The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 14, 2005


Carlisle MCAS scores high, but grade four results less strong

The Carlisle School again performed very well on the MCAS, Principal Stephen Goodwin announced at the October 5 School Committee meeting. The grades consistently returned results that were some of the highest in the state (see table) The MCAS are state-mandated exams given to public school students in various grades during the spring. High school students must achieve a minimum score on the grade-10 test in order to graduate.

It was noted that the scores for fourth grade in language arts and math are not as consistent as other grades'. "Maybe it's because we've had too much turnover," said Goodwin, noting the fourth grade team has had new teachers every year. "Maybe not enough shared teaching," he added. Teaching toward the tests is not the answer, pointed out Carlisle School Committee member Michael Fitzgerald. "We might be tempted to do "canned" teaching, but our reputation is to be innovative." School Superintendent Marie Doyle agreed. "We need to be clear on what we want our students to learn, and our own assessments. We are all grappling with this issue."

The charts below show grade four students have had a large percentage scoring "needs improvement," in math with a particularly high number, 46% in this category during 2004. By the time Carlisle students take the grade eight MCAS, the average math scores are much higher, with over half the students scoring at the highest "advanced" level.

Alex Krapf, of Ice Pond Road, requested permission to speak at the meeting. "I looked at the results and the test," he said, "and I am concerned" about the fourth-grade results. He said he wanted to know why the scores are lower than expected, "particularly in math."

He is unhappy with the math curriculum, he said, and thinks the Chicago Math is having a negative cumulative effect on the students. The Chicago Math program, developed by the University of Chicago, "spirals" through math concepts. It covers a concept up to a certain point, then moves to the next concept, revisiting the first concept later for deeper mastery and then cycling again through all required math concepts for the particular grade. Krapf said he has had to cover basic math facts at home because not enough time is spent on basic skills in school.

Doyle explained the Chicago Math Program is being reviewed. "We're looking into that, not enough time on basic skills," Doyle said. "Exactly my point," answered Krapf. "We work on mastery at home."

Doyle said the school is looking at other math programs to see what can be used. "We have excellent teachers and they do a phenomenal job," she added, but "there have been problems across the board" with the program. "This is a national major debate," said Carlisle School Committee Chair David Dockterman, pointing out many school systems are grappling with choosing the right math curriculum.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito