High hopes for a turnaround in mathematics scores at Mashpee Middle School were dashed Wednesday as the newest state standardized test results revealed another downward slide. Many elementary grades saw improvement over last year, while Mashpee High School had mixed results.
Mashpee Middle School principal Sheila A. Arnold organized a high-energy program called Mission 240 last year in an attempt to raise scores. Students signed a pledge to work hard all year and to take extra care reviewing their answers on the test. Ms. Arnold held enthusiastic pep-rally style assemblies to create an atmosphere of achievement. Each grade 8 student received a laptop computer to use for the year.
The efforts were not reflected in the scores.
About 25 percent of grade 7 students scored proficient or advanced in math on the statewide MCAS, the lowest result in the last four years. The statewide average this year is 51 percent.
The grade 8 math result is also the worst in four years. The percentage of students who scored proficient or advanced has bounced from 35 percent in 2009 to 39 percent in 2010, up to 43 percent in 2011, and back down to 34 percent in 2012. Each year, the Mashpee result has been below the state average, which was 52 percent this year.
“After all that effort, it’s a terrible disappointment,” said David P. Bloomfield, a school committee member who analyzes the MCAS data each year.
“Whatever we’re doing in math, it’s not working. I almost don’t know what to say except for that we have to figure out what needs to be done. That will take a while.”
The MCAS has four levels of scores—advanced, proficient, needs improvement, and warning. Students must achieve a score of advanced or proficient on the grade 10 exam before they graduate from high school, although waivers are available in some cases. Students in grades 3 to 10 take exams, with the exception of grade 9.
Ms. Arnold and the other school principals were not able to respond to questions this week. Superintendent Ann M. Bradshaw said that she will answer questions after the school committee has been briefed at its meeting October 3. Debra M. Goulart, district director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, will present an analysis that follows graduating classes through the years. This “cohort” analysis allows a view of how the same students scored from one year to the next and could paint a different picture of this year’s results.
The middle school students did better on the English Language Arts portion of the test than they did on the math portion. In 8th grade, 80 percent of students scored advanced or proficient in ELA. The state average is 81. Over the last four years, the 8th grade scores have been fairly stable, only fluctuating between 77 and 82 percent.
Sixty-six percent of grade 7 students scored advanced or proficient on the ELA test, 5 percentage points shy of the state average of 71 percent. In 2010, 81 percent of MMS 7th graders achieved advanced or proficient on the test and in 2011, 71 percent did. This year marks the lowest result in four years.
The results from Quashnet School were brighter than last year. Every grade level beat the state average except for grade 5, which was between 4 and 6 percentage points lower in English language arts, math, and science.
The number of students who scored advanced or proficient in ELA rose a dramatic 17 percentage points in 3rd grade and 13 percentage points in 4th grade compared to 2011. Grade 6 had a 5 percentage point leap comparing 2012 and 2011. The four-year trends show growth or at least stable results.
“The third grade is doing well,” said Mr. Bloomfield. “That probably means that K.C. Coombs [grades pre-K to grade 2] is doing their job.”
Grade 5 was the only level that declined in ELA, with a 9 percentage point drop from 2011 in students who scored advanced or proficient. This year’s results were coming off a 6-point increase from 2010 to 2011. Still, the grade 5 ELA test scores were the lowest in four years.
In math, 4th grade and 6th grade saw significant improvement from 2011 to 2012. Grade 4 saw a 9 percentage point increase in the number of students who scored advanced or proficient. Grade 6 had a 10 percentage point increase. Both grade 4 and grade 6 results were the best in the last four years.
The number of students who scored advanced or proficient in math in 3rd and 5th grade declined slightly, with a drop of 3 percentage points in 3rd grade and 5 percentage points in 5th grade. Grade 5 was competing with a 13 percentage-point leap from the year before, so some decrease may have been expected.
“Quashnet is narrowing in around the state level,” Mr. Bloomfield said. “Now we just need to lift them up.”
School committee member Joan N. Oliver said the MCAS scores at the elementary level concerned her. After hearing a presentation about the Everyday Mathematics curriculum last month, she remains unconvinced that the system is sufficient, she said. School administrators from Lexington told her this week that they supplement Everyday Math with additional materials, she said.
“We need to get in there and look at the materials,” she said. “We can make changes. I’m all for, let’s improve it. It can be done. I’m very positive about that.”
Mixed Results At MHS
Mashpee High School 10th graders did well in English and poorly in math. The percentage of 10th graders who scored advanced or proficient in English Language Arts was the highest at MHS in the last four years. At 92 percent, it is 4 percentage points above the state average.
Math scores plummeted this year. The percentage of MHS 10th graders who scored advanced or proficient in math fell 19 points, from 87 percent in 2011 to 68 percent this year. Looking at the four-year trend, the number of 10th grade students scoring advanced in math has declined each year since 2009. Sixty-four percent scored advanced in 2009. In 2012, 40 percent did.
The results in science, technology, and engineering have been stable over the last four years at MHS with an uptick in advanced scores in 2012. This year, 71 percent scored advanced or proficient at MHS, which was above the state average of 69 percent. This year’s result was only 2 percentage points lower than the highest score of the last four years, 73 percent in 2010.
Summing up the standardized test results, Mr. Bloomfield said it was a “mixed bag” with disappointing results at the middle school level. It will take some thinking to figure out what to do next, he said.
“I’m at a loss of how to fix it, but I am going to give it a try,” he said.