The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 7, 2000


CCHS grade 10 scores well above state average in MCAS

Recent results from the spring 1999 Massachussetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests taken by grade 10 students at Concord-Carlisle Regional High School are similar to 1998 test scores, according to Concord Assistant School Superintendent Karen Nerpouni. The annual tests given by the state Department of Education (DOE) are different from year to year. Student scores are placed into the categories of advanced, proficient, needs improvement or failing. A student must score at least in the needs improvement category with a score of 220 to pass a test. This year's results were recently mailed to parents of students who took the tests.

In English and language arts, 66 percent of CCHS tenth-grade students scored either proficient or advanced, while the state average for the test shows only 34 percent of students at proficient or above. The average scaled score in English/language arts was 243 compared to 244 in 1998. The scores reflect the average of both regular students and students with disabilities who took the test at CCHS. The DOE also provides districts with separate test results for both student groups.

In the math test, 58 percent of all CCHS students scored either proficient or advanced compared with the state average of just 24 percent of students at proficient or above. Seventeen percent of CCHS students failed the tenth grade math test, while 53 percent of students in the state failed in math. The average scaled score in math was 243 compared with 242 in 1998.

At CCHS, 58 percent of students taking the science and technology tests scored at the proficient or advanced levels, compared with the state average of 24 percent of students at proficient or higher. The average scaled score in science was 240 compared with 237 in 1998.

Graduation requirements

At the Regional School Committee meeting on December 14, Concord School Superintendent Ed Mavragis said that even though students score well in the school district, there must be support programs for students who have needs improvement or failing scores. Nerpouni recapped how beginning with the current ninth grade class, the class of 2003, all students must pass the English and math portions of the MCAS tests in order to graduate. The class of 2003 will not have to pass the science part of the test to receive their diploma. If a student fails one part of the MCAS test in the tenth grade, they can retake that part of the test again in grade 11 or 12. "Only the state can give a diploma now, not the local school district," she said, noting the change is part of the Education Reform Act of 1993.

Testing began last year by the DOE to raise academic standards and to measure the performance of individual students, schools and school districts. The curriculum frameworks from which the tests were developed were designed by teachers from across the state to reflect what is currently being taught in many Massachusetts' classrooms. Schools have tried to align their curriculum with the MCAS tests to ensure students have studied a subject before they take the exam. Nerpouni said the actual questions on the test can be used to help build subject material into the curriculum and to see if it makes sense to teach a subject earlier. For example, there are some trigonometry questions on the test but most students have not studied the subject by the tenth grade. The DOE has now revised the math frameworks for the tests and is asking teachers for feedback on the proposed changes in math. However, Nerpouni says many teachers still have concerns with the proposed new math frameworks.

Currently, MCAS tests are given in grades 4, 8 and 10. In 1999, a social studies test was given to tenth-grade students. Results were returned to the schools with a summary of student scores but no individual scores were given. This spring, grade 3 students will take a reading question "tryout" test without individual scores. Nerpouni said the DOE plans to phase out the traditional grade 3 Iowa reading test and replace it with a new MCAS reading test in third grade. MCAS reading tryout tests will also be taken by students in grades 5 and 7 this year.

While the state has selected the tests as the "sole measure" of student performance, Nerpouni said it was short-sighted and said she believes the tests are not a total reflection of student performance. A Concord parent asked if there was any opposition in Concord to MCAS. Mavragis said it was best to be cautious. "Not all testing is wrong," he said, explaining that the data gained from the tests is useful. However, he said if enough parents get together to voice their concerns about the tests it could ultimately make the difference in bringing about changes at the state level.

Grant for MCAS tutoring

Nerpouni applied for and received a $20,000 grant for MCAS remedial tutoring from DOE. Nerpouni said she believes the schools have a responsibility to students to help them to prepare for the tests. The grant will be used to tutor current ninth-grade students in math. A letter will be sent to parents of students who received a failing grade in the math test, recommending the tutoring program. Tutoring will begin in February, during and after school hours.

Three new courses added

Principal Elaine DiCicco announced three new courses at the high school. Chinese I and II will now be offered to juniors and seniors, adding a second year of Chinese at the high school. A second semester has been added to the C++ programming course. Currently, one semester of C++ is offered by the math department. A new digital imaging and multimedia course will be offered to allow students to create a portfolio of work including a web site design.

Award for academic excellence

Caroline Cardiasmenos, a Carlisle resident, has received the state award for academic excellence. The award is given annually to one student at each high school in the state. Cardiasmenos, a senior, is on the high honor roll and a member of the National Honor Society.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito