Marblehead MCAS Shows Learning Loss
At the School Committee meeting last Thursday November 17, Superintendent John Buckey and Assistant Superintendent Nan Murphy presented an overview of the Marblehead School District’s 2022 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Scores (MCAS). MCAS is the testing system used to evaluate individual students in our schools, and the results are tallied to provide a measurement of how Marblehead’s schools are performing against the statewide average as well as against other similar school districts.
Buckey introduced the presentation, noting that he had heard a number of comments to the effect that “our MCAS scores aren’t great.” However, he continued, “that’s a pretty blanket statement for a single data point. It’s such a gut punch to our educators for one high stakes test to be, in essence, [the basis on which they are] judged for the work they are doing. It really isn’t fair.” Buckey continued, "I'm fairly confident that [Marblehead Veteran's Middle School Principal] Matt Fox would put his grade eight scores up against any middle school in the state."
He then turned to Murphy to provide a high level review of the scores. She began by noting that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the state agency that oversees Massachusetts public schools, recommends districts compare 2022 results to 2019 results as there was no testing in 2020 and limited testing in 2021.
The results show that in 2022, 58.1% of Marblehead students scored proficient or higher in English Language Arts (ELA). In 2021, that score was 68% proficient or higher and in 2019 it was 65%. This translates to a 10% decline in students’ collective proficiency in ELA. In the exceeding expectations category, Marblehead fell from 14% in 2019 to 9% in 2022. Marblehead students scored 17% higher than the average for the state of Massachusetts.
In math, Marblehead students scored 52% proficient or higher in 2022 compared to 58% in 2021 and 67% in 2019. Overall, the 2022 scores in Marblehead are 13% higher than the statewide average.
In science, Marblehead students scored 51.9% proficient or higher compared to 62% in 2021 and 61% in 2019. The 2022 results are 10% above the statewide average.
In the overall Massachusetts analysis, Marblehead is compared to other school districts considered “similar” by the state. These include Wayland, Andover, Stoneham, Bedford, Newburyport, Dedham, Foxborough, and Northampton. Marblehead students scored in 4th place within this group for ELA and in 6th place for math.
Murphy stressed the importance of using the information from MCAS effectively. “The data is only as good as what you do with it,” she said, and MCAS “doesn’t serve kids in terms of labeling them proficient, labeling them advanced. It serves kids when teachers are looking at standards and where it can take them instructionally, and that is what our team is getting good at doing.”
As an example, she pointed to a specific category within the 7th grade reading rubric. In the ability to “analyze the different tones of two articles on similar subjects,” Marblehead students answered 58% of the questions correctly compared to students statewide, who answered correctly 59% of the time. This indicates a need to focus on this particular area of instruction, according to Murphy.