Thursday September 20, 2012

In a way, Berkshire County has closed its proficiency gap by half, with an equal number of public school districts performing above and below state averages, according to 2012 state exam test scores.

On Wednesday, state education officials gathered in Worcester to publicly release school and district results of the 2012 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams in the three subject areas of English language arts, mathematics, and science/technology and engineering. Individual student test scores will be sent home in the coming weeks.

The administration concurrently announced first-year accountability reporting data under the commonwealth's new flexibility waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Instead of having all students perform at a level of "proficient" or better by 2014, the waiver allows Massachusetts to set a goal of closing proficiency gaps by half by the 2016-17 school year.

"I am proud of the progress we have made, but won't be satisfied until we close the achievement gap and all students have the opportunity to reach their full potential," Gov. Deval Patrick said in a written statement.

Of the 19 multi- and single-school districts in Berkshire County for which the state keeps test scores, nine scored above the state average for proficiency or better in at least two subject areas: Lenox, Savoy (Emma L.


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Miller Memorial), Northern Berkshire Vocational Technical (McCann), Mount Greylock, Williamstown (Williams town Elementary), Berkshire Hills Re gional, Central Berkshire Re gional, Richmond (Richmond Consolidated) and Southern Berkshire Regional.

Richmond, for example, had English scores above the state proficiency average across all tested grade levels. One hundred percent of third-graders (this year's fourth-graders) tested in reading in 2012 read at a level of proficient or higher, ranking the class top in the state out of 301 districts in an online Boston Globe database.

Among the school districts scoring below the state proficiency average in two or all three subject areas, test scores show both ample gains in scores as well as some significant struggles.

Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School in Adams edged state averages, standing only one point below the state average for proficient or better scores in math, five points below in science and seven points above in English. BART's high school 10th-graders stood out among results, with 100 percent of 10th-graders performing at a level of proficient or better in both English and math, and 86 percent performing at the same level in science.

In Florida, scores for Abbott Memorial School showed an extreme high and an extreme low. All seventh-graders tested in 2012 performed at a level of proficient or better in English compared to the state average of 71 percent. However, only 17 percent of Florida's fifth-grade students scored proficient or better on the science exam, compared with the average 52 percent of students scoring at that level in the state.

In the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District, which had some of the lowest test scores in Berkshire County, math and science exams seem to be a particular struggle for some student groups.

On the 2012 fourth-grade MCAS math test, only 18 percent of students at Cheshire Elementary scored at a level of proficiency or better compared to 51 percent of students in the state averaging high scores. At Plunkett Elementary, 23 percent of students scored proficient or better compared with the state average of 52 percent on the Grade 5 science test. Hoosac Valley eighth-graders scored 20 points below the state average proficiency rate on the science exam.

Students in Berkshire County's two city school districts, Pittsfield and North Adams, scored below the state proficiency rate in all three subject areas. Pittsfield, however, tended to have smaller achieve ment gaps than North Adams. For example, an average of 54 percent of Pittsfield students across all grades tested scored at a level of proficient or better in math versus the 39 percent of students scoring at this math level in North Adams. The state proficiency average for all grades in math is 59 percent.

To reach Jenn Smith:
jsmith@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6239
On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink