Old Rochester Regional High School Principal Mike Devoll was pleased to present the school’s 2019 MCAS results to the ORR School Committee on October 23, scores that reflect significant improvement over last year’s scores.
“I think we hit a homerun this year, as we thought we would,” Devoll said. “I’m very proud of the work that was done.”
The data clearly showed improvement, especially in the high school, despite the change from the traditional MCAS and the subsequent MCAS 2.0 that has evolved into the current standard, Next-Gen MCAS, as Superintendent Doug White explained.
“As you know, we are in a time of change with the state as far as MCAS,” said White. “We’ve also changed what we identify as accountability factors, whether that be at the junior high school or the high school.”
The accountability categories are scored from zero to four points, and each annual target is set by how students performed the prior year that determines the target percentage of improvement the school is expected to achieve the next year.
“It is a moving target,” said White. “That target is always moving. As you do better, it gets harder to meet the target moving forward, per se.”
Adding to the complexity, this was the first time students would take the science portion of the MCAS online instead of the paper and pencil version. Nonetheless, Devoll was able to proudly report that, overall, the school had had a banner MCAS year.
What stands out the most, Devoll said, are the notable improvements in student growth and achievement, especially in English Language Arts (ELA).
“These are the strongest growth scores that we have had in my career,” said Devoll, reflecting on the overall ELA increase from a proficiency score of 45 percent in 2018 to 60 percent in 2019, and the 47-percent to 52-percent leap in Math proficiency over last year.
Grade 9 students scored an 83 percent in the science assessment compared to the 74 percent state average of students meeting or exceeding expectations in the subject.
In the realm of accountability, the school scored in the 65th percentile, a huge increase over last year’s 38th percentile, meeting its target percentage.
“Tremendous improvement,” said Devoll. “I think we can still push further with better attendance with this whole district adopting a new attendance policy.”
The school did not score so well when it came to chronic absenteeism, a newer state measurement that deducts points for student absences. Furthermore, there are no longer excused absences in the state’s absenteeism calculation, which has prompted the school to review its attendance policy to reflect the change.
Devoll said his greatest source of pride for the school is that leap in ELA and Math proficiency that puts the school 50 percent higher than the state average.
“Which is a major change from a year ago,” said Devoll.
Devoll credits the Bulldog Block program initiated at the school that sets aside time for the lowest performing students to receive intensive instruction in areas of weakness and support in their current studies. From this, Devoll said, “I’m not surprised to see the increase in those students.
“I’m proud of the work that my teachers have done, and the students this past year did a great job,” said Devoll.
Over in the junior high, Principal Silas Coellner was equally pleased with his students’ MCAS performance.
“In my 10 years at the junior high, this is one of the best years that we’ve ever had,” said Coellner.
The school’s overall achievement made a huge jump from 25 percent to 82 percent, with growth reflecting an increase from 50 to 63 percent over last year.
“Lot of great improvement there,” said Coellner. But the improvement in ELA, he said, “This is really the highlight of our performance in MCAS last [school] year.”
Students overall scored higher in the area of ELA, but in Math, Coellner said, “Math wasn’t quite as successful as ELA… They all went down just a little bit, but not, I wouldn’t say, significant.”
Further points of pride, Coellner said, include improvement for students with disabilities who exceeded the expected achievement targets in all three subject areas. And in science, all students have shown a marked improvement from 40 percent proficiency to 63 percent proficiency.
Coellner said the school’s improved performance came from more robust skill development and curriculum support, similar to at the high school.
“Silas, these are really impressive results and it really shows all the great work you are doing in the junior high – and your staff,” said ORR School Committee member Heather Burke.
White said the plan for further improvement would focus on the rigor of the curriculum, “And also ensuring that we’re finding ways for growth for all students.”
The committee, pleased with the results, was quick to comment.
“We’ve heard so much criticism… from town officials, especially from Marion, that have openly criticized our performance,” said ORR School Committee Chairman Carey Humphrey.
“There’s nothing ‘mediocre’ about these scores,” said Devoll.
“The bottom line is, this school district is providing an excellent education,” Humphrey said. “The data is here; it’s proven.”
“It speaks volumes of what’s happening in our schools,” said ORR School Committee member Michelle Smith.
In other business, the committee voted to accept the school athletic transportation bid received from Amaral Bus Company.
According to White, the district needed to change bus companies after the current company could no longer service after school and athletic bus services.
“We actually got a better rate for this coming year,” said White.
The three-year contract is for $115,000 for the first year, $119,000 for the second, and $120,000 for year three. White said the new contract will take three years to reach the rate the district pays its current bus company.
The next meeting of the Old Rochester Regional School Committee is scheduled for December 11 at 6:30 pm in the ORR Junior High media room.
Old Rochester Regional School Committee
By Jean Perry