Reflections from Katie: October 15, 2015

The Spring 2015 MCAS results are in, and for those of you who have children who took the test (current 4th and 5th graders), the individual score reports are either already in your hands or on their way in the mail. I wanted to take a moment and share with you some of my own reflections on this year’s results.

We showed great strength in our 3rd and 4th grade English Language Arts scores, with 68% students proficient or advanced in 3rd grade and 64% proficient or advanced in 4th grade. In both cases, these proficiency rates are above the state and district rates. In 5th grade our greatest success was in the high growth scores for our most struggling students. In other words, while our proficiency rate for 5th graders dropped, the individuals actually showed overall stronger performance than they had the year before. This was particularly true for students in the needs improvement and warning categories. While they may have remained in the needs improvement category, they showed above average growth. In math, 72% of our 3rd graders were proficient or advanced, up from 65% in 2014 and 60% in 2013.

For the past two years, Cambridgeport has been named a Level 1 School based on the MCAS results. This is the highest ranking available in the state. This year, the levels will not be made available until late November. This is because across the state, some districts continued to take the MCAS (like we did) and other districts started taking the PARCC. This has made it harder for the state to calibrate and issue these levels.

The data always provide us with an opportunity to reflect on our program and our practices, and how we can improve. Last year we decided to take the approach that our skills gaps that show up on these high stakes assessments have less to do with the specific skills students may be missing, and more to do with habits of mind. Our approach to working on improving our MCAS scores moving forward is to address the bigger picture. Last year, teachers took time to explicitly teach and reflect on the following habits of mind: Seek out Challenge, Think Flexibly, Persevere to Understanding, Analyze and Interpret, and Construct logical Arguments and critique others’ arguments. By the end of the year, all students were aware of these habits of mind, and many were able to articulate them and use them when they were needed. This year, our work is to take these habits to a deeper level. For example, we want to teach students what it really means to construct a logical argument, and how to do it well.

We look to you for partnership in several ways. First, we ask you to engage in conversations and experiences with your children that help develop these five habits of mind. Next, we ask that you ensure that your child spends time engaged with books (reading or being read to) every day. Finally, we ask you to talk with your child’s teacher about specific math activities that you can support your child with so that your child is developing the necessary skills for the grade level.

We hope that School Home Partnership Night provided you with some possible tools as well as an open door to work together with us to support your child’s academic success.