Note: Given the interest in elementary school math on this blog, I'm posting this article about MCAS success in the Easthampton schools. And I checked already to see what math curriculum they use: Everyday Math, which, interestingly, has been identified as effective by the "What Works Clearinghouse" (http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/reports/Topic.aspx?tid=04#s=13).
By Owen Boss
Monday, February 15, 2010
EASTHAMPTON - According to the latest results of a new study measuring academic growth based on MCAS scores, math teachers in Easthampton's elementary schools must be doing something right.
In an attempt to draw from more than just overall scores, education officials have begun taking measurements based on a growth model, which compares each student's progress on the MCAS test to that of other students with similar past performance.
The idea behind the new approach, according to Kenneth Rocke, director of the Pioneer Valley District and School Assistance Center, is to track which teaching methods are producing the best results and implement them at schools statewide.
Addressing the School Committee last Thursday night, Rocke explained that as new director of the local assistance center, one of six regional centers being created across the commonwealth, he has been charged with providing technical and leadership support to Level 3 district schools across the Pioneer Valley, of which there are 22.
"We are still in the process of hiring our staff and getting things together," Rocke said. "We will be adding full-time English, math, and literacy specialists soon and we will be working with districts to improve overall performance."
Intrigued by Easthampton
In the process of getting the new center rolling, Rocke and others have begun making 90-minute visits to schools across the Valley to get to know students, faculty and staff. Rocke said he was especially excited to get to Easthampton, where an analysis of fourth-grade math students produced encouraging results.
"When I looked at Easthampton's report before I came by to meet with the superintendent and the curriculum director, I wanted to know if they had been doing anything unusual with fourth-grade math students," Rocke said.
The reason he was excited to ask, Rocke said, was that, when compared with others with similar academic success, local students had outscored almost every other group statewide, and stood alone among schools with a far lower percentage of students from low-income families. An estimated 41 to 50 percent of students in Easthampton schools are considered low-income.
"When we see that the data is saying one thing, and we can confirm that teachers there have been focusing on that subject, that is at least a preliminary indication that those efforts are really causing that increase," Rocke said.
Superintendent Deborah Carter called the growth model's findings "absolutely fascinating."
"This means that of the districts that performed better than students in Easthampton, of which there is a very small number, they are all schools with 20 percent or fewer of their students who come from low-income families."
Rocke said the results show that teachers here are succeeding, and that he has to find out how to take whatever it is that is working in Easthampton and re-create it in schools across Massachusetts.
"Our theory of action is to find things that are working well in schools, analyze what the conditions are that caused that increase in achievement, and advise schools statewide to do more of the same," Rocke said.
The growth model is based on only two years of data. The 2008 growth percentiles were calculated for students in grades 4 through 8 who took MCAS test in the same subject in 2007.
Owen Boss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.