The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 5, 2009

Carlisle School runs into high performance “catch-22”

The Carlisle School’s high marks on the MCAS test are both a source of pride and a concern, explained School Superintendent Marie Doyle at the May 20 meeting of the Carlisle School Committee (CSC). Under the Federal No Child Left Behind act (NCLB), if a school does not show improvement over a two year period, no matter how high performing the school is, the school enters into a process by which the state can issue warnings regarding the school. Further steps can be taken if improvements are not achieved.In addition, all schools must reach a certain level of proficiency by the year 2014.

Each year the state evaluates a school’s total performance and issues improvement goals which focus on moving students up from the lowest levels: “Warning/Failure” and “Needs Improvement.” Students who are performing at the Advanced or Proficient levels may move up or down between the two categories without affecting the school’s yearly performance rating. When the MCAS tests began, the majority of schools in Massachusetts had large percentages of students in the “Needs improvement” category, so their target goals were to improve by a certain percentage each year. However, Carlisle has traditionally had the majority of students in the Advanced or Proficient category, and very few students in the lower categories.

Doyle pointed out that the students who fall into the lower categories, many of whom have special needs, have unique situations which can impact their performance on the MCAS tests. As the number of tests increase, it is getting harder and harder to achieve the goals set by the Department of Education for special needs students, said Doyle. School Committee Chair Chad Koski noted, “It doesn’t have to be a special needs student. It could be just one student who is having a bad day.” Doyle agreed.

Director of Student Services Karen Slack said administrators and teachers were spending hours evaluating the test results. By looking at the special education population of one grade, they found 75% of scores were within two points of moving to the higher level. School Committee member Dale Ryder asked, “If only one or two students can screw up it, why are administrators spending hours analyzing it?”

Doyle replied, “You have a good point, but in some cases it is good to analyze the results.” She cited the recent improvements in math scores overall for the lower grades. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito