LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Elementary school teachers and students have set the bar high.
The school held its first tests of the newly revamped Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests last year and the newly revealed scores show Lanesborough students trending ahead of state averages in nearly every category.
The state is not placing an accountability rank on schools that have moved to the new system, but the first year will set a benchmark to measure growth in the future.
Principal Martin McEvoy reported that last year's sixth-graders tied for second in the county when it came to English language arts. Thirteen percent of the students exceeded expectations, 48 percent met expectations, and 39 partially met expectations. Not a single student failed to meet any expectations. Those numbers compare to the statewide averages of 7 percent, 43 percent, 39 percent, and 10 percent, respectively.
A similar trend was shown in math, except Lanesborough far surpassed the state average in exceeding expectations. In Lanesborough, 26 percent of students exceeded expectations compared to just 7 percent statewide. Lanesborough had 48 percent of sixth graders meet expectations, 22 partially meet expectations, and 4 percent not meet. On the state level, 42 percent met expectations, 39 percent partially met expectations, and 11 percent did not meet expectations.
Last year's fifth-graders finished first in the county for English. On the exam, Lanesborough students scored 19 percent exceeding expectations, 42 percent meeting expectations, 39 percent partially meeting expectations, and zero students not meeting expectations. That is compared to 6 percent, 43 percent, 42 percent, and 10 percent respectively.
In math, Lanesborough scored 16 percent exceeding expectations, 32 meeting expectations, 48 percent partially meeting expectations, and 3 percent not meeting expectations. That is compared to the statewide averages of 7 percent, 39 percent, 44 percent, and 10 percent.
The fourth-graders perhaps had more challenges on the test. Not only was it the first year of the new test but the students were the first class to take the test all online, which McEvoy said will eventually be all of the testing.
For English the fourth-graders didn't have any student exceed expectations but 62 percent of students met expectations. Thirty-eight percent partially met expectations and no student landed in the category of not meeting expectations. Those numbers compared to the statewide averages of 7 percent, 41 percent, 42 percent, and 10 percent.
A similar pattern was shown in math. The fourth-graders didn't have any student exceed expectations by 44 percent had met expectations, 56 percent partially met expectations, and no students failed to meet any expectations. That is compared to the state averages of 6 percent, 43 percent, 39 percent, and 10 percent, respectively.
McEvoy said third-grade math is the one area of concern. On that test, no Lanesorough students exceeded expectations and only 23 percent met expectations. Fifty-eight percent fell into the category of partially meeting expectations and 19 percent had not met expectations. Those scores compared to 7 percent, 42 percent, 38 percent, and 13 percent, respectively.
"We already attacked the performance in Grade 3. We know what we need to work on and it is already aggressively underway," McEvoy said.
For the students, the new MCAS is the third type of standardized test they've taken in as many years. The state has an earlier version of MCAS and then piloted the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) with Lanesborough being one of the schools to take it. The state then scrapped the PARCC and moved to a newly revamped MCAS.
"I would expect all the scores to be better with more experience," McEvoy said.
McEvoy said the new exam is focused "more on critical thinking and application of knowledge." He also added that the different categories are more vigorous, making it more difficult for students to go from partially meeting expectations to meeting expectations.
"It does have some different things kids and teachers are going to have to really learn and master as far as the format goes," he said.
Also of note, the language for the different categories has changed as well with exceeding expectations taking place of advanced, meeting in place of proficient, partially meeting expectations taking the place of needs improvement, and not meeting expectations taking the place of warning.
The state is moving to computer-based testing and McEvoy has a plan to slowly integrate the MCAS testing to computer-only over the next few years. By 2019, he says all grades will be taking the test all online.
Because of a change in test, Lanesborough has not received an accountability level — previously Lanesborough was considered a Level 1 school — this year because of the changes. These scores not set a baseline for the state to judge how well Lanesborough is improving its education over time.
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