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Posted 09/20/2013 03:02PM

Curriculum initiatives show steady gains in both English Language Arts and math at all levels


Brockton schools showed steady growth and pockets of excellence on the spring 2013 administration of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test. Brockton High School, the state’s largest urban public school, continued to be a standout in English Language Arts (ELA), while district-wide curriculum initiatives at the elementary level drove steady gains in both ELA and Math.

DESE Commissioner Mitchell Chester joined
Governor Patrick, Secretary Malone, and district,
school, and community leaders from Boston at
the Orchard Gardens K-8 School on Wednesday
to announce the results of the spring 2013
administration of MCAS

“Our increased focus on math district-wide is showing dividends with impressive growth at all levels – in some cases double digit increases,” said Kathleen A. Smith, JD, Superintendent of Schools. “There is always room for improvement, but these scores prove that the work we are doing, from our cross-curricular writing initiative to targeted math instruction and increased professional development, is working. We remain focused and committed to increasing academic performance and providing every child with the highest quality education possible.”

Mayor Linda M. Balzotti, who chairs the School Committee, said the scores demonstrate the professionalism and dedication of BPS educators.

“These results reflect the tremendous work being done in our schools each and every day,” the Mayor Linda M. Balzotti. “The students, teachers and staff of the Brockton Public Schools are once again putting the city on the map when it comes to student achievement. We’re continuing to make progress across the board, and our success continues to serve as a model to school districts across the country. ”

Across the district, Student Growth Percentile (SGP) climbed 4 points in math, and 1 point in ELA. In science, scores increased at the elementary and middle school levels and declined slightly at the high school. Brockton remains the only urban school district in the state that has not been designated a Level 4 district, a designation that triggers more intensive state oversight.

“Brockton celebrates its accomplishments, but does not rest on its laurels. We have always been the first to identify our areas of weakness and address them head on,” said Deputy Superintendent John R. Jerome. “The tremendous amount of work that has been done and is continuing at the elementary level is clearly showing results in this year’s MCAS scores, and in years to come we will see the effects of our current Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEAM) initiatives.”

Science became an MCAS standard two years ago, and Brockton has strengthened its science curriculum in a number of ways: eight new science specialists have been added at the middle and high school level to increase students’ opportunities to engage in scientific discovery; new labs have been constructed in four middle schools and a new bio lab was built at BHS this year, all to provide more hands-on learning activities; and two years ago, the district adopted the Discovery Education tech book at the elementary level, the first technology-driven curriculum strand that has provided a continuum of science learning.

Brockton High School sophomores posted the highest scores ever on the ELA MCAS test, an exciting 95.6 points on the Composite Proficiency Index (CPI), which measures the extent to which a school is exhibiting proficient performance on MCAS.

“We teach our students a process for understanding information and how to break it down so that they have strategies and confidence that they can rely on when taking the MCAS test,” said Brockton High School Principal Sharon Wolder. “Perseverance is a key to success, so we teach our kids that even if they think they don’t know the answer, to reason through and figure out what they do know, to rely on their skills and work through their problems. That focus and tenacity are some of the things that make our BHS students so successful in school and in life.”

There were a number of other schools with break-out performances on the spring MCAS tests. The Louis F. Angelo Elementary School, North and West Middle Schools and Joseph Plouffe Academy were all categorized as Level II schools, the second highest level of proficiency a Massachusetts public school can attain. East Middle School and Huntington Elementary, which are both Superintendent Priority Schools, once again proved that the School Committee’s increased investments in those schools are paying dividends: East’s SGP grew 5 points in ELA and 3 points in math; Huntington’s SGP increased 8.5 points in ELA and 20 points in math.

The Dr. William Arnone Elementary School showed dramatic gains, especially at Grade 4 where CPI scores rose by 9.9 points in ELA and 16.3 points in math. The Arnone School has been a leader in the district Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS). Last year, the school adopted a pilot Professional Learning Communities model and achieved National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accreditation in recognition of the excellence of its kindergarten program.

“The Arnone School is a great example of how many of the curriculum changes and increased professional development we are doing is positively impacting student achievement,” said Elizabeth Barry, Executive Director of Learning & Teaching, PreK-8. “The teachers, administrators and staff have taken a team approach and worked collectively for the good of the students.”

Last year, all elementary schools implemented Understanding by Design (UBD), a math initiative that encourages collaborative lesson and unit planning among grade level teams prior to the delivery of each math unit. The district also strengthened its math lesson delivery by developing its own educator-designed curriculum utilizing a hybrid of two programs, Envisions and Investigations.

“The story these scores tell is steady progress is made by measured approaches, by professional development that has an immediate link to classroom instruction, and by teams of administrators, teachers and staff that work collaboratively for the good of students,” Barry said. “We are proud of the work we are doing and the success of our students.”


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