Quick update on MCAS

Last week I presented our MCAS data to both the school committee and a small group of Winthrop parents. The school committee presentation was an overview, and the parent presentation was a bit more detailed with background on the test, terminology, and multiple ways of looking at data.

If you weren’t able to attend, the Powerpoint is now posted on our website. It can also be reached directly by clicking  WinthropMCAS.

Third grade parents – there will be another MCAS overview in late February – early March particularly geared to those new to MCAS.   That presentation will focus less on data, and more on the process of testing.   Look for that information after the new year!

What’s the Word on MCAS?

I think it must be quite confusing to be a non-educator and understand the recent press surrounding Winthrop’s MCAS results! In the course of a week I looked at rankings on boston.com (9/22/11) where the number of students scoring proficient and advanced for Gr. 3 ELA, Grade 5 ELA, Math, and Science were in the top 10% of the state, Grade 4 ELA in the top 20% of the state, and Grade 3 Math and Grade 4 Math in the top 30% of the state.  Then the Melrose Patch (9/22/11) noted our 5th grade success, but also pointed out the rise of students in the Needs Improvement category in 3rd grade math, and then that was quickly followed by a Boston Globe article (Globe North 9/25/11) that cited Winthrop as #1 in the region for having students in the Advanced category in English Language Arts.  Hmmm…. what to take from all of this –  that is the question.

If you know anything about data collection and analysis, you know there are many ways to approach reporting.  Some of the ways MCAS scores are spoken or written about include:

  • AYP – the acronym for “Annual Yearly Progress.”  As a result of No Child Left Behind and the goal of all students reaching proficiency by 2014, each school is given a target goal for the following year in both ELA and Math.  Meeting or not meeting “AYP” is often a hotly publicized issue, as there are multiple factors that go into the determination.  More information can be found at:  http://www.doe.mass.edu/sda/ayp/
  • Year to year comparisons of achievement results (ex. 3rd grade results in 2010 compared to third grade test results in 2011.)  This is a fairly typical way the press compares MCAS scores, however many educators do not favor this way as the comparison is based on two different groups of students.
  • Same group comparisons of achievement results (ex. 4th grade results in 2010 compared to fifth grade results in 2011.)  This way of looking at data compares the same group of students as they progress through the grades.
  • There are also now growth comparisons for students, schools, and districts.   Growth comparisons (also known as SGP – student growth percentiles) are relatively new and look at a student’s progress over time in relation to a similar group of peers across the state.  More information about SGP can be found at:  http://www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/growth/tutorial2.html

In a nutshell, at Winthrop, we are thrilled with our results across the board last year.  We are above the state average in every test, at each grade level.  We have a large percentage of students scoring advanced or proficient in every area and are considered to be a very high performing school by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  They also rate our school as having moderate/high growth in ELA (we’re on the border of the two rankings) and high growth in Math.

Next Tuesday, October 11th, the elementary principals will present MCAS results to the school committee, and next Wednesday, October 12th I will give a parent presentation with Winthrop specific information here at school.  I hope you will consider attending and learning more about MCAS testing, reporting results, and how we improve from here!