Six of seven schools on the Vineyard were given top rankings based on results from annual statewide standardized tests, which were released this week.
The West Tisbury School received a commendation for high achievement based on performance on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, or MCAS, while Tisbury School second-graders were the second highest performers in the state on the English portion of the test. Results were more mixed at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, where math scores were lower than the state average, and the state said the school is not meeting gap-narrowing goals.
But Oak Bluffs is perhaps the Island’s best success story this year. The school, long struggling when it came to the annual educational benchmark for MCAS, has seen an improvement in student scores. “I was really very pleased with the results that I saw initially,” Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss told the Gazette. “All of our schools are Level One schools, which is where we want to be.” MCAS school and district results, which were released on Wednesday, were analyzed using different benchmarks this year. Last fall, Massachusetts received a waiver of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which stipulated that all schools should work toward 100 per cent student proficiency by 2014. Under new guidelines, schools now work toward cutting the achievement gap (the difference between the number of students meeting proficiency and 100 per cent proficiency) in half. The previous measurement of progress, annual yearly progress, has been eliminated and replaced with new measures that account for student growth at each school.
“It’s about progress and narrowing that achievement gap and student growth,” said assistant superintendent Laurie Halt. She said the district will spend time analyzing the copious amounts of data the test results provide.
New measurements of progress may be complicated, she said, but “it takes so much into account. Before it was the same goal for all schools.”
The test is given annually to students in third through eighth grades, and to 10th graders, who must pass the exam to graduate.
Schools now receive a ranking between one and five, with one indicating that all students are meeting goals, and five indicating a chronically underperforming school. All the schools in the Martha’s Vineyard Regional School District received a one; the charter school received a ranking of two. The new system revolves around complex ranking systems that take into account student growth from year to year and as compared to other schools.
For four consecutive years, the Oak Bluffs School did not meet yearly progress goals. But this year the scores were turned around, according to results from the Department of Education and rankings compiled by the Boston Globe.
“Oak Bluffs scores this year showed an incredible amount of effort,” Mr. Weiss said. “Clearly they got the message and worked very had to make that change.”
Oak Bluffs principal Richie Smith, now in his second year as principal in that town school, credited hard-working teachers and students for the improvement. “The talent of the staff was always here . . . they needed a focus and clear direction. The teachers and students made this big turnaround.”
This year, 86 per cent of Oak Bluffs students scored proficient or higher for English, up from 83 per cent last year and well above the state average of 69 per cent. On the math portion of the test, 68 per cent of students were proficient, compared to 65 per cent last year and a state average of 59 per cent. On the science portion, 75 per cent were proficient or higher, more than 20 points above the state average. Oak Bluffs students’ average scores were above the state average for every grade in every test subject.
There were some stand-out scores among individual grades: more than half of fourth-grade students scored as advanced on the English portion of the test, and seventh and eighth-graders both scored over 90 per cent proficient or higher on the English portion.
Oak Bluffs eighth-graders placed ninth overall in the state on the science portion; 81 per cent were proficient.
Mr. Smith, who moved from his previous post as principal at the Tisbury School to Oak Bluffs two years ago, said he instituted several changes, including revamping the school schedule, putting teachers in collaborative grade-level teams and creating consistency with curriculum. This year about half the teaching staff is taking on new grade-level assignments, he said.
“I think there’s a big cultural shift in our school,” Mr. Smith said. “There’s been no pushback or resistance . . . that’s what I’m super, super proud of.”
“We demonstrated a huge amount of growth last year,” he said. “We feel very invigorated — I think the school has turned around.” He continued:
“We were a struggling school prior to last year. We’re now a level-one school.
“I want to make sure folks know how proud I am. It speaks volumes to the community here . . . they’ve embraced the changes and run with it, and it results in some pretty good changes.”
Mr. Weiss also singled out the West Tisbury School results. “West Tisbury was outstanding this year,” Mr. Weiss said. “It would not surprise me if they really were leaders in our state.”
