The most recent MCAS results are in and while there are improvements in some areas, there are not enough in the opinion of some members of the Haverhill School Committee.
State MCAS “accountability indicators” show Haverhill with a 57% progress rate toward those education goals, which was the highest among nine other cities that the state designated as comparable. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education figures presented at last Thursday’s meeting take into consideration such factors as coursework completion, chronic absenteeism and the annual drop-out rate. The numbers, however, were the last comparison in which Haverhill students led the charge in English Language, Math and Science at any grade level.
Breaking down the specifics, presenters tended to put the best face on the results, at times referring to them as “strong showings.” School Superintendent Margaret Marotta, however, offered clarification.
“I just want to be clear. When we say ‘strong,’ we mean relative to our peers. We know that our kids are not where they were pre-pandemic and we’re still doing a lot of catch-up just as everyone is across the state. I think on the whole the results were, I don’t know if disappointing is the right word, they’re certainly not what anybody wants,” she explained.
The superintendent’s comments were echoed by Committee Member Paul A. Magliocchetti who said he believes, with all parties working together, progress can and will be made. Committee member Scott W. Wood Jr., however, was less optimistic in his assessment of the results.
“I heard the word ‘strong’ on these test results. I don’t think there’s anything about these that is strong. You can massage them the way you want them. They’re not very good. If you look at mathematics for instance, our 2023 numbers, roughly only a quarter of our students are meeting expectations. If you go to the ELA component, to me that’s even a little more concerning. Nearly every grade is significantly down in the meeting expectations category. There is a significant reduction in our students that are meeting expectations and that is concerning because over the past couple years, there’s been a significant amount of money invested in this budget with, in this case, going in the complete opposite direction,” he said.
While not disputing Wood’s observation, the superintendent responded factors other than money come into play, referring once again to the effects of significant time away from the classroom due to COVID-19. Also, there was an increase in the number of non-English speaking students.
Finally, educators outlined plans to boost achievement levels going forward. Those include updated curriculum, “Data Days” at all schools, which they said will provide staff with an opportunity to dig into their students’ performance and develop steps to meet their needs.
They also discussed “Walkthroughs” with leadership teams, coaches and administrators to ensure the curriculum is being followed and support is being provided as needed.