SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

October 25, 2013

Column: Progress in our schools is being measured -- but how?

(Continued)

To improve student achievement, the Salem public schools must answer two critical questions:

1. Is the gap between our “high needs” students and their peers widening or narrowing? The goal is to cut the gaps in math, ELA and science noted in 2011 in half by 2017. The state uses a 100-point scale, called CPI (Composite Performance Index) to measure a district’s progress toward this goal. The target goal is 75. In 2013, Salem moved four points forward on this scale from 56 to 60.

2. Are our students demonstrating “growth” each year via the MCAS in math and ELA? To measure growth in math and ELA, student achievement is compared to statewide averages AND our own district goals. All students are expected to demonstrate growth that is at or near the state median, or show high growth each year between 2011-2017. Although last year’s 10th graders showed some improvement, Salem schools do not meet the statewide average in a single grade or subject, and they also did not meet the district’s own goals for growth.

College readiness and school culture

College readiness and school culture goals measure many indicators, including:

student learning and mastery of twenty-first century skills;

development of college readiness;

parent and family engagement;

development of a culture of academic success among students;

development of a culture of student support and success among school faculty and staff;

and the implementation of developmentally appropriate child assessments from pre-kindergarten through third grade.

Some specific data points that are used to measure success in this area include:

the number and percentage of students: completing advanced coursework (e.g., AP); completing high school early; and electing dual enrollment (college level classes);

teacher attendance rates;

distribution of teachers by performance level;

parent and family engagement;

developmentally appropriate assessments.

The Salem public school system is still defining metrics in these areas, and it is too soon to report on many of the above measures. But one highlight is the marked increase in students taking and succeeding in Advanced Placement (AP) classes at Salem High School. Since 2010 there has been a 310 percent increase in enrollment in AP classes and a 200 percent increase in qualifying scores for students at Salem High School. A full 24 percent of all students at SHS are currently enrolled in AP classes. AP is a national measure for college readiness, and proof that our students can handle standardized tests.

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