Performance at Tilton School improved.
State performance levels for Haverhill’s public schools are unchanged while the latest state report card on test scores shows, according to school district leaders, “trending up” gains in three city schools, including Tilton School, but “slipped” in at least four others.
Haverhill Public Schools Superintendent James F. Scully Monday reported school accountability data for 2016, released by the Massachusetts Department of Education, showed the “level three” Tilton School made “really encouraging” improvements in its performance scores, including a 54 percent improvement in the “all students” category. Specifically, scores for Tilton’s “high need” students increased by 67.7 percent in comparison with 2015 scores; SPED student scores improved by 54 percent; and scores among Tilton’s Hispanic students increased by 33 percent. Meanwhile, according to Scully, Pentucket Lake, Golden Hill and Bradford Elementary schools “lost ground in their state percentile rankings” but maintained their “level one” rankings. Consentino School held its “level two” ranking while seeing a “slight decline” in its percentile ranking but “improvement in proficiency gap narrowing points.” However Scully, in a statement, said the “real story of the day” is about the Tilton’s score improvements and “they are on the right track.”
“This is a school with a high poverty rate and a school that has historically struggled academically. To see the improvement at this school is really encouraging. Mrs. (Bonnie) Antkowiak, the principal, her assistant principals, teachers, staff and especially the students and families, really worked hard. They set their eyes on a target and then worked together to achieve it,” Scully said.
He added while Tilton met its target in narrowing proficiency gaps and raised performance index scores by 25 points, there remains “a lot of work to do.”
“This was no easy task. This is a school with some very complex needs and issues. There is no doubt that the support of the mayor with summer school had a positive impact on our schools,” Scully said.
Other schools noted for performance and state ranking gains include Haverhill High School, the city’s other “level three” school. Its Math and English Language Arts (ELA) performance indexes, under MCAS or PARCC test scores, increased by 2.1 percent and 0.4 percent respectively and its state percentile ranking increased from nine to ten. Also, Scully noted, the high school has, since 2010, increased its graduation rate by 8.5 percent to 75.9 percent and reduced its dropout rate by 1.3 percent to 4.7 percent in 2016. A third school, J.G. Whittier Middle School, improved its state percentile ranking by 10 points to 35 but that “level two” school fell short of gaining “level one” status “due to many families ‘opting out’ of the test.”
Meanwhile, Assistant Superintendent Jared Fulgoni and Director of Accountability Darshan Thakkar are due to meet with school principals and others in the coming days and weeks to “analyze the scores and review the programs and instructional strategies that may have contributed to the performance.”
“A few of our other schools slipped,” Scully said. “We will be taking a close look at what are the issues that caused the declines and I’ll be asking the principals at those schools to meet Dr. Thakkar to discuss the reasons behind this decline.”
In reaction, Mayor James J. Fiorentini said while there were “good results, we can never be satisfied in education.”
“We must always strive to do better. In the two schools where reading scores declined, we need to examine the reading programs there to see if they are the right programs for our children. We must continue the practice I began of funding education above the minimum levels set by the state. However, overall, these are good results for our district,” Fiorentini said.
City Councilor Andy Vargas called for “more time to digest the data,” but flagged some issues.
“However, I do have some immediate concerns — primarily the fact that six of our schools went down in performance while only three went up. HHS and Tilton continue to be in the bottom 10 percent of schools statewide.” Vargas said. “Coupled with a growing per pupil spending gap (where the city now ranks 301 out of 323 cities and towns in per pupil spending), I think we need to look at how we can better prioritize education funding, in order to have the backs of our hard working teachers and administrators.”