Haverhill Leaders Credit Higher Spending, Better Attendance for High MCAS Growth

John C. Tilton School celebrated MCAS test scores during a ceremony in 2019. (Courtesy photograph.)

For the first time since 2012, there are no Haverhill public schools that are considered under-performing or in need of state assistance or oversight, Mayor James J. Fiorentini and school officials proclaimed at a ceremony Tuesday morning.

Leaders welcomed Tuesday’s release of state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education district accountability designations and MCAS test results for the 2018 school year. Results showed Pentucket Lake elementary is the highest performing school in the district, followed by Tilton.  Fiorentini, chairman of the School Committee, and Tilton Principal Bonnie Antkowiak credited higher school spending, while school Superintendent Margaret Marotta highlighted improved student attendance and increased emphasis on students with learning challenges.

“We have made a big investment in our schools by increasing the city’s contribution to the school budget by almost $19 million over the past four years,” Fiorentini said, adding, “I’m pleased to see it paying off.”

The celebration took place at Tilton School where, for the second year in a row, the K-3 school with 409 students, was recognized for having some of the highest “growth” scores among all Massachusetts public schools. Growth scores measure year-over-year improvement. Antkowiak said a state “Turnaround Grant” helped deliver her school’s MCAS improvement. The two-year, $900,000 grant, expired last year. The aid was used to pay for writing and reading coaches, after-school tutoring and enrichment programs, teaching assistants and technology upgrades including Chrome computer books, officials said.

This is the second year of a new accountability system and the first year 10th graders took the next-generation MCAS in English and math, and statewide average scores in both subjects—506 in English and 505 in math—are in the state’s “meeting expectations” category. In the first set of results from next-generation science tests in grades five and eight, 48 percent of fifth graders and 46 percent of eighth graders scored in the same range.

MCAS scores released Tuesday are for the district and school level. Parents should receive their child’s score information from schools in October.

Fiorentini said most of the credit for testing gains at Tilton and other city schools should go to classroom teachers and students who worked together toward a shared goal.

“This didn’t happen by accident. It happened because of the tremendous work by all of you great teachers, by our superintendent and by our turn-around grant team. Tilton not only has the most improved scores in the city, but also was the second highest performing school in the city of Haverhill.”

A detailed overview and analysis of the new MCAS scores for all schools is expected to be presented at Thursday’s School Committee meeting at 7 p.m. in City Hall.

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