Oak Bluffs, Charter School Perform Well While Edgartown Scores Are Poor on Math, English Skills Exam

Results released yesterday by the state Department of Education show the Vineyard's six elementary schools turned out an uneven performance on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test, ranging from 100 per cent of Charter School eighth graders scoring advanced or proficient in English language arts to a third of students failing math in the Edgartown fifth and six grades.

"We've had them for 24 hours now, so we're just beginning to look at them," Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss said of the scores yesterday afternoon. "It's going to take us a while to really analyze the data and come up with a sense of whether it's good or bad."

The test, which measures curriculum in Massachusetts public schools, is given in the spring to students in grades three through eight, as well as to students in grade 10, who need to pass the test to graduate from high school. The grade 10 MCAS scores were released earlier this month.

The test was changed this year. Students in grade three through eight were tested in both English and math, while the fifth and eighth grades were also tested in science and technology. This marked the first time that certain grades were tested on particular subjects, making it difficult for school administrators to assess progress or trends.

Mr. Weiss said several Island schools turned in a strong performance on the tests. The Chilmark School had too few students to assess the results fairly.

"I'm very pleased with the scores in Oak Bluffs and Tisbury," Mr. Weiss said. "I'm also pleased with the scores in West Tisbury. There are a couple of grades in Edgartown that I'm concerned about."

In particular, Mr. Weiss said he is concerned about the Edgartown School's third, fourth and sixth grade math scores, which came in well below the recommended proficiency levels set by the state.

"That's the cut score, that's where you want to be," Mr. Weiss said. "Where we have not met the cut scores, that's where I'm going to be concerned."

Edgartown School principal Paul Dulac said yesterday that the administration has been analyzing the scores and taking steps to make changes since raw scores became available in August.

"We've done a pretty strong analysis of the raw data that we had before," Mr. Dulac said. "We know there are some holes in our current math program." He said the Edgartown School uses a different math program than the other Island elementary schools, and it does not match up well with MCAS standards.

"It's a different math program, but not a different math curriculum," Mr. Dulac said. For the last seven weeks, Edgartown School teachers have been working in teams within their grade levels to develop new instruction strategies. Since Edgartown adopted a new English language arts curriculum fairly recently, Mr. Dulac said the school will supplement its existing math program rather than adopt a completely new curriculum.

Elementary school MCAS results were all over the map this year. Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, West Tisbury and the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School all took first place in at least one grade level for having the highest percentage of students scoring advanced or proficient in English.

The same pattern held true in the math scores at the four schools, although Oak Bluffs stood out a bit more. In three of the six grades tested, Oak Bluffs had the highest percentage of students scoring advanced or proficient in math. There are four scores possible on the MCAS test: advanced, proficient, needs improvement and failing.

Island-wide, eighth graders scored particularly well in English. All 15 of the Charter School's eighth graders last year scored advanced or proficient in English, and the perfect 100 earned them a mention in the Boston Globe yesterday. The same was true for the Oak Bluffs School, where 94 per cent of students in the eighth grade scored advanced or proficient in English.

Most Island elementary schools scored well above state averages in nearly every grade and subject. At the Edgartown School however, the percentage of students that scored advanced or proficient in both math and English came in below the state average in four of the six grades tested.

Edgartown was the only Island school that did not meet its required annual yearly progress (AYP), a target set by the state. The MCAS philosophy calls for schools to make steady progress each year, with a goal of 100 per cent of students scoring advanced or proficient in every subject by 2014. This is the first year that an Island school did not meet its annual yearly progress requirement.

"All of us at Edgartown know we can take care of this issue in math," Mr. Dulac said. "We're very confident we can get it done."