Bolduc Discusses Test Results
Curriculum Director Matthew Bolduc addressed the School Committee on January 12 regarding the results of the PARCC tests given to students from grades 3-8 last spring. High school students were still required to pass the MCAS tests in Math, Science and English Language Arts in order to graduate.
The Massachusetts Department of Education gave local districts the choice of taking the MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) or PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career) tests for students in grades 3-8. Bolduc said that Bellingham chose to switch to the PARCC tests for three reasons.
First, the test is taken on computers (both Windows-based PCs and iPads). Therefore, theoretically the results can be tabulated more quickly, and the district can assess its results earlier, determine areas where students need more instruction and identify students who may need remedial assistance.
Bolduc explained, however, that this year the state had to manually compare the PARCC results with the district’s previous MCAS results and try to determine trends toward school improvement. Therefore, the results actually came out much later this year.
Second, in 2017 the state is rolling out MCAS 2.0, which will be mandated for all Massachusetts students. The MCAS 2.0 will resemble the PARCC test in that it will be completely computerized. Thus, Bolduc noted, our students will already have had the experience of taking a computerized test.
Third, the PARCC test incorporates the Common Core curriculum taught in the schools as will the MCAS 2.0. The current MCAS has not been updated to reflect the Common Core.
Each school has been given a yearly target improvement goal to work toward, with all students scoring in the Proficient range by 2017. Schools are given 100 points for every student scoring Proficient, 75 points for High Needs Improvement, 50 points for Low Needs Improvement, 25 points for High Warning/Failure and 0 points for Low Warning/Failure. An average is taken per student in the district.
Bellingham High School (MCAS scores), as well as Stall Brook and Clara Macy Elementary schools (PARCC scores) each made their target improvement numbers, with Stall Brook seeing the largest gain. Bellingham Memorial Middle School and South Elementary did not meet improvement numbers.
Bolduc said that Bellingham scored significantly lower with the “High Needs” population, which is included in each school’s average. The “High Needs” population includes those students who fall into at least one of the following categories: students designated as English Language Learners (ELL), students receiving one or more Special Education services, and students from low-income households.
With the incorporation of Clara Macy students into South and Stall Brook Elementary schools, Bolduc noted that the extra staff and programs from the “Macy model” are being used district-wide. Macy had in recent years piloted a writing program that showed far better writing scores than the other two schools. This year all elementary students are using the writing program.
Last year both Macy and Stall Brook were Title 1 schools, giving them grant money for extra staff and tutoring. This year Stall Brook is still designated as Title 1, which is determined by household income level. The district will look at providing those resources for South Elementary students even if the school doesn’t qualify for the Title 1 grant.
Bolduc also updated the School Committee on the School Improvement Plan draft, which outlines four goals the district plans to achieve by 2020.
First, the district will work to increase classroom efficiency to provide the professional development needed to ensure that 100 percent of teachers meet the standards for professional teachers by 2020.
Second, the district will increase student proficiencies in qualifications for college and career readiness.
Third, the district will provide a collaborative learning atmosphere that includes students, teachers, parents and administrators.
Fourth, the district will improve on-line communication and instructional information.
The School Committee also approved the high school and 8th grade band trip to Fenway Park on May 9 to perform the National Anthem and other music at the Red Sox game. Band Directors Marie Forte and Bonnie Harper explained that they had been approached about this opportunity this past summer, they had sent an audition tape and Bellingham had been chosen.