2019 MCAS Results

Letter to CoaH Families from CEO, Kevin Taylor

I am writing with an important update concerning our MCAS and Accountability measures which were released by the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) on Tuesday, September 24 and extensively reported on in the local news.

This letter details our results, how they compare to our highest performing peers, and the steps we are taking to improve over the next year. As you will see, our results are not where we need them to be, and we are committed to continuing to do better by all CoaH students. Moreover, I want to acknowledge that this letter includes a lot of detailed information. As true partners in this work, you deserve to have all the facts at your fingertips, and I promise to continue to share our results and our ongoing plans for improvement with you every step of the way. At the end of this letter are the dates and times when you can meet with me to talk about our results and/or any other topics you would like to discuss.

OVERVIEW

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) is a test your child takes by 10th grade and measures performance on Math, English Language Arts (ELA) and Science. The test is a combination of multiple choice and open-response questions. Students earn one of four ratings on the test for ELA and Math: exceeding expectations, meeting expectations, partially meeting expectations, or not meeting expectations. On Science, students earn one of the following ratings: advanced, proficient, needs improvement, or failing. The reason why the ratings differ for ELA/Math vs. Science is that last school year, DESE rolled out the Next Generation tests for ELA and Math. The next Generation Science MCAS will be administered in Spring 2020. The percentage of students achieving exceeding and meeting expectations status is the measure that is given greatest attention in reporting.

Likewise, DESE has recently updated the Accountability measures to enable parents to more easily compare schools and school districts on common indicators: achievement, growth, and high school completion, among others. Schools and districts are no longer measured on a 1-5 scale. The new accountability system generates a “criterion referenced target percentage” (that compares a school against themselves over time) and an “accountability percentile” (that compares a school against other schools that serve similar grades based on a single year of data).  These numbers are then used to put the school into one of five categories: schools of recognition, meeting targets, partially meeting targets, focused/targeted support, or broad/comprehensive support. Schools with accountability percentiles 1-10 are automatically placed into the focused/targeted support category.

MCAS and Accountability results are released each fall and measure student performance for the previous school year. Said differently, the data we are reviewing at this time is for the 2018-19 school year. The chart below lists our performance by school. Please note: if your child took the MCAS last year, his or her results will be mailed home in early October.

2018-2019 MCAS Results*

SchoolELAMathScience
Circuit Street26%24%48%
Dudley Square16%20%45%
New Bedford16%14%26%

*Percent Exceeding and Meeting Expectations for ELA and Math in Grade 10; Percent Proficient and Advanced in Science

School2019 Accountability
Category
Accountability
Percentile
Circuit StreetRequiring assistance or
intervention
13
Dudley SquareNot requiring assistance or
intervention
21
New BedfordRequiring assistance or
intervention
2

PEER COMPARISONS

Here is how our results compare to our host districts, the Boston and New Bedford Public Schools, respectively.

2018-19 MCAS Results*

DistrictELAMathScience
Boston Public Schools45%47%59%
New Bedford Public Schools24%20%33%

*Percent Exceeding and Meeting Expectations for ELA and Math in Grade 10; Percent Proficient and Advanced in Science

Below is the Massachusetts state average.

2018-19 MCAS Results* ELAMathScience
Massachusetts Average61%58%74%

*Percent Exceeding and Meeting Expectations for ELA and Math in Grade 10; Percent Proficient and Advanced in Science

Further, when we look at our highest performing charter school peers, our results are not strong in comparison.

