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School Committee updated on MCAS results

Hard Work Contributes to Positive Outcomes – November 7, 2022

During the School Committee meeting on October 20th, our Academic Curriculum Coordinator, Mr. Edward Evans, updated BVT’s District School Committee with a summary of the MCAS results. He explained that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released the 2022 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) results on September 29th, providing the state with its second overview of statewide learning since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest results were "mixed," said DESE, and state education officials said the learning loss that came about as a result of the pandemic and its shift towards remote schooling for more than two years is still showing up in standardized test results.

However, as educators across the state reviewed their results, some districts, including Blackstone Valley Tech, have shown improvement. The data reflects the scores of our current juniors (the Class of 2024), who took the MCAS exam as sophomores. It is worth noting that this class began their BVT careers remotely during the pandemic, and as a result of an altered testing schedule, these students had yet to take an MCAS since the 7th grade.

Despite the pandemic-related challenges, the results were impressive. 79 percent of students in English Language Arts were in the Exceeding or Meeting Expectations category. In Mathematics, 75 percent of students were in the Exceeding or Meeting Expectations category. In Science (Biology and Physics combined), 72 percent of students were in the Exceeding or Meeting Expectations category. All were well above the reported state averages.

After examining the MCAS data and reflecting on the results, it was apparent to Mr. Evans that the positive outcomes were no accident. Instead, he credits the improvements to hard-working students and dedicated teachers. "We strive to do everything we can to keep our kids engaged and focused on learning. This was especially true during the pandemic," said Mr. Evans. "We put in the effort and worked with an all-hands-on-deck approach to make school happen, no matter what that looked like. We were quick to adapt to an unorthodox model during the pandemic because we have an unorthodox model operating within a longer school year."

Our dedicated team of administrators developed a comprehensive return-to-school plan for the 2021-2022 school year, including orientation days for our freshmen (the Class of 2024), a transition week, and a six-tiered operational model. It successfully addressed the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education, Jeffrey C. Riley’s message to safely bring back as many students as possible to in-person learning. It allowed our school to move from tier to tier as needed, which empowered our families to plan with predictability regardless of tier status. And by design, it was meant to increase the rigor and expectations of our students to return to a pre-March 2020 system of grading and assessment and focus on "live instruction" utilizing a daily schedule of classes for both academics and shop.

In presenting to the School Committee, Mr. Evans attributed some key factors contributing to the recent positive outcomes to the numerous preparedness measures supported by the Committee during the pandemic to combat learning loss by meeting our students where they were, such as rolling out optional enrichment activities to help keep students engaged. We were offering creative ideas to support parents with virtual office hours where they could speak privately with a counselor to online support groups and resources to share concerns and support each other. We also offered a voluntary opt-in Summer Learning Series. We also rolled out a school-wide laptop program. We also provided Acceleration Academies (grant-funded Math camps over vacation weeks), which offered personalized instruction, one of the best ways to approach learning gaps.

The latest results were reported a month after the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to increase the MCAS scores that tenth graders need to graduate, starting with the class of 2026. Mr. Evans said, "After looking at the historical data for this class, which had an elongated exploratory process and remote-hybrid learning experiences, to have such positive outcomes is very rewarding. We all worked really hard to address our students' academic and social-emotional needs. As a result of these contributors to success, we are confident that our students will meet or exceed the new threshold."

BVT's School Committee was very impressed with the results.