Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Southbridge’s MCAS Progress is Fantastic – Right?

According to the MCAS results released today, Southbridge High has met and exceeded its targets in all but one category.

Source (Click Here)

Now, I’m no expert. In addition I’m probably going to reinforce my reputation for being overly negative.

Nevertheless, there is something I find discomforting about these results.

The progress is, as I understand it, based upon the performance of grade 10 students in relation to grade 10 students in prior years as well as statewide. 

But we should also look at the progress of this group of students compared to their past standings.

Now, this group of students would have been in grade 8 in 2010. When I compare the results of these students on the MCAS in 2010 to the results in 2012 the progress is phenomenal.

For example, in 2010 in English Language Arts 59% ranked as Proficient or Higher. 6% ranked as Advanced.  In 2012 these jumped to 76% and 25% respectively.

In Mathematics in 2010, 26% ranked as Proficient or Higher with 8% ranked as Advanced. In 2012 these numbers jumped to 51% and 26%.

In Science and Tech/Eng in 2010, 27% were rated as Proficient or Higher and 1% were considered Advanced. In 2012 these numbers climbed to 43% and 7%.

I have to ask, is it plausible that such dramatic progress could have been achieved among essentially the same body of students in just two years?

I am not attempting to denigrate our teachers or administration. I simply would like to understand how these kinds of results could have been achieved.

Is it accounted for by a 44% to 53% decline in the number of students included?

One additional observation; there has been a similar inflation in results statewide. Does this call into question the integrity of the assessment tool on a year-to-year basis?


  1. I hope the state comes in and exposes those responsible for this "remarkable" achievement.

  2. We should have data for the 2012 cohort that compares it to only those who remain from the 2010 cohort.

  3. I believe a great deal of the difference has to do with the drop-out rate of certain populations of students; e.g., ELL, Hispanic, Low Income, Special Education.

    You may find it interesting that while Southbridge High is a Level 1, Tantasqua is a Level 2.

    1. AM I the only one who finds that hard to believe.

    2. North High and South High in Newton are Level 1 schools. Are we supposed to believe that Southbridge High is on a par with those schools?

  4. Something else to examine is the change in this group in the needs improvement category. In 2010 the group versus the state was 27% to 14% in English; 30% to 258% in Math and 35% to 38% in Science.
    In 2012 the comparisons grew to 20% to 9% in English, 34% to 15% in Math and 36% to 25% in Science.

    1. That should have been 30% to 28% in Math in 2010.

  5. Ken, I suggest that you go to the page that you linked to as a source above. Then click on "View detailed 2012 Data." Also click on "About the Data."

    Now for my cynical view. The state needs to show progress and that improvement is taking place. There are a lot of 'Brownie Points" assigned for minimal progress. (PPI Points). 80% of the schools in Massachusetts have been labeled as either a Level 1 or 2.

  6. On one hand it could be argued that the improvement in results from grade 8 to grade 10 was the result of a “thinning of the herd” through dropouts. On the other hand though, we’ve heard nothing but complaints in the past about the number of students who were taking advantage of school choice and moving out of the district. Are we supposed to believe that the students who did this were the underperformers.?

  7. You can bet that the three thugs are going to claim that these results prove what a great guy BB was and how he improved the school. I’m hoping that the state steps in and looks into how these results were achieved.

  8. Ken:

    Back in August you ran an article, Southbridge Superintendent Announces Rumor Control Plan.

    The first question asked was “I want to ask about a rumor I’ve heard. Is it true that the preliminary results for MCAS scores at SHS have raise concerns about their legitimacy?”

    Ely answered on the school website that he couldn’t talk about the preliminary results. Will he answer the question now?


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