2018-19 MCAS Results*

SchoolELAMathScience
Global Learning Charter Public School
(New Bedford)
84% 64% 83%
Brooke Charter Public Schools 76% 82% 95%
Boston Collegiate Charter Public Schools 66% 84% 91%
Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter
Public Schools
64% 51% 52%
Excel Charter Public Schools 58% 55% 87%
Match Charter Public Schools 53% 71% 72%
Boston Preparatory Charter Public Schools 52% 59% 88%
Roxbury Preparatory Charter Public
Schools
32% 41% 54%
Codman Academy Charter Public Schools 17% 7% 17%

*Percent Exceeding and Meeting Expectations for ELA and Math in Grade 10; Percent Proficient and Advanced in Science

Lastly, when we look at some of the traditionally highest performing school districts in the state, we can see what is possible for students in Massachusetts and how far we need to move in order to be truly great.

2019 MCAS Results*

SchoolELAMathScience
Harvard Public Schools 94% 90% 99%
Lexington Public Schools 90% 94% 97%
Dover-Sherborn Public Schools 89% 91% 98%
Weston Public Schools 88% 87% 90%
Concord-Carlisle Public Schools 86% 88% 98%
Wellesley Public Schools 85% 89% 96%
Nauset Regional High School 83% 67% 83%
Somerset-Berkley Regional Public Schools 70% 72% 76%
Fairhaven High School 62% 72% 86%

*Percent Exceeding and Meeting Expectations for ELA and Math in Grade 10; Percent Proficient and Advanced in Science

When I wrote to our families in September 2018, I promised to review the reforms we committed to that would improve our results over 2017-18 levels. Given the urgency of achieving higher performance, it’s important that we assess, recognize and pivot when required. The chart below illustrates the impact of those changes:

2018-19 Commitments Description Impact/Next Steps
Curriculum Changes Introduced Teach-to-One at Circuit Street and Dudley Square, a technology solution which differentiates the math content for 9th grade students. Circuit Street and Dudley Square used Achieve3000 for ELA, which is similarly designed to differentiate content. In New Bedford, we introduced a pilot curriculum for all 9th grade subjects: Math, ELA, Science and History. Given the enrollment challenges in 2018-19, which were communicated to you in the letter that went home in your student’s Q3 progress report in April, we had to make tough financial decisions. The inconsistent implementation and unsteady results of Teach to One (TTO) necessitated that we eliminate TTO for 2019-20. Achieve3000 is working for our ELA teachers and we are expanding the program to include Science.The pilot curriculum did not deliver the required results in New Bedford.
Data Driven Instruction/Academic Progress Monitoring Reviewed quarterly interim assessment and passing rates for each student, teacher and course and employing re-teaching strategies to ensure all students master the material. Our academic progress monitoring proved effective in identifying which teachers and classes were raising the bar of excellence. Now that we’ve seen how our classroom results correlate to progress on MCAS, we know that we need to make further changes to our curriculum and professional development for teachers.
Renewed focus of Learning Network/English Language Learners Partnership with Landmark School, providing targeted coaching to some of our Learning Network teachers in New Bedford We have renewed our Landmark School partnership and expanded it to apply proven practices to our Boston schools as well.
Instructional Content Specialists (ICSs) Hired Hired former teachers in ELA, Math, Science and History, each of whom have deep content knowledge, visit teachers in their subject area at least once per week. Given the reduced staff size this year, we refocused resources elsewhere in 2019-20. When our enrollment picture improves, we plan to re-hire these roles.
Chief Academic Officer Hired Hired Amber Donell to help us re-imagine our academic program and transform our academic practices for the next generation of COAH students. Ms. Donell, in concert with the Chief Schools Officer, Sonya Pratt, has introduced “Learning Walks” twice per academic year, quarterly academic progress monitoring from which we now have clear metrics for each classroom on what is working and where we need to better support our teachers. This has informed a completely revised professional development program for our schools to start the 2019-20 school year stronger than ever. Likewise, this has shown us that we need a stronger curriculum to ensure that our MCAS results are the floor and not the ceiling of our academic results. 

