympton had high growth scores in ELA and Math for all students and for all eligible sub group categories. Additionally, Grade 5 students at Dennett exceeded their targets in Science. Results for Halifax students showed typical to high growth scores in ELA and math for all students as well as the “lowest performing” subgroup. Grade 3-6 Halifax students demonstrated overall achievement gains in ELA from 2017 to 2019.
According to Proulx the district is taking steps to ensure continued improvement in student performance. Both elementary schools in the district have adopted a new math program that is more closely aligned with the state standards. Science teachers hope to follow suit as they begin to look at ways to better align their own teaching practices with the newer state standards. Title 1 supports have also been allocated as a means to providing additional targeted interventions where necessary.
Crediting the efforts of Curriculum Coordinator Melissa Farrell, Proulx said that an “Early Literacy” grant has been awarded which will be used to improve student proficiency in reading, writing, and effective communication at the elementary level. “The grant will allow professional development in writing throughout the 2019-2020 school year,” Proulx said.
Further review of the results is still underway and administrators hope to identify potential gaps in the current curriculum. The district also plans to create individualized plans (EPPs) based on student needs and recommend interventions as necessary.