MCAS Scores Prompt Sippican To Reassess

            On October 16, the Marion School Committee reviewed the 2019 MCAS scores for Sippican School.

            This is the second year into the next generation MCAS. How schools score on the MCAS is no longer evaluated solely on performance, but on accountability and progress as well.

            The Department of Education’s report takes into consideration achievement, growth, and chronic absences. These scores are then averaged out with the performance and growth of the lowest 25 percent of performing students.

            This means that even if a school academically performed identical to the prior year, they could earn less points on their overall report due to a lack of growth, or higher targets set by the state. This is what Sippican saw on Wednesday.

            ”While we stayed stagnant with scores from last year, we didn’t get the growth or accountability points,” said Principal Marla Sirois. “We are meeting and achieving significantly above the state. The growth drops a little when you think about where the state had to grow and where we had to grow to meet those standards.”

            Sippican’s scores indicated a slight drop in performance across the board in the areas of mathematics, science, and ELA; an improvement in the lower 25 percentile in ELA and mathematics brought up Sippican’s overall achievement score.

            “We need to take into consideration that each and every year they set targets,” said Superintendent Douglas White. “And they are set according to how we did in previous years.”

            A score of zero or one represents no change, a two represents improvement, a three means targets are met, and a four means that a school is exceeding the target. The goal is to earn a 75 percent or higher, meaning that all targets are met.

            In the growth category, Sippican received a 1/4 for ELA and a 2/4 for math. The lowest 25 percent received a 1/4 and 3/4. In the chronic absenteeism section, Sippican received a 3/4 with the lowest 25 percent receiving a 4/4.

            Overall, Sippican received a target percentage of 35 percent, significantly lower than 2018’s 82 percent.

            Despite some discouraging numbers, Sirios laid out points of pride to take away from the results. She noted that all students from third to sixth grade outperformed the state in ELA and math for achievement, while fifth grade outperformed the state in science.

            Sixty-seven percent of sixth grade students met or exceeded expectations in math compared to the state’s 52 percent. Fifty-nine percent of fifth grade students met or exceeded expectations in science compared to the state’s 49 percent. Both third and fifth grade scored 11 percent higher than the state for the percentage of students meeting and exceeding ELA expectations.

            “When I take the 35,000-foot view across the district, what I really see is that our students are doing better than the state and they are holding their own,” White said. “What I feel is not happening is we are not growing enough or our rigor isn’t pushing to the next level.”

            The Sippican staff was able to look at the results down to content of each question asked.

            “They were having those ‘aha’ moments,” Siriois said. “Like, no wonder they didn’t do well on this, it was only covered twice while [the students] were here. We looked at coherence maps, looking at what sixth graders did poorly in and then looking back and adjusting for grades five and four, accordingly. It’s important to realize, in third grade, it’s not what is taught in third grade but what was taught in second and first grade that is really important.”

            Sirios presented action steps to adjust the curriculum based on the results. One of the steps was to “intentionally teach and reinforce computer skills including keyboarding, highlighting text, cutting and pasting, drag and drop, comparing informational sources, etcetera.”

            The new generation MCAS is designed to be taken on a computer. Students are expected to be technologically equipped to take the test.

            “We know that as students get accustomed to taking the test online and doing the kinds of things that are necessary,” White said, “that they have to be able to maneuver not only the knowledge of the content they are involved in, but the technical as well. Those are all things that are a must in today’s society to pass this test.”

            The next meeting of the Marion School Committee iss cheduled for December 4 at 6:30 pm at Sippican School.

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