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MCAS results show greater drop in math than English

WESTFIELD — School Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski wasn’t shocked that Westfield students did worse on MCAS in 2021 than in previous years.

“I don’t think the results were unexpected, given the altered learning environment over the last 18 months,” he said, adding, “This wasn’t a surprise. We know the vast majority of students learn better in person.”

Czaporowski said Westfield’s scores were down more in math than in English-language arts, which he said were “not that bad.” Students in third and fourth grade in Highland and Munger Hill and in tenth grade in Westfield High School met expectations in ELA. He said the scores in math were down statewide, and he thinks it may be easier for students to learn English remotely than math.

In the Sept. 21 announcement from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education releasing the spring 2021 MCAS scores, it was noted that many more students had gaps in their knowledge of math and, to a lesser extent, English, compared to students in the same grades before the COVID-19 pandemic, and that fewer students met or exceeded grade level expectations.

“This data will help shed light on where additional support is most needed and as districts determine how to best use federal relief funds and state aid, these results can help inform their approach,” said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley.

Westfield Public Schools are expected to get $10,784,275 from the third round of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief grants (ESSER III), part of the federal American Rescue Plan Act. At least 20 percent of the money is required to be set aside by each district to address lost instructional time. The district also sent out a survey looking for community input on the best use of the funds, which was due back on Sept. 22.

Czaporowski said the district is studying the MCAS test results, and will give a full report to the School Committee on Oct. 18.

“We also have our own benchmark assessments, which is data in real time, whereas the MCAS was last spring, when the students had been in school [in person] two weeks and we had to give them a test,” Czaporowski said, adding that more students and their parents opted out of taking the MCAS last spring when it was not a requirement for graduation.

“I don’t know that it was the right thing to do to give the students the MCAS at that point, but we have the data and we’re going to use it to improve teaching and learning,” he said.

The superintendent said as much as academics is a priority, so is social-emotional learning.

“Some of our students struggled throughout the pandemic, and that’s why we added more counselors and other supports for students,” he said. “If they’re not in a position where they’re ready to learn, we have to get them there. That has to happen first.”

Czaporowski said the state is not issuing MCAS-based accountability ratings for schools this year. The ratings had changed before the pandemic to reflect the progress of districts and individual schools in narrowing achievement gaps, instead of assigning numbered levels to districts and schools.

“We’re going to use the data. We’re happy to have it,” he said.

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