Boston Renaissance shows significant improvement on MCAS
BOSTON, September 20, 2013 – Boston Renaissance Charter Public School students made considerable gains on the 2013 MCAS in all testing subjects with the most pronounced improvement in math.
Renaissance outperformed Boston district averages by wide margins, with 58% of students scoring Proficient or Advanced in ELA, 53% in math, compared to 37% in ELA and 41% in math at Boston Public Schools (Grades 3-6). These scores mark an important rebound for Renaissance, particularly in math, essentially erasing a recent dip in scores that Department of Elementary and Secondary Education officials pointed to as the reason for recommending the school be put on academic probation earlier this year.
A closer look at the data and student demographics reveals African American and Hispanic students at Renaissance, comprising 94% of the student population, ranked among the highest achievers when compared to their peers statewide.
• In ELA, Hispanic students at Renaissance ranked in the 92nd percentile among their sub-group peers statewide; Renaissance African American students ranked in the 91st percentile among their sub-group peers statewide.
• In Math, Hispanic students at Renaissance ranked in the 84th percentile among their sub-group peers statewide; African American students ranked in the 79th percentile among their sub-group peers statewide.
School superintendent and CEO, Dr. Roger Harris, said he was not surprised by the rebound in scores. “I am not surprised by our test scores. We have an incredibly dedicated team of teachers and support staff who do whatever it takes for our kids, often working six days a week. After millions of dollars in budget cuts and massive reductions in staff, we reorganized and are stronger than ever. We are proud of our accomplishments and focused on preparing our students for successful citizenship in a 21st Century global community.” Harris said.
Asked about the future of the school, Harris said, “Renaissance plans to continue serving children from across the city of Boston, providing a high-quality option for Boston families. We look forward to collaborating with like-minded business and community leaders, and will strive to build meaningful partnerships between charter public schools and traditional public schools.”
Enrolling 944 students in grades PreK-6, Renaissance is one of the largest charter schools in the state and is the largest elementary school in the City of Boston. The student population is predominantly comprised of minority and low-income students: In SY12-13, 66% of Renaissance students were African American, 28% Hispanic; 82% received free or reduced lunch; and 84% met the “high needs” criteria as determined by the state.
With most MCAS testing conducted just weeks after the Board of Elementary and Secondary education placed the school on academic probation, the stakes were high for Boston Renaissance. The school met or exceeded every one-year goal set by the state in English, Math, and Science, receiving a perfect score on the state’s measurement of academic progress (Progress and Performance Index, PPI). The school’s four-year Cumulative PPI is just shy of requirements to attain Level 1 status in the Commonwealth, the highest level of academic performance.
Highlights of 2013 MCAS performance include:
• 58% of Renaissance students scored Proficient or Advanced on the English MCAS (ELA), up from 53% in 2012. By comparison, 37% of Boston Public Schools students in Grades 3-6 scored Proficient or Advanced on the ELA MCAS exam in 2013.
• 53% of Renaissance students scored Proficient or Advanced on the Math MCAS, up from 36% in 2012. This jump brings Renaissance back to its 2010 performance level. By comparison, 41% of Boston Public Schools students in Grades 3-6 scored Proficient or Advanced on the math MCAS exam in 2013.
• 61% of Renaissance 4th Grade students scored Proficient or Advanced in ELA, compared to 29% of BPS 4th Grade students and 53% of 4th Grade students statewide.
• 65% of Renaissance 3rd Grade students scored Proficient (41%) or Advanced (24%) in Math, up from a total 33% in 2012. This is compared to 47% of BPS 3rd Grade students scoring Proficient or Advanced in Math, and a statewide average of 67% for Grade 3.
• 65% of Renaissance 6th Grade students scored Proficient or Advanced in ELA, compared to 42% of 6th Grade students in Boston Public Schools and 67% of 6th Grade students statewide.
• Renaissance 4th Grade writing scores (the Long Composition section of the 4th Grade MCAS exam) continue to significantly outpace the state average, with an aggregate score of 15 out of a possible 20 points on the Long Composition portion of the exam in 2013, up from 14.5 in 2012. The state average in 2013 was 12.9.
• In ELA, only 6% of Renaissance students tested at the Warning/Failing level, compared to the statewide average of 10% for grades 3-6, and 23% of BPS students grades 3-6 testing at the Warning/Failing level.
• In Math, Renaissance increased the percentage of students in the Advanced category from 8% to 17%, while decreasing the percentage of students in Warning/Failing from 22% to 13%; this equals the statewide average for grades 3-6, and is close to half the 25% of BPS students grades 3-6 at Warning/Failing in Math.
The state also tracks individual students scores from one year to the next to gauge year-to-year progress of every student in the Commonwealth. Each student is assigned a growth score and corresponding statewide percentile, ranking them in comparison to students in their grade level. The median Student Growth Percentile in a given school becomes that school’s statewide Student Growth Percentile (SGP) score. Renaissance Student Growth Percentiles (SGP) increased significantly:
• In Math, Renaissance moved from the 32nd percentile in Student Growth statewide to the 63rd percentile, nearly doubling its statewide rank.
• In ELA, Renaissance moved to from the 34th percentile in 2012 to the 57th percentile in 2013.
The 2013 scores represent a significant rebound after two years of organizational change, a move to a new facility in Hyde Park, and state-mandated reductions in enrollment resulting in the loss of some 50 staff positions and $4 million in revenue. Earlier this year, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education placed Renaissance on academic probation and ordered an independent review of the school’s performance based on declining MCAS scores that coincided with the organizational change and reductions in revenue.
The consultant hired to complete that review, WestEd, a leading national education firm, concluded that corrective action plans that the school put into place prior to the Board’s probation vote were already leading to improvements. WestEd also reported that they were highly impressed by the positive, nurturing learning environment created by Renaissance teachers and staff.
“There is a clear vision and there are carefully delineated action plans for reaching desired outcomes,” WestEd wrote in its report to the state. “The leadership and staff have created a dynamic learning environment for students and adults.” WestEd also concluded that the school’s “unique and stimulating environment…is not often seen or felt in other schools in which [WestEd] observers have conducted observations.”
Dr. Harris said he and his team are proud of the results.
“Boston Renaissance Charter Public School remains one of the top elementary schools in the City of Boston and one of the best charter elementary schools in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Dr. Harris said. “We are proud of our staff and students and looking forward to the challenges ahead.”