MCAS scores at SRS show limited impact from pandemic

SOUTHWICK — Southwick Regional School saw more mixed results from the most recent MCAS tests during the pandemic, as teachers and school officials try to decipher how the pandemic impacted learning in the three-town school district.

The mixed results at the regional school were, for the most part, in line with MCAS results from across the state. SRS Principal Joseph Turmel said during the Nov. 2 School Committee meeting that 83 students took the grade 10 exam, 107 students took the grade eight exam, and 112 students took the grade seven exam last spring.

Turmel compared MCAS data scores for the SRS students and the state as a whole for the past five years of tests.

For the seventh grade English Language Arts test, Turmel said that regional school students actually scored at or above the state average in every metric.

“What is important about the growth is, it shows the impact our teachers are having on our students,” said Turmel.

For eighth-grade test takers in the same subject — the students who are currently in ninth grade — Turmel said that there was a decrease in the number in the “meeting expectations” and “partially meeting expectations” categories. That number decreased both in comparison to SRS eighth graders who took the test in 2019, and the state average in 2021.

When asked by School Committee Chair Robert Stevenson whether the decrease in test score averages could be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said that it could be.

Turmel said that he would also compare the test scores for the same groups of students as they advance from grade to grade. Superintendent Jennifer Willard said that the comparison could shed more light on how effective the curriculum has been in Southwick schools.

“It tells us that if, overall, the entire grade did poorly on a question, then that is our curriculum, and that is something that we need to adjust,” said Willard.

She said that the data so far has indicated that the curriculum is “where it should be.”

Turmel said that grade 10 English scores actually showed some improvement. Though the percentage of students in the “exceeding expectations” category was below the state average, the percentage who met expectations was above the state average. From 2019 to 2021, the Southwick scores went up for “exceeding” and “meeting” expectations, and dropped in the “partially meeting expectations” category, showing improvement regardless of the state average.

In seventh grade math, no students exceeded expectations, which is below the state average. However, the number of students who met expectations was above the state average. Year-to-year growth was also “significantly higher than the rest of the state,” according to Turmel.

“Our curriculum and our math teachers are having an extremely powerful impact on our students,” the principal concluded.

Eighth grade mathematics was considered the most heavily impacted grade level and subject across Massachusetts, when comparing pre-COVID scores to the 2021 scores. Turmel said that this fact was made obvious when comparing past scores and the state scores with Southwick’s 2021 scores.

Scores in 10th grade math were also mostly in line with the state, though Turmel said that the impact from COVID-19 was not as noticeable as it was for eighth grade.

Turmel said that the focus now is on “just-in-time teaching” and providing students with additional support to make up for potential learning loss from the pandemic. Willard said that teachers should be able to receive past MCAS data for their current students and use it to figure out what subjects and concepts they may be struggling with and need to focus on.

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