As Revere Public Schools officials dig into the details of their MCAS scores this fall, one thing has jumped out at them – kids who have stayed in the system compete with the best students in the state.
But they don’t start out that way.
“The story here is these communities like Revere have kids that come to the school house door already behind,” he said. “The achievement gap as compared to Wellesley or Weston exists the day they walk into the school. They are not coming to us after having sat on mom’s lap for the last few years being read to. We just don’t have that. We have a recipe to move kids to success if they stay in our system for the entirety. We can see that in the excellent scores coming out of the high school.”
Added Assistant Superintendent Dianne Kelley, “Our kids are leaving us prepared to compete with the Wellesley and Weston kids and we’ve shown if we have them all the way through 13 years, they can compete with those kids and go on to great success in college.”
The basis for that narrative lies in the excellent scores at or way above the state average that are coming out of Revere High School (RHS), but the continuation of scores below or just below the state average in grades 3 through 7.
One point of concern in Revere and several other Gateway Cities where there are high concentrations of non-native English speakers is the low 3rd grade reading scores.
In Revere this year, there was a 31 percent increase in students needing the English Language Learners (ELL) program. The schools also have a very large population of families who do not speak English at home – meaning kids speak English all day in school, but go home to speak some other language with their families.
In Revere, districtwide, the 3rd grade reading score had 49 percent in the proficient/advanced category – with the state average being 57 percent. While the numbers of students getting a warning or failing is only 8 percent – a score noted as a positive – students are not advancing to the higher levels in numbers that the district would like to see.
Dakin said part of that is the language issue, and he believes that if ELL students were broken out from non-ELL students, there wouldn’t be such a gap.
He and Kelley also contend that – by 8th grade – all such problems have seemed to dissolve.
“We do a great job at the lower grades of keeping kids out of the low end of the scoring, but we’re still not moving them to the higher levels yet,” said Dakin. “At most elementary grades – and in the middle schools at grades 6 and 7 – we are just a few points below the state average. However, once they get to 8th grade and to the high school, they are moving beyond the state average and turning in some of the best urban school scores in the state.”
Other elementary and middle school districtwide, advanced/proficient scores included (scores reflect last year’s classes):
•Grade 3 Math: 62%/66% (state average)
•Grade 4 English: 43%/53% (state average)
•Grade 5 Math: 55%/61% (state average)
•Grade 6 English: 60%/67% (state average)
•Grade 6 Math: 48%/61% (state average)
•Grade 7 Math: 40%/52% (state average)
•Grade 8 English: 79%/78% (state average)
•Grade 8 Math: 52%/55% (state average)
One of the shining stars in the middle school ranks for this year’s scores was the Garfield Middle School – a school that has historically had lower scores but has turned things around with an extended learning day.
The Garfield Middle scores outperformed other middle schools in a real way.
In English, the Garfield scored at or better than the state average in all categories. The math scores are not quite at the state average, but are close in each category. In Science, the scores are all near the state average.
The same sort of gains were also seen at the McKinley Elementary School this year, just three years after the school had to enter into a restructuring program following multiple years of lower scores. That turnaround, in part, has been attributed – like with the Garfield Middle – to the longer school day via the state Extended Learning Time (ELT) grant.
Dakin said the longer day has to be spread out to more of the Revere schools, even though the state ELT grant has been frozen and has no room for new applicants.
“If it’s not ELT, it will have to be a creative way of using what’s in the teacher’s contract,” Dakin said. “It’s time to start stepping up and pushing for creative uses in the way we budget time.”
All of the above said, the crown jewel of the system has become RHS, where scores have begun to mimic those of more affluent, suburban schools rather than a diverse, multi-lingual urban school.
“We are really seeing the innovations like the flipped classroom, the iPads, the Freshman Academy and the block scheduling taking hold on student achievement,” said Dakin. “We are comparable to some districts that people might not think we compare to.”
All three scores at RHS – English, Math and Science (10th grade) – were above or nearly above the state average. Some areas were far above the average, such as the fact that 50% were advanced in math (28% state average) and 39 percent were advanced in English (19% state average).
Aggregate scores for RHS advanced/proficient were:
•Grade 10 English: 92%/91% (state average)
•Grade 10 Math: 79%/80% (state average)
•Grade 10 Science: 74%/71% (state average)