Gateway MCAS scores high in English and science, slip in math percent

HUNTINGTON – Last week, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released the 2015 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) results for schools and districts. In most schools in 2015, according to the press release, the percentage of students who scored Proficient or above grew or held steady compared to last year.
For the Gateway Regional School District, results remained strong in English language arts and science and technology, although falling in mathematics.
“We are again happy with our students’ consistently strong performance, despite slipping a little in math,” Jason Finnie, principal of Gateway Regional High School, said of the results.
The following results for the Gateway Regional School District include 10th grade MCAS results for English language arts, mathematics and science and technology, and 8th and 5th grade results in science and technology.
Gateway’s report card
In English Language Arts, 94 percent of tenth graders scored Proficient or higher (a combined score of Advanced and Proficient), compared to 91 percent average result in the state. Thirty-six percent were Advanced, and 58 percent Proficient, compared to 49 percent and 42 percent statewide. Three percent of students scored Needs Improvement, and 3 percent were at the Warning/Failing level (state percentages were 6 percent and 3 percent). Gateway gained 2 percent from 2014’s combined score of 92 percent.
Math scores were lower. Sixty-nine percent of students in the district scored Proficient or higher (down from 81 percent in 2014), compared to the state’s 79 percent. The breakdown was 47 percent scoring Advanced in Gateway compared to 53 percent statewide, and 22 percent Proficient, compared to 25 percent statewide. Twenty-two percent of Gateway 10th graders scored Needs Improvement, compared to the state’s percentage of 13 percent, and 8 percent received a Warning/Failure score, equaling 8 percent statewide.
“When considering the size of our school, 8 percent of a grade level can represent only a handful of students, so we will be using this information, and the variety of interventions we have in place, to help these students achieve their Competency Determination,” Finnie said.
Finnie was referring to the numbers of 10th graders that took the MCAS at Gateway: 63 students in all taking English and math, and 58 taking science and technology exams (which for Gateway are in chemistry, biology and technology & engineering.) In a class of 63, five students represent 8 percent of the class.
A bright spot for Gateway tenth graders was in the science and technology scores. Seventy-seven percent achieved Proficient or higher (down 3 percent from 2014) but higher than the 72 percent statewide average. Gateway had 11 percent Advanced and 66 percent Proficient, compared to 27 percent and 44 percent statewide. Twenty-one percent scored Needs Improvement (23 percent statewide) and 2 percent received a Warning/Failing grade (5 percent statewide).
Gateway is one of the districts that chose to administer the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests in English language arts and math to grades 3-8 as part of the state’s two-year test drive of PARCC. However, 5th and 8th graders took the MCAS science and technology test in 2015, which PARCC doesn’t offer.
Science/technology results for eighth graders were: Proficient or higher 39 percent (state 42 percent), with all scores in the Proficient category (compared to state Advanced 3 percent and Proficient 39 percent). Eighth grade students scoring Needs Improvement were 48 percent (state 40 percent), and Warning/Failing 13 percent (state 18 percent). This showed the biggest increase for Gateway of 11 percent over last year’s 8th grade Proficient or higher score of 28 percent.
Finnie said there are multiple factors contributing to this improvement. “We began a STEM (science curriculum) elective in 7th and 8th grade two years ago, so most students have had three or four science classes in those two years,” he said, adding, “Our junior high school science teachers had multiple professional development days targeting the integration of next generation science standards. This work is continuing this year.”
Science results for fifth graders were: Proficient or higher 40 percent (state 51 percent), Advanced 14 percent (state 16 percent), Proficient 26 percent (state 35 percent), Needs Improvement 54 percent (state 37 percent), and Warning/Failing 6 percent (state 13 percent). In 2014, fifth graders scored 57 percent in their Proficient or higher score.
PARCC results are being compiled and reviewed on a different timeline, and both MCAS and PARCC results will be used for this year’s state accountability results, which will be released in late fall or early winter. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is expected to vote on whether to adopt PARCC statewide in November.
Finnie said, “We will continue to assess and reflect on our integration of Common Core Standards into our curriculum and instruction, with the aim of strengthening our students’ confidence in their ability to think critically and problem solve- a key to scoring in the Proficient and Advanced range.”
To view school or district results, visit profiles.doe.mass.edu/state_report/mcas.aspx. For more information on MCAS, see www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/results.html.

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