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One Western Mass. Public School Jumps To Top Tier In Latest State Rankings


Massachusetts education officials today released the annual accountability designations for the state’s public schools.

About a third of the state’s public schools met goals this year for academic achievement and closing gaps in school performance between whites and minority students. Only two percent of the schools are considered “underperforming,” which puts them at risk for a state takeover unless there are improvements in a few years.

In releasing the annual accountability system results, Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester commended 45 schools for making strong progress.

Four of them are Massachusetts public schools that the U.S. Dept. of Education designated as 2015 National Blue Ribbon Schools," said Chester.

The state education reform law passed in 2010 created an accountability system to identify schools that are most persistently low performing. The system uses statewide test scores over time and other factors to classify schools into Level 1-5.

Schools that are at Level 4 must implement state-approved turnaround plans and are given three years to improve or risk dropping to Level 5, which can trigger state receivership.  There are 34 Level 4 schools in the 2015 accountability assessment.

" Some of the greatest efforts and strongest improvements we see come from our turnaround schools," said Chester.

Only one school, Boston’s Madison Park Vocational Technical High School, was newly designated as Level 4.

Four schools, including the K-5 White Street School in Springfield, will exit Level 4 status. Chester, in a conference call with reporters, commended Springfield school officials for “putting strong leadership” in the underperforming schools.

Springfield Superintendent of Schools Dan Warwick said the turnaround at the White Street School, from Level 4 to Level 1, happened in just 2 years.

" We are ecstatic about White Street," said Warwick, who praised principal Kristen Hughes.

Warwick said all six elementary schools in Springfield that were designated as Level 4 in the initial assessments in 2010-11 have since excited Level 4.

10 Springfield schools, including all of the city’s middle schools and two high schools, are now ranked at Level 4.

Only half the state’s K-8 schools risked a drop in ranking level this year because of the experiment with the PARCC test.  Schools that opted to use the PARCC test instead of the MCAS were held harmless if scores dropped.

The state board of education last month decided not to switch to the Common Core-based PARCC and instead update the MCAS, which has been used as the standardized testing system in Massachusetts since the early 1990s.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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