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The School Committee welcomes Drury student representative Francisco Alicandri on Tuesday.

MCAS Results Find North Adams Schools Making 'Substantial' Progress

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The North Adams Public Schools have scored well in the latest state standardized tests. 
But school officials are a little worried on how to translate the charts, graphs and scores into something that makes sense for the average parent.  
How will they answer, "what's going on in our schools? Is it good news?" said Mayor Thomas Bernard at Tuesday's School Committee meeting.
Superintendent Barbara Malkas acknowledged that the information was somewhat daunting and that even those immersed in it have had training to understand the results. 
 "The idea is that your overall classification is 'not requiring assistance or intervention' so that's a good thing," said Superintendent Barbara Malkas. "But it doesn't sound like it's something celebratory. ...
 "The fact that we have all three of our elementary schools in that category, speaks volumes to the high quality work that happens in our district with a challenging population."
In short, the elementary schools scored in the 71 percent of schools across the state that require no intervention. Drury High School is still in intervention status but, she said, "the amount of improvement they have had within this one year alone was substantial."
"So bottom line is what is the good news for North Adams? We have been overall classified as not requiring assistance or intervention," Malkas said. "And the reason for that classification is that we've made substantial progress toward targets, our progress toward improvement target exceeds the 50 percent."
This is the second year of using the new accountability system for so-called MCAS 2.0, a more rigorous iteration of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System standardized tests. 
"It was the first administration of the next generation tests. So they're at a much higher level of rigor, because they're aligned to the definition for college and career readiness," Malkas said. "The previous legacy MCAS was aligned to a high school completion readiness standards."
This transference to the new system still takes into account the first test in 2018 but in weighted percentages rather than direct comparison. There are no levels and the categories have been expanded to six ranging from "meeting or exceeding targets" to "in need of broad/comprehensive support."
Statewide, 85 percent of more than 1,600 schools made progress or exceeded targets and 93 percent of 397 districts. 
Overall, North Adams was categorized as making "substantial progress toward targets." It earned a cumulative 52 percent across both years although the 2019 results  saw a 15 percent jump over last year.
Both Brayton and Greylock saw moderate progress toward targets and Colegrove, substantial progress; Drury also saw moderate progress, but excelled in several areas including graduation rates and Advanced Placement.
Drury and Colegrove are in phases of turnaround plans approved last month by the School Committee and submitted to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Colegrove Principal Amy Meehan and Drury Principal Timothy Callahan were applauded for the efforts that advanced their schools' scoring. 
 "I do want to note this, the annual criterion reference target percentage in 2018 was 18 percent. This year, it was 54 percent," Malkas said of Drury. "If we didn't have to include the 40 percent of [the weighted results last year], this would also be a school out of status. ... to see that kind of improvement is really precedent setting."
 Malkas said principals and staff are still drilling down into the numbers to get a better perspective on what they mean and how to continue to improve on them. Parents will get an individualized report card and instructions on how to read it along with a letter from the superintendent. 
"That's the other message: good news and a trajectory for the future," said Bernard, who serves as chairman of the committee. "And it's a trajectory for the future, because of work that has been put in place over the past three years plus,
under this team."
In other business, the committee: 
• Welcomed Drury student representative Francisco Alicandri.
Approved an annual report for the school district that will be part of the city's annual report. 
• Heard a presentation on targeted intervention services being rolled out at Drury High School by the Brien Center through grant funding. 
• Accepted two gifts, one for $6,081 from General Dynamics and the second for $3,600 from Adams Community Bank. 
The General Dynamics money will be used for three iPads and 20 "wobble" chairs that provide students with attention deficits a way to expend energy while working, and $3,000 will go toward two Project Lead the Way courses at the middle and high school. 
Adams Community Bank donated $150 per grade for each elementary school as part of its 150th anniversary. It will take the form of gift cards so teachers can purchase what classroom supplies they need. 

Tags: MCAS,   NAPS,   

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Tropical Storm Bringing Heavy Rain to Berkshires

A tropical storm heading north up the Atlantic coast could bring more rain to the Berkshires over the weekend. 
Dubbed "Fay," the storm began as a tropical depression off the coast of North Carolina midweek and formed late Thursday. 
According to Accuweather, the storm has sustained winds of 60 mph and could bring 2 to 4 inches of rain over Western Mass and Southern Vermont from late Friday through Saturday morning. 
"Fay will make landfall along the New Jersey coast during Friday afternoon," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist and Lead Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said. "Fay will be a mostly heavy rain producer but could still bring wind gusts of 50-60 mph along coastal areas of eastern Long Island and over southern coastal areas of New England."
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