WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Lanesborough Elementary School is the only one of the three Mount Greylock Regional School District schools that met its targets in the state evaluations released this fall.
Representatives from the administrations at Lanesborough, Williamstown Elementary and Mount Greylock Regional School presented the School Committee last week with reports on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System scores from last spring at their respective buildings.
Principals Mary MacDonald and Martha Wiley and WES Assistant Principal Elea Kaatz focused on the student performance numbers in English language arts, math and science and discussed areas where the schools need to make improvements.
When they were finished, School Committee member Dan Caplinger asked if there was a classification for each school similar to the "Level 1, 2 or 3" classifications the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education used to issue under prior accountability regimes.
MacDonald said there is and that the schools are discussing how best to interpret data.
"Mount Greylock is 'partially meeting targets,' " MacDonald said in a meeting telecast by the district on YouTube. "We had a conversation with [Superintendent Kimberley Grady] about how to address this when we're still trying to understand exactly what it reflects. For example, we spent a little time talking about absenteeism today. That was an area where all three schools did poorly. Before, we just looked at academic performance, and now the state is looking at other areas.
"That information is available. We can share that information, but we have to dig more deeply into the numbers in order to discuss it with you intelligently."
Both the middle-high school and Williamstown Elementary were classified as "partially meeting targets" by DESE. Lanesborough Elementary achieved the higher ranking of "meeting targets," because it scored significantly stronger in the evaluation of its lowest-performing students — defined by DESE as "the greater of the lowest-performing 20 students or the lowest performing 25 percent of students."
Lanesborough also scored higher for "growth," which DESE uses to measure the "change in achievement over time rather than grade-level achievement results in any one year."
LES garnered a perfect score, eight out of eight points, for achievement among its lowest-performing pupils and seven out of eight points for growth among all pupils.
At WES, performance among the lowest-performing pupils rated four out of eight points, and the growth rate for all pupils was four out of eight.
At Mount Greylock, performance for the lowest-performing cohort rated seven out of a possible 12, and the growth rate overall earned the school five out of a possible eight points.
Absenteeism also was less of a drag on Lanesborough Elementary's total score.
LES earned two out of four points for "chronic absenteeism." Williamstown and Mount Greylock each scored zero out of four points.
"We are in a college town, and we have students who may be part of families with professors," Kaatz said. "Our vacations don't line up. Are students having rich experiences during those times? Probably.
"It's something we'll be talking about … counting those as days in school. What does the experience look like, and how does it add to the student's education?"
That said, Kaatz added, "We are really trying to stress the importance of attendance."
Williamstown Elementary this year followed the lead of the district's other two schools and started using "robocall" reminders to families of absent pupils.
MacDonald said Mount Greylock should revisit its internal policy, which states that students can lose credit for a course after missing 12 days per semester. DESE's threshold for "chronic absenteeism is 10 percent of class days, or about 18 days annually, or nine per semester.
In terms of the test scores themselves, it was the usual mixed blessing for Williamstown Elementary, where the majority of pupils are meeting or exceeding the state's expectations but the "growth rate" is lower.
For all grades, 75 percent of WES pupils met or exceeded expectations in ELA and math; the state averages are 51 percent for ELA and 48 percent for math. But the student growth percentile for WES was 49.6 percent for ELA and 47.3 percent for math.
"The target is 50 percent," Kaatz said. "And we did achieve it in some areas [for example, a 58.1 percent SGP in ELA for last year's sixth-graders], but it's really hard to grown when we're meeting expectations already.
"We are growing. … The fact that we're close to 50 is great. The state says you have to be at 50."
At Lanesborough Elementary, just 61 percent of the pupils met or exceeded expectations for ELA (state average 51 percent), and 51 percent met or exceeded expectations for math (state average 48 percent). On the other hand, LES' student growth percentile scores were 57.8 percent for ELA and 66.2 percent for math — well above the 50 percent threshold.
"In ELA, we did quite well, as you can see," Wiley said. "The only area we declined was students with disabilities, so we really are looking at … training our staff more in differentiated instruction. Same thing for math. We did well, but for students with disabilities, we did not meet targets. We'll be looking at that.
"We're very pleased overall, but we know we can always be working to improve."
At Mount Greylock, students consistently met or exceeded expectations at a higher rate than the state average. In the middle school, the "met or exceeded" rates were 75 percent for ELA and 64 percent for math; the state averages were 51 percent and 48 percent, respectively.
In 10th grade, 96 percent of Mount Greylock students were "proficient or advanced" on ELA, and 90 percent were proficient or advanced on math. The state averages are 91 percent and 78 percent, respectively.
Mount Greylock scored lower — but still above the state averages — on the science tests in eighth and 10th grades. In eighth grade, its students scored proficient or higher at a 55 percent clip, compared to 35 percent statewide. In 10th grade, Mount Greylock's proficient or higher percentage in science was 80 percent; statewide, it was 74 percent.
Mount Greylock's student growth percentiles varied: 62.5 percent for ELA in the middle school and 42 percent for ELA in 10th grade; 36.7 percent for math in middle school and 50.3 percent for math in 10th grade.
"One of the things we noticed is we didn't get as much detailed information from the state with regard to individual performance," MacDonald said. "The math department has looked at individual student performance to get a better sense of how students did in specific areas.
"Based on that, changes already have been implemented into this year's curriculum."
In other business at Thursday's meeting, the School Committee recognized Mount Greylock senior Maddie Albert for receiving the school's Superintendent's Certificate of Excellence and determined subcommittee assignments for the year ahead.
The first order of business was electing Joe Bergeron to serve as the chairman of the committee for 2018-19. Bergeron was the chair of the Transition Committee that ran the recently expanded PreK-12 district from Jan. 1 through this November's election of the first School Committee for the full region.
Bergeron accepted the post but reminded his colleagues that the practice for the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee when it was responsible for just the middle-high school was to rotate the chair between residents of Williamstown and Lanesborough.
Bergeron, a resident of Williamstown, recommended the committee follow that practice going forward.
Lanesborough resident Regina DiLego was elected vice chair of the committee.
The School Committee was reminded that the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the renovated and expanded middle-high school will be held Friday, Nov. 16, at 1:30. The invitation-only event will welcome representatives from the Massachusetts School Building Authority and include Mount Greylock students.
"This is not the open house for the community that we're so looking forward to having," MacDonald said. "We will have that once the auditorium is open and we can show off the whole building."
School Committee member Steven Miller expressed dismay that the auditorium still is not available for use by the school.
"I'm concerned because initially things were supposed to be done in March," MIller said. "At our last meeting, we were told by Turner Construction everything was on target for Oct. 24."
"Your concerns are not yours alone," Bergeron replied.
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