By NEIL ZOLOT
WAKEFIELD — The state Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education has raised MCAS score requirements for high school graduation, but Superintendent Doug Lyons doesn’t feel the recent decision will negatively affect Wakefield. “I don’t think it will have a profound effect in Wakefield,” he said. “Average Wakefield scores are above 500 and we have a 95 percent graduation rate,” references to the required scores rising from 486 to 472 in English and to 470 in Science.
“It would be interesting to know how many students in last year’s class would have been affected,” member Mike Boudreau commented at last night’s School Committee meeting .
“I don’t think it would have affected our graduation rate at all,” Lyons reacted.
Boudreau also asked, rhetorically, why the requirements were raised after “we’re recovering from a learning loss,” in reference to student performance during and after the pandemic. Lyons conceded that was a legitimate question.
The new scores will go into effect for the Class of 2026, currently entering 9th grade, with additional plans to raise the requirements later for the Class of 2031, currently entering 4th grade. “The rationale is to raise expectations, but you can’t simply raise the requirement and expect improvement in scores,” Lyons explained. “You need action on the front end. The question is how to raise support for students to meet those expectations.”
Members of the Class of 2031 are among those taking advantage of DESE Acceleration Grants for academic help before school opens. They and new 8th graders are being given math classes, those years being before transitions from elementary to middle school and middle school to high school.
Assistant Superintendent Kara Mauro told school board members the program was designed with the help of high school math coordinators “for the students to have the skills to master. Fourth grade is a pretty big year and we’re targeting students about a year below grade level.”
The majority of the $100,000 grant was spent on programs for students entering kindergarten. “Being in school before school starts makes the opening of school easier,” Lyon said. “It’s a soft opening and gives teachers a leg up with the students. They get to know the students and students get to know each other.”
Mauro added because Acceleration Grant classes are limited to 12, teachers are able to give students more individualized attention.
She also said the program eases tension for parents, confirmed by School Committee member Eileen Colleran. “My child was in the program last year and came home happy everyday and was excited when school started,” Colleran said. “It’s a phenomenal program.”
In public comments at the outset of last night’s meeting, Wakefield Education Association head and high school history teacher Erin Chrisos announced the WEA will be holding a virtual community forum for parents Wednesday, August 24. It’s the first such event. “We figured we’d like to be able to talk to families beforehand since last year was so hard with families transitioning out of COVID,” she said.
School Committeeman Kevin Fontanella did not attend the meeting, while colleague Stephen Ingalls participated remotely from Switzerland, where it was after 1:30 a.m.