NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — McCann Technical School is back on top with a Level 1 rating from the state Department of Education.
"From the first day that the MCAS came about we had our sights on level one," School Committee Chairman Gary Rivers said Thursday's committee meeting. "The same level as a Lenox, Mount Greylock [Regional School] or some of the other highly touted academic schools in the area. We finally got there, but it took a took the work of dedicated teachers and motivated kids."
Principal Justin Kratz said McCann was a Level 1 district three years ago but because the vocational students typically perform well on the test, it was hard to maintain the percentage of growth critical to the state leveling formula.
The school's been stuck at Level 2 by only a tiny margin based on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests.
This year's tests, held in the spring, were the so-called MCAS 2.0, an amalgamation of the traditional MCAS tests and the more rigorous, online Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests the state had been considering.
"We are all really excited as a school to be back at level one," Kratz said. "The system is rigged, so to speak, it does not favor schools that have traditionally performed well. If you are a high-performing school, you are in a difficult spot."
Because the McCann was able to move a few 10th-graders from needs improvement or failing up to passing grades, the school was able to demonstrate growth that bettered its leveling score.
"This year, we met that target," he said. "We are trending in the right direction and it was enough to bump us up to level one as a school overall which is really great."
Kratz said 98 percent of the students scored proficient or advanced in English language arts and no student failed. The state average is 91 percent.
In math, 97 percent of the students scored a passing grade with the state average being 92 percent.
He noted there was a slight uptick of 2 percent in needs improvement and 3 percent of the students failed – which is the same as the year prior.
In biology, Kratz said, 98 percent of the students received a passing grade. The state average is 93 percent.
He said there was an 11 percent increase in needs improvement.
"You will see that from time to time, different classes have different strengths from year to year," he said. "It is nothing incredibly alarming, and we are looking into it."
Two percent of the students received a failing grade, which is up from 1 percent from the year prior.
Kratz attributed the success to a schoolwide effort and MCAS-style instruction that has been embedded in all areas in the school – even the shops.
The school also increased its remediation efforts and with the help of data, administrators are pinpointing MCAS questions students struggled with and identifying which students may need extra help.
Kratz said the school does host an MCAS Prep after-school program, and although it is hard to get students to attend, those that do score better on the test.
"The students that participate benefit from it and we are looking at ways to get more students involved," he said. "The program works."
Superintendent James Brosnan said McCann has the same demographics as other area schools but has the unique challenge of getting students from multiple districts throughout the county up to speed.
"If you put it all together in a year-and-a-half time, these are remarkable results," he said. "We are blending students with different kindergarten-through-eighth educations from all different communities and we have to put it all together with one charge."
School Committee member William Craig suggested that this growth data be presented during budget hearings in member communities.
"I think something like this clearly demonstrates that what we are doing with our dollars and the quality educational product we are putting out there," he said. "I think it would help give them something to look at. You get your money's worth with McCann."
In other business, the committee also held a moment of silence for longtime School Committee member James Gazzaniga who passed away Nov. 13.
"I think it is fitting that we take a moment to reflect on Jim and the qualities he brought to our committee," Rivers said. "It is always a shock when you lose someone that is a friend that has contributed so much to this school."
Brosnan agreed and said Gazzaniga will be missed.
"He brought a history and a particular brand of classy gentleman to every meeting. He had passion and a great love for McCann," he said. "We will always remember Jim."
The Williamstown representative served on the School Committee for 36 years. The school honored him at his last meeting in 2016.
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