Northbridge School Committee Hears MCAS Strategy

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Kayleigh Labrecque, who received a perfect score in the English Language Arts MCAS test last year, receives a certificate from Northbridge School Committee Chairman Michael McGrath. She was one of 15 students to achieve a perfect score.
Kayleigh Labrecque, who received a perfect score in the English Language Arts MCAS test last year, receives a certificate from Northbridge School Committee Chairman Michael McGrath. She was one of 15 students to achieve a perfect score. Photo Credit: Deborah Gauthier

NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. – The School Committee congratulated 15 Northbridge students in grades 3 through 9 for perfect MCAS scores at its meeting Tuesday night, and then heard a detailed presentation on the standardized test scores that included three years worth of data.

“We’re definitely trying to become more of a data-driven school system. We’re trying to break down data as much as we can,’’ said Schools Superintendent Nancy Spitulnik.

Tuesday’s presentation concentrated on kindergarten and grade 1 at Northbridge Elementary School and grades 2 through 4 at Balmer Elementary School. Students were separated into subgroups that include special education and low income.

NES Principal Jill Healy stressed, however, that the district approach is to address the needs of all students, from those performing at a low level to those showing advanced skills.

Though kindergarten and grade 1 students don’t participate in MCAS, a three-year comparison of test scores shows significant improvement in all subgroups in reading and writing. Scores in math, however, are almost flat, Healy noted.

At Balmer, fourth-graders taking MCAS tests were separated into four groups for the three-year comparison period: aggregate, special needs, low income and high needs (special needs and low income combined). Scores fell for English and math over each of those three years.

“We don’t seem to be making progress with these kids, and it’s not just special needs kids. It’s all across the board,’’ said School Committee member Michael Lebrasseur.

This year, the district is using a response to intervention (RtI) system that Spitulnik expects to improve test scores over the next two years. The early-intervention system focuses on the individual needs of students, whether they are at risk, on-level or advanced students.

“Research in RtI sees an improvement takes couple of years,’’ Spitulnik said.

Parents are also involved in the process and receive reports on their child’s progress every six weeks.

School Committee Chairman Michael McGrath said the data was encouraging. “I really feel like we’re taking hold… it feels more tangible,’’ he said.

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