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For Immediate Release
Tuesday, March 14, 2000
Contact:Darrell S. Pressley, 781-338-3126

Eight Middle Schools With Low MCAS Performance To Be Reviewed By State

Malden - Starting this month, the Massachusetts Department of Education will begin to examine eight of the state's lowest-performing middle and junior high schools to determine what immediate steps need to be taken to assist those schools in improving student achievement.

The eight middle schools are: Dearborn School in Boston; John Lynch Middle School in Holyoke; Matthew Kuss Middle School in Fall River; Arlington School in Lawrence; Henry Robinson School in Lowell; Marshall Middle School in Lynn; Roosevelt Jr. High School in New Bedford; and the John Kennedy Middle School in Springfield.

The Department is in the process of selecting panel members to participate in these reviews. The five-member panels will consist of staff from the state Department of Education, Massachusetts school administrators and teachers, consultants with school and program evaluation experience and others. The panels will review documents and data including MCAS test results, reports on student academic performance on locally administered standardized assessments, school improvement plans and school improvement efforts in the past two years.

The panel members will visit the schools and meet with district and school officials in early May to determine if the schools have a sound plan for improving student performance and if the conditions are in place for the successful implementation of the improvement plans. The panels will report their findings and recommendations to Massachusetts Commissioner of Education David P. Driscoll.

Commissioner Driscoll said, "There is an urgent need to ensure that good quality programs are available to support the students in these schools. We need to identify what is working and what is not working before the end of the current school year. We want to move aggressively in finding out how we can help improve student achievement. There will be two options for us in June: either declare the school to be under-performing and appoint a fact-finding team to conduct a diagnostic evaluation of the school and prescribe a course of action; or place the school on academic warning, a type of watch list assigning the school priority for state review."

The schools were selected for review based on the following two criteria: (1) more than 60% of the students scored in the failing category averaged across all subjects on the 1998 eighth grade MCAS, and (2) 1999 test scores declined compared to the 1998 baseline results. Only schools with 100 students or more at the tested grade level were included for review this year.

Commissioner Driscoll said, "The Review Panel will go into the schools, look at their data and talk with school officials, teachers and students to learn the story behind the MCAS scores. We know schools are working hard to help children learn, so we're not going into this process with the intent of finding something wrong. But we have to be sure that each of these schools is on course toward improving student academic performance."

The Review Panel stage does not include state takeover of any schools. The goal of the Review Panel will be to determine the answers to key questions:

Have school leaders:

  • analyzed their students' performance and the adequacy of programs and services they provide to identify educational needs and the obstacles to improving student performance
  • formulated a plan that articulates effective strategies to specifically address educational needs identified in the analysis of student performance, and to eliminate obstacles to improving student performance.

The panel will consider whether:

  • leadership demonstrates the will and capacity to implement improvement initiatives
  • the plan has the support and engagement of the school community, staff and administration
  • school leaders have the assistance they need from the district for the implementation of the planned initiatives.

These eight schools are the first to be referred for the panel review process under the Massachusetts School and District Accountability System to determine whether the schools will require state intervention and assistance to improve student performance.

For more information, visit the School and District Accountability System website



Last Updated: March 14, 2000
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