The 2018 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exam results were recently published by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DOE). The good news for the Franklin community in the published results is that all six elementary schools in Franklin, MA performed well above the state average in both the math and English language arts (ELA) tests.
The above chart shows how students at each elementary school in Franklin performed on the 2018 MCAS math and ELA tests, compared to the average of all students in Massachusetts. As shown in the chart, substantially larger percentages of students in each public elementary school in Franklin either exceeded or met expectations in both the math and ELA tests than the average of all students in the state.
(Four performance categories were used to rate performance: 1. Exceeding Expectations; 2. Meeting Expectations; 3. Partially Meeting Expectations; and 4. Not Meeting Expectations. Of all public school elementary students in Massachusetts who took the 2018 math MCAS test, only 47% either exceeded or met expectations. In the ELA test , the state average for exceeding or meeting expectations was a slightly better 51%.)
Franklin’s Kennedy Elementary School a standout
Students at the John F. Kennedy Elementary School at 551 Pond St in Franklin, Massachusetts did especially well on the 2018 MCAS test. In both the math and ELA tests, 84% of Kennedy Elementary students either exceeded or met expectations.
As detailed in an article published by The Boston Globe, Kennedy’s results were so good that the DOE recognized Kennedy Elementary as one of only 52 public schools statewide with such outstanding MCAS performance. In earning this honor, Kennedy Elementary joins public schools located in such affluent communities as Lexington, Medfield, Newton and Sherborn.
Seemingly puzzling ‘need assistance’ status for Jefferson Elementary
The release of the 2018 MCAS results unfortunately also contained some concerning news for the Franklin community regarding the Jefferson Elementary School at 628 Washington Street. Despite its students performing well above the state average on the 2018 MCAS tests, Jefferson Elementary was placed by the DOE on a newly created list of schools deemed in need of “targeted assistance.”
This new category includes 14% of all public schools in the state (230 public schools in total). These schools, while not classified as “under performing” or “chronically under performing,” were deemed by the DOE to be in need of extra support to aide students to do better in test scores or in other criteria.
Below are Jefferson Elementary’s 2018 MCAS performance results:
67% of Jefferson Elementary students either exceeded or met expectations in the 2018 MCAS math test. In the 2018 ELA test, 66% of Jefferson Elementary students either exceeded or met expectations. While not on par with the excellent results posted by Franklin’s Kennedy Elementary, Jefferson’s results are in line with the above average performances of all other elementary schools in town. So why was Jefferson singled out as needing targeted assistance?
Low test participation, not low test scores
The answer seems to lie in the four words at the end of the phrase “in need of targeted assistance to help their students do better in test scores or in other criteria.”
In deciding which schools need targeted assistance, the DOE appears to look “low sub-group performance,” “low graduation rate” and (most importantly for Jefferson Elementary) “low (test) participation rate.”
As shown above in an excerpt from a chart published by The Boston Globe, Jefferson Elementary is shown as being included in the “targeted assistance” category solely due to its low participation rate in the 2018 MCAS tests. And based on information on the DOE website, it appears that anything less than a 95% participation rate qualifies as “low.” So it looks like a sub-95% participation rate in the 2018 MCAS tests is why the DOE included Jefferson Elementary on the targeted assistance list of Massachusetts public schools.
One would think that so long a Jefferson Elementary can get its participation rate on the 2019 MCAS tests above the 95% threshold, the school will be removed from the targeted assistance list next year.
NexGen MCAS scores should improve with time
2018 marked the first use of the newly revised “NextGen” MCAS testing standards. This updated version of the MCAS tests yielded lower math scores this year at many schools across the state. It is expected that test scores in future years will rise once educators become more familiar with the new tests.
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