Boston MCAS results show record achievement for African-American, Hispanic/Latino high school students
2013 figures show BPS students exceed statewide gains in English Language Arts; 3rd grade math up 8 points this year; 10th grade scores jump 21 points over six years
BOSTON – Boston Public Schools students saw broad academic growth across all demographic groups in English Language Arts (ELA), new MCAS figures show. Students in BPS grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 10 outperformed state trends this category.
Over the last six years, BPS 10th-grade students have seen a 21-point jump in ELA proficiency rates, meaning the percent of BPS 10th graders to score proficient or advanced on English Language Arts MCAS has risen from 58 percent in 2008 to an all-time high of 79 percent today.
MCAS ELA proficiency rates for African American and Hispanic 10th grade students are at their highest levels in Boston’s history. New figures show BPS has cut the more than 30-point achievement gap that existed in 2007 by about two-thirds, to just over ten points today.
“There is always more to be done, but these are figures we can be proud of,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “We have the best urban school district in the United States. Our schools are stronger today than they have ever been. The many steps we are taking to improve school quality, from expanding early education to investing in technology, arts and in the Circle of Promise are having a big and positive impact for all children.”
Today’s report also marks the fourth year in a row of sustained academic growth for 10th grade English Language Learners and the third year in a row of academic growth for students with disabilities. Today, students who were once English Language Learners but who no longer need language services (i.e. former ELLs), are demonstrating proficiency levels never before seen: 90% reached the proficiency benchmark in ELA in 10th grade, compared to 41% seven years ago.
At English High School, a Turnaround School, student proficiency rates in English Language Arts jumped to 60 percent from 39 percent in 2012. For African-American students, the rate is 81 percent this year, up from 38 percent just one year ago.
At the Burke High School, which is also a Turnaround School, the ELA proficiency rate rose 20 points, to 71 percent from 51 percent last year. Growth for Hispanic students is particularly impressive, up from 63 percent in 2012 to 89 percent today.
The new figures also show the number of BPS 3rd graders reaching proficient or advanced levels on mathematics jumped 8 points this year, to an all-time BPS high.
Aggregate scores reflect the overall state trend of being flat or slightly down in ELA, and slightly up in Mathematics. Boston’s scores outpace state trends almost across the board, and for specific schools, indicate the actions BPS has taken to turn around struggling schools since 2010 are taking hold.
Out of the 128 BPS schools, the three leading the way in ELA gains on the Composite Performance Index used for accountability purposes are the E. Greenwood Leadership Academy, a turnaround school in Hyde Park; Boston Green Academy, an in-district charter school that has transformed the former Odyssey High School in South Boston; and the Clap Innovation School in Dorchester, which parents, teachers and staff reorganized and re-launched in 2010.
In mathematics, two turnaround schools – the E. Greenwood Leadership Academy and the Trotter Elementary School in Dorchester – outpaced all other BPS schools for academic growth on the Composite Performance Index, along with the Higginson-Lewis K-8 School in Roxbury.
“We have taken many needed steps to change the dynamic in schools that were not of high enough quality for students,” said Boston School Committee chair Michael O’Neill. “These figures show these changes are paying off in the form of stronger schools, greater family and student engagement, and better options for families. We need to expand this knowledge of what is working so more of our schools are celebrating success. While we work towards that, our focus on eliminating opportunity and achievement gaps while raising school quality for all students remains our highest priority.”
“Boston is a community that embraces academic innovation,” said BPS interim Superintendent John McDonough. “We are committed to providing a quality education to all students, in all schools. Our mission is to offer great teaching and learning in every classroom, for every child.”
Joy Salesman-Oliver, the principal of Higginson-Lewis K-8, said students and teachers at her school focused on mathematics and used data to drive instruction. Partners such as City Year and the Roxbury Multi-Service Center supported teachers by working with students outside of class.
“We’re really proud because everyone worked so hard on identifying and targeting the problem,” she said. “We found ways to extend learning time for students to do project-based learning.”
Sixth grade students at Eliot K-8 Innovation School in the North End placed first in Massachusetts for mathematics MCAS, out of 554 schools considered. Six years ago, the school’s scores were among the lowest in the state. 10th grade students at Boston Latin Academy in Dorchester placed first in Massachusetts on both English and Mathematics. At Boston Latin School, students placed first in Massachusetts in 7th grade Mathematics, 10th grade English, 10th grade Math and 10th grade Science. Seventh-grade English scores there were ranked the second-highest in the state.
The state also praised Boston’s New Mission High School in Hyde Park for having one of the greatest increases in students scoring proficient or higher in ELA and Mathematics. Student achievement in this category was up 47 percent in ELA and 31 percent in Mathematics. New Mission one of four Massachusetts schools under consideration by the U.S. Department of Education for a 2013 National Blue Ribbon Schools designation.
Another BPS success story is Boston Green Academy, which BPS launched in 2011 to better support students from the former Odyssey High School, a lower-performing school. The change had a catchy phrase – ‘relentless kindness,’ but the academy, based on the high-achieving Fenway High School model, offered a curriculum full of team building exercises that emphasized eco-friendly practices wrapped around science, math, literacy and other subjects.
The school has formed partnerships with local businesses, non-profits, and educational institutions such as Boston University, Vertex Pharmaceuticals and the Nature Conservancy. In 2011 BGA had five partnerships and this year there are more than 40.
“I don’t remember ever leaving the school when Odyssey was here,” said Anteneh Mekonnen, 18, a senior who lives in the Back Bay. “With BGA, it’s amazing how many opportunities I’ve had, the places I’ve been.” John Santiago, a senior, also attended Odyssey as a freshman. “At BGA there’s a big difference. The teachers challenge us to do better.”
This year BPS is focused on eliminating achievement gaps by building Quality School Plans for every school in partnership with principals, teachers, parents and partners. Schools are also shifting to Common Core curriculum standards, which strengthen the K-12 education pipeline and prepare students for college success. BPS is also increasing the number of students recommended for inclusive settings, in which students with disabilities learn alongside their non-disabled peers, and is increasing the number of schools that offer fully-inclusive classrooms.
Also today, the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education extended Level 4 Turnaround School powers to two schools: the Channing Elementary School in Hyde Park and the Winthrop Elementary School in Dorchester. This new authority, which Mayor Menino pushed for in the Education Reform Act of 2010, allows BPS to extend the school day, strengthen teaching and learning and invest in new strategies to improve student achievement.
On Wednesday, DESE announced that five BPS turnaround schools had successfully used these tools to strengthen academics after three years of effort.
The state’s school level system considers four years of data with an emphasis on overall proficiency rather than growth alone. Four schools that had been Level 2 have moved up to Level 1 status: The Hurley K-8 School in the South End; the Manning Elementary School in Jamaica Plain; the Murphy K-8 School in Dorchester; and the Otis Elementary School in East Boston. One Level 3 school has moved to Level 1 status: the Clap Innovation School in Dorchester. There are now nine Level 4 and 60 Level 3 schools in BPS, including six schools that did not have a level designation last year and six that moved from Level 2 to Level 3. On Wednesday the state announced two Level 4 Turnaround schools will become Level 1: the Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School in Roxbury and the Trotter Elementary School in Dorchester.
The Boston Public Schools, the birthplace of public education in the United States, serves more than 58,000 pre-kindergarten through grade 12 students in 128 schools.