Schools Hit High Mark on MCAS

September 26, 2012
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As Superintendent Paul Dakin and Assistant Superintendent Dianne Kelley perused the initial MCAS test numbers for Revere Schools last week, one thing about those scores seemed to jump off the dry erase board.

As Dakin pointed to the top of the list – to those schools that performed the best on the test – he and Kelley noted that each one of them had gone through a substantial school redesign.

“All the schools that scored best have all gone through some kind of challenging schedule redesign,” he said. “McKinley is going through it this year with the extended day, Whelan has an extended day, Beachmont was the first to do the Bay State Reading Initiative, Revere High made huge changes to its schedule and Paul Revere went to an Innovation School model. If the SBA, Garfield Elementary and Lincoln don’t think hard about schedule redesign, they are going to continue to fall…They have to want to enter into re-design. The have to want to change.”

That idea of working smarter has become the administration’s mantra this year in reviewing the MCAS scores, which in general were very favorable for the entire district compared to other urban schools. As a side note, only Cambridge and Malden scored better as a district within the state-defined “urban school” category.

“We feel good, but we know we have a big job to do,” said Dakin. “I’m proud of the teachers and the students. When you look at us compared to the students and districts in the other urban schools, we can hold our heads high.”

Among the biggest surprises this year was the healthy jump made by the Rumney Marsh Academy Middle School, once a school that struggled with the MCAS. This year, it was the second highest achieving school in the entire district, according to data from the schools that showed some 79 percent of the tests scored above the state average.

“Rumney had a great year,” said Dakin. “They do have a bit of an advantage because they house the Pre-AP program, but in their defense, they also house the middle school behavioral program too.”

Rumney Principal Cindy Evans said the positive results were the effort of the entire school community.

“We are very pleased with the results and it’s great to see the hard work of the students, teachers, staff and everyone involved with the school paying off,” she said. “The scores highlight the instruction and learning that goes on at RMA every day and we are happy that our students were able to demonstrate their knowledge on those tests on those given days. Now our work is to continue to demonstrate excellence in the future.”

Likewise, the Revere High School (RHS) showed off some tremendous gains this year – with administrators crediting the new block schedule and Freshman Academy.

“For the high school to be hitting the state average on the math test is remarkable,” said Kelley. “The good year at the high school is because of the changes and the block schedule. This is definitely the best year at the high school in awhile.”

Others singled out for commendation were the Whelan, the Paul Revere, the Beachmont and the Seacoast – which actually had no students fail the 10thgrade English test.

However, things were not so good for the Lincoln School, which didn’t have any tests at any grade level above the state average. It’s a story that Dakin said has been brewing for the last few years.

“We’ve seen that coming for some time and we tried to move them to some change for a few years,” he said. “We’ve been trying to push them to redesign. We have some work to do in the building culture, in building a community of learners.

“I’m not challenging the effort of the Lincoln teachers,”  he continued. “I’m challenging how smart they are working. They’re effort is great, but it has to be a smarter effort.”

Finally, one big challenge for Revere schools and for the entire state is achievement on the MCAS Science test, administered at the 5th, 8th and 10thgrade levels.

“The state has science as a concern and we reflect that statewide concern,” said Dakin. “Science needs to be investigative and you do that in labs and the labs across the state and in Revere are not up to par. The science educational infrastructure in this state needs an investment.”

In summarizing the entire performance this year of the district, Dakin said it was very good, but he wants improvement.

“Is it good?” he asked. “Yes, it’s good. Is it great? I don’t know. I really want to be at the state average on all tests. But for us to hit the average at 47 percent district wide is pretty good.”

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