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New England News

Springfield School Removed From State's List Of Worst Performers

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The latest statewide school accountability results from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education were cause for celebration in the largest school district in western Massachusetts. 

The new report on school accountability classified the Springfield Public Schools as having made substantial progress toward achieving its academic goals.

For the 2018-2019 academic year, Springfield was rated as having made 52 percent of progress toward its targets.  Anything above 50 percent is considered real improvement, according to Springfield Superintendent of Schools Dan Warwick.

" There's good news at the district level and some great news at particular schools," said Warwick.

This is the second year of a new accountability system for Massachusetts schools.  It takes into account not just student test scores but data including graduation rates and absenteeism.

"One thing that helped us tremendously is we had the biggest increase in gradution rates in the state over the last few years," said Warwick.  "We've worked hard on chronic absenteeism and reduced chronic absenteeism."

              As a result of the latest accountability measurements, the John J. Duggan Academy, a 6-12 grade school in Springfield with an enrollment of 900, was removed from the state’s list of underperforming schools – one of only two schools in the state to exit the category this year.

 Duggan is part of the Springfield Empowerment Zone. It’s a turnaround effort begun a few years ago that includes all of Springfield’s middle schools and one high school. Principals are given autonomy over curriculum, staffing, scheduling, and even budgeting in the individual schools.

" Its leadership, its quality teaching and really focusing on data analysis  and putting the right intervention programs in place. That really made the difference, in my mind, for Duggan," said Warwick.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has visited Duggan and other Springfield Empowerment Zone schools and advocated the model be given a try in other school districts. 

For the third year in a row, state education officials did not put any new schools on the under- performing list.

Along with the new school accountability system, Massachusetts has been gradually shifting to a new standardized test given each spring to students in grades 3-8 and 10.

Sixty-one percent of 10th graders statewide met or exceeded expectations on the new English MCAS exam and 59 percent did so on the math portion of the test.  Both were well below the results of the legacy test.

But for the next two years, the passing score will be adjusted to the equivalent of the minimum passing mark on the legacy test, according to state education commissioner Jeff Riley.

"We are being prudent and taking the time to  make sure we  set up our system in a way that works for all of our kids," said Riley. " We're just giving folks a little bit of breathing room."

In order to receive a high school diploma in Massachusetts, students are required to pass the 10th grade MCAS exam.

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