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MCAS Gets Fresh Look by Nashoba…Oct. 19, 2016

By Ann Needle
MCAS performance throughout Nashoba remains strong, but the district will be looking at data from the state-wide test differently this year. Most of the Oct. 12 Nashoba School Committee meeting was devoted to hearing from Teaching and Learning about how it will use spring’s MCAS results to take a deeper look at how the curriculum is serving students.

In presenting this year’s MCAS scores to the committee, T&L English Language Arts Coordinator Patty O’Connor declared student achievement on MCAS very steady, with overall growth in scores through time meeting state standards. STEM Curriculum Coordinator Martina Kenyon said the Math and Science scores show similar success, with a consistent increase in the number of students scoring in the top category of Advanced.

District-wide for all grades taking the MCAS, the number of students scoring Advanced increased from 25 percent in 2013 to 28 percent in 2016.  Math scores climbed from 44 percent to 52 percent Advanced for the same period. The district reported 31 percent of students achieved Advanced in Science and Technology/Engineering in 2016 (a longer-term report is not available).

But, as proud as administration is of Nashoba’s performance, O’Connor cautioned there is work to do with some sub-groups within the district. She pointed out that, put together, student groups such as those with economic disadvantages and learning disabilities are only slightly ahead of state standards for growth in scores from year to year. (For instance, the state wants each sub-group at 40 percent or more on its growth scale, but these smaller groups of Nashoba students are only slightly ahead of that benchmark, O’Connor noted.) Kenyon agreed, remarking that students with disabilities are perhaps “the most struggling group.”

In helping bring up scores from all students, O’Connor explained that T&L will be taking a very detailed look at the questions students overall— and sub-groups in particular — struggled with on MCAS, then consider how the district curriculum could better address that learning area. Superintendent Brooke Clenchy said that T&L is setting up mandatory meetings with each principal to hear a detailed review of how the curriculum is being taught in each school, and to identify any issues.

Already, these meetings are helping, according to O’Connor. She spoke of a discussion with one district principal, where they realized that within grade 3 ELA scores,  there were five different instances where students were not doing well in the area of Craft and Structure. “It was eye-opening for both me and the principal.”

Curriculum Beyond MCAS
Outside of MCAS scores, the entire curriculum will be under a microscope this year, especially the newly implemented enVisionmath2.0 Math series in the elementary grades, said Kenyon. She remarked that T&L is particularly excited with enVisionmath’s problem-solving approach to teaching Math, along with the resources it provides to parents, students, and teachers. These resources include assessments to help teachers gauge how well students are learning with the program, Kenyon added.

But Clenchy cautioned that adjusting to the new curriculum may bring some challenge. She explained that enVision architect Pearson Education also is behind the national PARCC assessment. Though Nashoba is giving PARCC a test run in a few grades this year in lieu of the MCAS, everyone else still will take the MCAS, so MCAS scores in Math could be a but lower as students adjust to the new curriculum, she stressed. “That makes me nervous. [PARCC] is a very, very different way of looking at assessment.”

While the ELA curriculum is not undergoing the same major changes this year, O’Connor said she has found that there are some differences in instruction that should be addressed. “It will be a big undertaking,” O’Connor said of the year-long curriculum scrutiny and re-structuring she is planning.

A Poignant Gift
The SC unanimously voted to accept the donation of a keyboard to the Hale Middle School Music program. The donation was made by Music Substitute Teacher Richard Perry of Bolton in memory of his wife Priscilla, the original owner of the keyboard, who passed away July 2. Together with its case and amplifier, the keyboard gift has been valued at about $800.