MCAS scores are lower, but there are differences in the reasons


Last updated: October 15, 2021

Written by Judith Pfeffer

“All groups performed above the state average” as a whole. – Roderick MacNeal Jr.

To anyone’s surprise, Arlington’s results at the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, or MCAS test, were generally lower this year than they were two years ago, administrators told the Arlington School Committee on Thursday, October 14. .

The scores for 2021 were compared to 2019 as they were the most recent available. Due to the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic and all instructions having been virtual in spring 2020, testing was bypassed last year.

In general, math scores slipped more than English scores.

The tests were carried out in late spring in grades 3 to 8 and in grade 10. Among younger students, about 20 percent took the test remotely, while Grade 10 students took the test on campus.

Those who spoke on Thursday had different views on the scores, what they mean and how the district should help children catch up.

“There isn’t much of a difference,” Deputy Superintendent Roderick MacNeal Jr. said, noting that, even with lower numbers, “all groups performed above the state average” in his together.

“Certainly a gap of opportunities”

MacNeal’s slides and accompanying press release in many cases show figures broken down by categories such as high need versus low need and also by ethnic group. High needs include English language learners, former English language learners, special education students and / or those with individual education plans, and those classified as socially and / or economically disadvantaged. View Agenda Documents for MCAS Scores >>

MacNeal noted that in many cases, “there is definitely a gap of opportunity,” with scores of people of color often but not always tending to be lower than other groups.

He said the district’s plan to consolidate education and improve scores in the future would be three-fold: review program standards, identify different teaching strategies, and keep students engaged.

Committee member Jane Morgan said she believed the generally higher scores of those who took the test online may not be representative, saying children with good access to Zoom likely came from more families. easy. She also stated that distance education is not optimal for mathematics, that there is probably not enough time for this education and that “[Covid] certainly did not help “students to progress in mathematics.

“We know that everyone is declining,” said committee member Paul Schlichtman. He said the length of time a given student was in the district could have a noticeable impact on performance, rhetorically asking, “How many children that were with us? [for most of their public-school education] have had a sharp drop? How do we compare to other districts? “

The first 3 points of Homan

Asked by committee member Jeff Thielman for his “top three points,” Superintendent Elizabeth Homan said:

  • The persistent and sometimes growing gap between racial groups;
  • The need to ensure that all students have access to what public education has to offer, including the full range of extracurricular activities;
  • And the need to respond to parental demand for “concrete mechanisms” to improve education.

Committee chair Bill Hayner said the three main goals should be to support socio-emotional learning, acclimate students to traditional structured learning, and provide a safe learning environment. “It is a very complex problem,” he said.

Covid-19 rates have recently fallen across the district

Homan presented “fantastic news” that the district has benefited from a reduction in positive virus cases in recent days. For weeks ending on consecutive Fridays, the numbers were seven on September 10, five on September 17, September 19 on September 24, seven on October 1, five on October 8, and three on October 15.

She said Middlesex County had been classified as “high circulation” until last week and is now classified as “substantial circulation”. At Ottoson Middle School and Arlington High School, representing grades 7 through 12, the combined student and staff vaccination rate is just under 80 percent, she reported. According to Homan, the mask’s mandate could be dropped if these campuses achieve and maintain a vaccination rate of 85% or more.

Committee votes on vaccination requirements

The committee unanimously adopted the previously discussed written policies stating that all age-eligible students involved in extracurricular activities should be vaccinated against Covid-19 if there is a fully FDA-approved vaccination for their group. age, unless they are eligible for a medical disability or have a religious belief exemption. In this case, they should produce negative test results every week. See Covid policies here >>

Regardless of immunization status, all those who participate in extracurricular activities must consent and undergo weekly tests as needed.

All adult observers, volunteers or visitors to schools must be subject to the same standards as above. Arlington has been demanding it from campus employees for months.

The committee also voted, 7-0, to adopt the latest versions of the textbooks for all K-12 grades, and likewise to accept the consent agenda made up of uncontroversial spending mandates.

Goals for Bishop, Thompson

Principals of two elementary schools – Bishop and Thompson – reported on their respective improvement plans by 2024.

Principal Bishop Mark McAneny noted that Bishop’s boundaries are “right in the middle of town” and run from the city’s northern limit to its south.

The core values ​​there are respect, responsibility and respect, he said, and positive behavioral interventions are systematically linked to these core values; for example, children are told that walking, rather than running, in the hallways is a mark of respect.

He said the pandemic had particularly hit those with high needs and that “we have to do better”. He advocates varied approaches to early reading, increased diversity and a “relentless focus on excellence”. He said the district has five literacy coaches but specifically requests seven – – one dedicated to each of the seven elementary campuses.

View Bishop’s Diary Documents >>

In East Arlington, the Thompson School uses pineapple symbology when working with its 508 students. “Stand up straight, wear a crown and always be gentle on the inside” is the slogan for this school year, according to principal Karen Donato. Thompson is “one of the most diverse schools in the district,” and everyone there “is delighted to meet,” she said.

Thompson’s MCAS scores are on average higher than the state’s, but Donato acknowledged that over time the scores generally appear to drop for black and brown students.

However, she noted, “The work we do is measured in much more than test results.” Its three main objectives are the mathematics discourse, in which students build their own understanding of mathematical concepts; school climate and culture; and equity and school culture.

Donato asked on behalf of Thompson:

  • Continue participation in the Academy of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support offered by the Department of Primary and Secondary Education;
  • Additional staff involvement in the Student Equity and Inclusion Initiative, better known as the IDEAS courses; and
  • And continuing professional development in culturally appropriate teaching and speech.

View Thompson’s Agenda Papers >>

Masters are almost universal

Having at least a master’s degree characterizes almost all teachers newly hired since July 1, according to human resources director Robert Spiegel. Of the 66 new teachers and other members of Unit A of the Arlington Education Association, 21 have held newly created positions, while the remainder take over from staff members who have resigned or retired.

“Our attempt is to always hire great educators,” he said.

Spiegel said he was conducting exit interviews with those who were leaving and their reasons given were moving from the area, disliking commuting, changing education capacity, seeking higher wages. high, leaving for higher education and personal reasons.

He said employees as a whole “don’t accurately reflect our student body,” meaning the proportion of white employees exceeds the proportion of white students. He said he would work with Margaret Credle Thomas, the new director of diversity, equity and inclusion, to recruit and retain more minority educators.

See all agenda documents for staff update >> has provided news and opinions on Arlington, Mass., Since 2006. Publisher Bob Sprague is a former editor of the Boston Globe, Boston Herald and Arlington Advocate. Learn more at

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