By NEIL ZOLOT
NORTH READING — “There’s so much to celebrate,” Sean Killeen told the School Committee Monday night during an analysis of the district’s 2023 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System scores.
“We’re in a good place and we’re fortunate to have data systems in place to tell us where students are. I’ve always been super-impressed by the way our teachers look at data and share best practices,” added Killeen, who serves as the Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning for the district.
“We’re not resting on our laurels,” added Superintendent of Schools Dr. Patrick Daly. “It’s why we’re good.”
The written analysis of the North Reading Public School district’s 2023 MCAS test scores given to the School Committee indicates that the “English Language Arts and Math data achievement slide from 2019 has halted and recovery is underway. Science results remain relatively unchanged although there are slight decreases in achievement.”
Prudently, however, the report adds, “Grade 3-5 results signal a need to remain cautious.” The report notes that there is some significant ground to make up to reach pre-pandemic levels in some areas for students who were in Pre-K and Kindergarten during the pandemic.
Noted as a key takeaway in the analysis is “reading instruction with a focus on intervention in K-2, professional development, Science of Reading, Pilot K-1 Curriculum, and increased K-2 intervention.”
No schools require intervention
The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) gives schools an overall accountability classification describing the need for assistance or intervention using scores from 1–99 to show standing as compared to other schools in comparable grade spans. All of the town’s schools were classified as “not requiring assistance or intervention.” The Leland D. Batchelder Elementary School received a score of 99; the E. Ethel Little Elementary School scored 96; the J. Turner Hood Elementary School scored 93; the Middle School scored 82 and the High School scored 79.
Another target is having 80% of students either “meeting or exceeding expectations.” Four out of the five schools met this target as follows: Batchelder – 99%, Hood – 95%, Little – 89%, Middle School – 84%, and High School – 78%.
“I’m pleased to show these results,” reported Killeen. “We’re a school system in good standing with the state. I don’t (believe) we have significant ground to make up. We’re pretty close. Math has corrected itself; students are back on track. They’re performing pretty close to where they were.”
As an example, the report indicates that 79% of sophomores were meeting or exceeding expectations, up 11 percentage points from 2022 MCAS scores.
In ELA, 83% of sophomores are meeting or exceeding expectations, up 17 percentage points from 2022.
In 2019, the town’s schools met accountability percentile levels and progress toward targets, but failed to do so in both 2020 and 2021.
In 2022, local schools met accountability percentile levels, but not progress toward targets, prior to meeting both measures in 2023. The report notes that the accountability system was run in full for the first time since 2019 because of the pandemic.
Killeen added, “2019 was an excellent testing year.”
The report also mandates the practice of “Staying Ahead of the Curve through Commitment of the Educator” by engaging in best practices, reflection, collaboration and shared responsibility, as well as “Student Engagement,” defined as access to challenging and relevant content and materials to engage curiosity, learning and growth and “Data Analysis” of “data we have and data we want,” according to Killeen.
Key takeaways by grade level
Key takeaways from the accountability data for all grades were also noted, including a commitment by the district “to continue to use data to celebrate the hard work of all stakeholders and continue to use data to reflect on improvement and growth (and) a district-wide focus on written response/essay development.”
At the three elementary schools, the district will “continue to monitor student achievement and response to interventions and focus on early literacy, baseline Grade 3 data, and student written responses.
The Middle School will continue “to focus on success and share best practices and focus on sub-groups with attention to students with disabilities to monitor efforts to impact achievement.
The High School remains committed to monitoring “the achievement of sub-groups, some very good progress, and focus on student achievement and progress monitoring.”