Bright Spots Amid Wide Variation in Haverhill 2017 MCAS Results

Haverhill MCAS results overall.

The MCAS student testing results for 2017 released this fall by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) for Haverhill show some areas of distinct accomplishments and some areas of possible concern.  Overall, Haverhill student performance is comparable to benchmarks for Gateway Cities but below benchmarks for the state, for similar-income Gateway Cities, and for cities identified by DESE as having similar students. (See the 2017 MCAS page on this site for details). In measures of student improvement (student growth percentiles, SGPs), particular grades in some Haverhill middle schools stand out as positive outliers. Positive results were also reported for economically disadvantaged students; for these students across all grades as a group, Haverhill performed above the benchmarks on SGPs for both English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics compared with the state, Gateway Cities, similar-income Gateway Cities, and those identified by DESE as comparable.

Haverhill SGPs Show Student Improvement

Student Growth Percentile (SGP) scores represent improvement of individual students relative to other students statewide who scored similarly on previous MCAS tests. Each student is scored relative to his/her previous level of proficiency and ranked relative to the improvement of other students starting at the same level. At the class, grade, or school level the median SGP provides a measure of improvement that can better reflect the contribution of the school and its teachers to student academic growth in a year. DESE considers the “normal range” of these scores to be between 40 and 60, which means that the median student SGP score for a groups of students will most often fall between the 40th and 60th percentile. Above this range are positive outliers; below it are negative outliers.

The pattern of MCAS student growth percentile by grade and school are shown in the chart below. The scatter plot of ELA and Math scores show the wide variation across Haverhill grades and schools (each dot represents the average SGP for both ELA and Math for single grade in a particular school and represents the combined results for all students at that grade level in a school). The upward trend of the dots left to right indicates a positive correlation between ELA and Math SGPs.  This means that, in Haverhill, if a particular grade in a school shows high student growth in English Language Arts it is more likely to show high student growth in Math.

The chart below is based on the same information as the one above. It identifies the grade and school combinations that achieved different levels of student growth (as measured by 2017 MCAS SGPs). Particularly notable, in the upper right hand cell, are instances in which the median student growth percentiles were above 60 for both ELA and Math. This positive outlier status was achieved by Consentino School for grades 4, 6, and 8, Nettle School for grade 7, and Whittier school grade 7. SGPs for Nettle School grade 6 in Math and Whitter School grade 8 in ELA were also notably above the normal range.

At the other end of the widely varying results was Hunking school grade 6, which was below the normal range for growth on both ELA and Math. In the yellow cells we see in the bottom row seven of the Haverhill school-grades reported median SGPs below the 40th percentile in math and in the left column 4 school-grades reported median ELA scores below the 40th percentile. The Hunking school grade 6 reported below normal median student growth scores for both ELA and Math. The Hunking 6th grade median SGP score of 18 in ELA (reported on the 2017 MCAS page) indicates that the SGP of more than 50 percent of the Hunking 6th graders was in the bottom 20 percent of similar students statewide. Such a low outlier  deserves attention to determine the source of the problem, whether related to teaching, test administration, or something else.

Considering all grades, Haverhill performed above the benchmarks in student growth for economically disadvantaged students in both ELA and math. See more details on 2017 MCAS page. Amid mixed performance in other grades and schools, the positive outliers may provide models to be emulated. The community and the School Committee should examine these accomplishments, seek to understand the factors producing good results, and work to replicate effective practices across all grades, schools, and student groups.