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Superintendent Aaron Dean reviews MCAS results with the School Committee.

MCAS Results Mixed for Hoosac Valley Regional School District

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — Standardized test results were a mixed bag for the Hoosac Valley Regional School and although there was some progress, the district was penalized because of incomplete data.
Superintendent Aaron Dean went over the 2019 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System results at Monday's School Committee meeting and noted although the district is classified as "requiring assistance or intervention," this label is not truly accurate of the district's scores and progress.
"I don't see a problem because this is something we are going to stay on top of and I want to make sure we are constantly checking it throughout the year," Dean said. "It is unfortunate that we suffered a little bit in this but all in all the data here is not scary and I think ... we will be able to address these challenges."
Dean said the reason for this classification was the district being "in need of focused/ targeted support" and "failure to meet mandatory data reporting deadlines," which was simply a result of incomplete data that ultimately hurt the district. 
He said the district inputs data into a computer system that links up with the state. At the time, the district was using a system, the MMS Student Information Platform. Typically the district will be alerted to errors that need correction. These errors can be as simple as incorrect data entry or mismatched headings.
Dean said there was a lack of support on MMS' end and simple fixes that should have been communicated in a few days did not happen in a timely matter.
"The end result was all of the summer reporting came in very, very late," he said. "My first week on the job, I got a phone call from the state and they told me our reporting was late."
Dean said he did contact the state to inform them of the issue and gave them the district's plan moving forward. He said the district has completely switched over to the PowerSchool software and has updated the state with all of the correct data.
Although everything is up to date, it is unlikely that the state will change the district's score at this point in time.
Dean said the district will come up with a better checks and balances system to not only make sure there are fewer errors but also to make sure the data is better recorded and complete.
"I think we can come up with a system that works just looking at common places where we have errors and common places where data is missing," he said. "Right now, data is moving more smoothly and I am confident we can solve this for next year."
Where the data was missing is where the district lost points. If all of the data was complete, the district would have been classified as "moderate progress toward targets."
This is the second year of using the new accountability system for so-called MCAS 2.0, a more rigorous iteration of the standardized tests. Last year's scores could not be averaged with this years, and rather the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education used a weighted system where last year's results made up a percentage of the combined score.
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." Schools either need intervention — usually by complying with certain DESE requirements — or do not if they are hitting progressive benchmarks on a 0-4 scale.
Dean went into some of the actual metrics and noted that the district did not score any achievement points overall in English Language Arts.
"We need to be getting points for ELA because zero is unacceptable," he said.
He did say having the data to track students' progress could better support instruction and interventionist work. 
"I don't want to say we have a magic wand this year because we have the data. We also have to respond to that data and see what works," he said. "I do have some ideas." 
Math was better and Dean said overall the district scored 2 out of 4 in achievement and, In science, it was 3 out of 4 overall.
"I think when you go to plug the dam you lose ground in the other," Dean said. "There was a lot of work done in math. Now we have to go over and plug the dam for the ELA peice."
The district lost points for consistent absenteeism, specifically at the elementary school level. Dean said this is somewhat out of the district's control but the schools are beginning to engage families.
The district received 0 points for advanced course work completion but this is only because this data was never submitted. Dean said they should have received 4 points in this category.
Growth overall in ELA was 1 out of 4 and 2 out of 4 in math.
Breaking down achievement scores at the elementary level, Hoosac Valley Elementary scored 4 out of 4 in ELA and in math.
In the middle school for achievement, there was a score of 0 out of 4 for ELA; 3 out of 4 in math; and 2 out of 4 in science.
High school students scored a 3 out of 4 in ELA; a 0 out of 4 in math; and a 1 out of 4 in science.
In other business, the School Committee voted to award an honorary diploma to World War II veteran Michael Berti.
"He had to quit high school when he was 17 and go into the military so he never got his diploma," Dean said. "I think this is a special thing. He is part of the greatest generation."
Dean said Berti is 93 and will technically be the first graduate of the newly named Hoosac Valley Regional School District.
The district would like like to award more of these degrees to veterans and asked any veterans or families of veterans to come forward.

Tags: ACRSD,   HVRSD,   MCAS,   

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Explorers Guide to the Berkshires: 'Berkshire Destinations'

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

Raven Rock in Adams is a remote and challenging destination to reach.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Local authors Jan and Christy Butler penned "Berkshire Destinations," an explorers guide to waterfalls, boulders, vistas and points of interest of the Berkshire Hills and Western Massachusetts.
"Berkshire Destinations" is the Butlers' fourth book and the "unconventional explorer's guide" includes 159 chapters that will guide readers to known and obscure waterfalls, glacial erratics, vistas, gardens, cultural institutions, and historical landmarks found in the Western Massachusetts foothills.
"Having a hiking guide to vistas, boulders and waterfalls is all well and good, so long as the weather is cooperating," Christy said. "So diversifying does provide a change of pace for rainy days or after completion some alternatives for those who want a change of pace."
Christy said he first planned to write a book only about New England statues but after receiving some feedback from friends and readers, he decided to keep his focus in Berkshire County and Western Massachusetts.
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