The school earned a state commendation for high achievement. This year, 84 per cent of students were proficient in English, down slightly from 88 per cent last year but well above the state average of 69 per cent. On the math portion, there was 74 per cent proficiency, down from 79 per cent last year but above the state average of 59 per cent.
West Tisbury fourth-graders placed fourth overall in the state in math, according to the Boston Globe, with 56 per cent scoring in the top category, advanced. Students also scored well on the English portion: 91 per cent of eighth-graders were proficient or higher, while 94 per cent of seventh-graders and 86 per cent of sixth-graders were proficient or higher.
At the Chilmark School, 61 per cent of students scored proficient or higher in both English and math, both slightly lower than last year’s scores. Results for individual grades were not available because of the small number of students taking the test. At the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, 97 per cent of all 10th-graders scored proficient or higher on the English portion of the test, an improvement of seven percentage points over last year and well above the state average of 69 per cent. On the math side, 85 per cent of students scored proficient or higher, a slight decrease from last year’s score of 91 per cent. And in the science and technology portion, 75 per cent of students were proficient or higher. The state average was 54 per cent.
Scores were also up over last year at the Tisbury School, with 86 per cent of all students scoring proficient or higher in English, an improvement from 84 per cent last year, and 78 per cent of all students scoring proficient or higher on the mathematics section, an improvement from 71 per cent. On the science portion of the test, 58 per cent of students were proficient or higher, slightly above the state average.
Tisbury third graders were among the highest state performers in math, according to the Boston Globe, with 72 per cent scoring in the top category.
There were some other notable results for individual grades: Tisbury fourth graders placed fifth in the state in English, with 94 per cent of students scoring proficient or higher. English scores were also high for seventh graders, with 93 per cent scoring proficient or higher. Average student scores were higher than the state average for all grades and subjects.
At the Edgartown school, scores were down slightly. For all grades, 79 per cent were proficient or higher in English, compared to 83 per cent last year. On the math portion, 61 per cent were proficient, down from 66 per cent last year. In seventh grade, 94 per cent of students were proficient or higher in English, though 41 per cent of seventh-graders were ranked as “needs improvement” in math. At the public charter school, where students from third to 10th grade take the test, the percentage of all students scoring as proficient or better has fallen from last year. In 2011, 84 per cent of the school’s students were proficient or higher on the English test, compared to 78 per cent this year. On the math test, student proficiency fell from 59 per cent last year to 55 per cent this year, below the state average of 59 per cent. On the science and technology portion, 60 per cent of students were proficient or higher, compared to a state average of 54 per cent. Seventh grade mathematics scores were 29 per cent proficient or higher, compared to the state average or 51 per cent, with 10 per cent of students in that grade rating as warning or failing and 62 per cent classified as needs improvement. Fourth, fifth, and sixth grade math scores were also below the state average for proficiency.
But there were also some strong scores, like the 94 per cent of all eighth graders who were proficient or higher on the English test. In the third grade, 86 per cent of students were proficient or higher in math.
Charter school director Robert Moore said the results signal there is room for improvement, calling the data a mixed bag. When it comes to the rating of two, “we’ve got to move that up to one,” he said.
He said the school will work to address weaknesses in math, and has adopted a new math program and is working with a math consultant. “We hope the things we move ahead on will translate into moving more kids forward,” he said.
“We’re not worried about achievement and proficiency, we’re worried about moving all the students forward every year,” he added. For this, he praised the new rating system, which he said emphasizes student growth.
He highlighted some positive results. “We’re pleased with our third and fourth grade language arts and math scores, and eighth grade English language arts.”
Because fewer than 10 students took the 10th grade MCAS, individual results were not made public. But Mr. Moore said 10th graders performed well.
“There were some places we’re proud of, and some places we need to pay attention to,” he said, saying the teachers and staff would start looking at school wide and individual data.
Complete MCAS scores, including results for individual schools and grade levels, can be viewed on the Boston Globe website, boston.com.