Somerville Public Schools Maintains Sustained High Growth on MCAS for Third Consecutive Year

Significant improvements in Math help pace district’s continued upward trajectory
 
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Shown at a special math-oriented afternoon hosted by the East Somerville Community School,
fourth graders discuss the concept of parallel lines with teacher Emma Mrozicki as they prepare
to make art with quadrilaterals. Photo by Delia Marshall, Somerville Journal

Somerville, MA – A third consecutive year of sustained high growth across the District in both English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics, according to Spring 2015 MCAS results released today by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, helped Somerville Public Schools maintain its lead among urban districts in the Commonwealth. The continuing high growth trend was matched by a notable improvement in the percentage of students moving out of the Warning/Needs Improvement categories, as well as an increase in the percentage of students scoring Proficient or Advanced, particularly in Math. The continuing upward trends point to the hard work of teachers across the District implementing instructional practices that meet the needs of Somerville students at every level.

Somerville ranks among the top 12% of all Massachusetts school districts as measured by Student Growth Percentile (SGP) with District-wide SGPs of 60.5 in Math and and 56.0 in English-Language Arts. Somerville is the only urban district to rank among the Commonwealth’s top 15% in growth. The District’s combined growth rate of 116.5 is well above the state’s median SGP and also surpassed that of every one of its urban counterparts in the Commonwealth who participated in the spring 2015 MCAS. The next closest urban district had a combined MCAS SGP of 104. Somerville’s continuing high growth rate was also matched by an increase in the Composite Performance Index (CPI) score in Math (74.7), while also showing a slight uptick in ELA (81.3) and Science (76.5) CPIs. The DESE defines CPI as “the extent towards which students are moving toward proficiency (a CPI of 100).” Somerville’s overall district CPI has continued to improve in every subject for the last 4 years.
 
“What’s really exciting is that Somerville students are continuing to show outstanding growth from year to year, at a notably higher rate than the average student in the Commonwealth. That sustained high growth rate is putting our students on a steady path toward long-term academic success,” stated Superintendent of Schools, Mary Skipper. “When you combine the high growth with students’ continuing progress toward proficiency, that’s an indication that (1) our teachers are doing a great job of providing the type of differentiated instruction that meets the needs of students at every level of academic proficiency, helping students acquire not only the content knowledge, but also the learning skills that will allow students to continue that upward trajectory; and (2) our students are embracing the challenge of a rigorous Common Core-aligned curriculum. No matter where they are on the continuum, students are moving toward greater proficiency. They’re setting the bar high for themselves.”
 
“Achieving these student growth numbers for three years running and continuous improvement in our CPI scores shows that Somerville’s focus on educating the whole child, supporting them both inside the classroom and out, is the linchpin to sustained academic success for our students,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “Our community does not rest on our laurels. How highly we value education affects every aspect of life in Somerville, from the economy to public safety—it is the first pillar of our community. We will continue making the investments needed to holistically support each student, from before they enter preschool to preparing them for college, so that we are giving each and every child the opportunity to reach his or her highest potential.”
 
While SGP is not the state's sole measure of progress, it does provide a clear measure of a school's ability to help students at every level of proficiency show growth compared to their “academic peers” from across the state.  As measured by MCAS SGP, Somerville students performed as well as or better than students in 176 (of 200) Massachusetts districts, placing Somerville in the 88th percentile rank in the state.
 
"That measure shows that all Somerville educators take seriously their ethical duty and responsibility to provide every student with at least a full year’s worth of growth,” stated Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Vince McKay. “Whether students in Somerville are performing at the higher end of the spectrum, are performing in an at-risk category, or if they fall somewhere in the middle, what this shows is that overall they learned more in the course of the year.” 
 
"These results affirm the approach we have taken in Somerville over the last several years," said Adam Sweeting, Chair of the School Committee. "The gains have occurred as we have continued to expand opportunities in music, art, and athletics for all students. We have also made significant investments in programs and staff to address the emotional, psychological, and physical health of our students while enhancing our early childhood and college readiness initiatives. We are proud of the results, but we are equally proud that they came while we increased our emphasis on the education of the whole child. That is the Somerville way."
 
Grade 10 and grade 5 students helped set the pace District-wide this year. Somerville High School students showed continuing improvement in both ELA and Math, including a district-high median SGP of 77 in ELA. District-wide, grade 10 students also set the pace in the percentage of students scoring Proficient or Advanced, outpacing their urban counterparts in all 3 test areas; 85% of Somerville Grade 10 students scored Proficient or Advanced in ELA, 73% in Math, and 70% in Science. Grade 5 students recorded a district-high median SGP of 72 in Math, and had the district’s highest CPI in Science (75.7).
 
“Our growth data is a point of pride for Somerville, but more needs to be done, clearly. An area that stands out as an area of focus for our team in the coming school year is early literacy. Our Grade 3 Reading results were, frankly, very disappointing for us,” added Dr. McKay. “We are redoubling efforts in early literacy, with a focus on the foundational skills our students learn in pre-school through grade 2.”
 
“The District will also continue to maintain a focus on narrowing achievement gaps,” added Superintendent Skipper. “We’ll be digging deep into data throughout the year to clearly identify where our greatest challenges lie, and develop appropriate strategies to address those challenges. The kind of performance we saw in Math this year, with a greater number of students exiting the Warning category and moving into Proficiency, is exactly the kind of progress we’re hoping to see. We’re celebrating our continued progress, but are committed to helping every Somerville student reach their potential by providing them with an exceptional educational experience.”
 
Additional District highlights from the spring 2015 MCAS results include the following:
  • Math: 5.3% of students who scored in the Warning/Needs Improvement categories in 2014 moved out of those categories, showing greater improvement than the state (2% improvement)
  • Math: 4.5% more students scored Advanced
  • Math: Nearly every grade had an increase in the percentage of students scoring Proficient or Advanced compared to last year, including 73% of Grade 10 students
  • Math: Every grade level showed an increase in the percentage of students scoring Proficient or Advanced compared to 2011, with Grade 5 showing a leap of 21% in the last 5 years
  • ELA: A higher percentage of students in Grades 6 and 10 scored Proficient or Advanced compared to last year, including 74% of Grade 8 students and 85% of Grade 10 students
 
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For additional details, analysis, and commentary on the Spring 2015 MCAS test results, please contact Dr. Vince McKay, SPS Assistant Superintendent at 617-629-5214 or vmckay@k12.somerville.ma.us.

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