THE PATH FORWARD

Again, MCAS and Accountability results reported today are for the 2018-19 school year. At a high-level we are implementing the following six-part strategy for the current school year:

  1. Extensive data analysis
  2. Focused teacher training around instructional and culture priorities
  3. Frequent monitoring of student progress
  4. Remediation/Targeted Intervention/Catch-Up Learning Time
  5. Strengthening curriculum materials, instruction and assessments
  6. Leadership Capacity Building

In addition, we are continuing to work with our teacher’s union to negotiate a first contract and believe that continuing to strengthen the relationship between the school and the union will support our focus on student work in the classroom.

We have put these theories into practice by taking the following steps to ensure that the aforementioned results are much stronger in the 2019-20 school year:

2019-20 Commitments Description
Math Curriculum Adoption In partnership with Achievement First, a high-performing charter public school in NY, CT and RI, we are working to implement their open-source curriculum that better aligns our curriculum material with the new Massachusetts curriculum frameworks and Next Generation MCAS. Our work begins with the math curriculum, and will continue in the coming years in ELA, Science and other subjects.
MCAS “Boot Camps” for 10th graders beginning 10/1 Research has found that one of the challenges of NextGen and computerized MCAS is that even our most prepared students will likely score lower on MCAS when those tests are computerized. Consequently, it is critical that we build more opportunities to prep for this reason. In advance of our 2020 tests, we will expand the parent-partnership, re-teaching strategies for students, all efforts to ensure that our students are better prepared. This work includes: finding dedicated catch-up time in the schedule, perhaps “creative scheduling” with Focus First, after school, weekends for 1:1 and small group instruction. We plan to partner with parents to ensure we are maximizing time outside of school for preparing our students and seeking resources from the community.
More professional development for teachers In May 2019 we began planning for a “strong start” to the 2019-20 school year, inclusive of the professional development plan to help our teachers become stronger content leaders and making the most of every teaching moment, including during the first week of school. For example, in our partnership with Achievement Network (A-Net) in New Bedford, we are building leaders’ capacity by helping leaders coach teachers.
Focus on culturally responsive pedagogy We want to ensure that our lessons are culturally relevant, engaging and appeal to our diverse student body. This is consistent with our efforts to incorporate our D.I.C.E. (Diversity, Inclusion, Citizenship and Equity) vision. We firmly believe — and research strongly supports — that when curriculum is culturally inclusive and culturally responsive, it can become much more academically rigorous, while simultaneously more accessible. We are therefore engaging consultants to partner with us to achieve this goal.
Focus on social and emotional learning In addition to expanding our partnership with Landmark School, we are also forging a relationship with North Star Learning Centers to pilot social and emotional support for our students in New Bedford. North Star already partners with the New Bedford Public Schools and our charter peer, Alma del Mar. Further, as we review our suspension data, we recognize that our discipline policies will need to continue to change. One of the ways to accomplish this will be to address underlying issues that lead to specific student behavior and North Star will help us do so.

Please note that the items above were generated in concert with your child’s school leader and the Senior Leadership Team of City on a Hill. These steps give me the unshakable hope that we will achieve our goals. And when the 2019-20 results are released in Fall 2020, we will hold ourselves accountable to whether these commitments yielded the results we expected and be prepared to explain why or why not.

I recognize that you may have additional questions or concerns about our MCAS and Accountability measures, especially in New Bedford where our school’s performance is under closer scrutiny. You are invited to attend the family meeting for your school on the dates below.

  • New Bedford: Thursday, October 3, 2019 | 3:30-4:00 p.m OR 5:00-5:30 p.m.
  • Circuit Street: Wednesday, October 16, 2019 | 5:00-6:00 p.m.
  • Dudley Square: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 | 5:30-7:30 p.m. (coincides with Q1 Parent/Guardian Night)

The meetings will occur in the Forum in a question and answer format; dinner will be served.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. As a reminder, your child’s individual results will be mailed in early October. I am available by phone at (857) 256-4319 should you wish to discuss further. I hope to see you at your respective family meeting in the coming weeks.

Best,

Kevin T. Taylor

Chief Executive Officer

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