CHESHIRE -- Using detailed data to inform instruction is the key to student proficiency improvements in Adams-Cheshire Regional School District (ACRSD), officials believe.
ACRSD laid out a goal of reducing Massachusetts Com prehensive Assessment System (MCAS) proficiency gaps by half by 2016-17 at a committee meeting Tuesday night, where the district’s recently received MCAS rankings were discussed.
The rankings, which classified ACRSD as Level 3, or in need of improvement, included volumes of scoring data that has since been examined by administrators. The information has served as a starting point to form new policies, isolating weaknesses while also identifying successful programs and showing areas of promise.
"There are so many more ways they chop up [data] now than even a couple of years ago," Hoosac Valley Middle & High School principal Vinnie Regan said. "In time, it will make [teachers and students] much better."
A school district is ranked at the same level as the lowest performing school in its district, in this case C.T. Plunkett Elementary School.
After presentations from each of the district’s principals, ACRSD committee member Darlene Rodowicz summed up the most pressing instructional needs of the district in a series of "take home points."
These included improved math instruction in grades three through eight -- a problem that’s negatively impacting high school science scores as well; beginning elementary school "reading coach" sessions; moving curricula toward the Common Core; reducing class size at C.T. Plunkett Elementary School; frequent progress checks and adjustments on the part of the committee; and continually building new instructional improvement items into the district’s budget.
Under the guidelines of Race to the Top, a federal educational reform program adopted by the district in 2009, concentrated teacher evaluations will begin this year, which officials hope contribute to success in achieving their goals.
District Superintendent Alfred Skrocki was pleased that high school students performed competitively to the rest of the county in terms of MCAS and SAT scores, but correlated the district’s tight budget with its "needs improvement" ranking. He said funding issues "squash progress in different areas."
However, he was optimistic about the administrators’ ability to realize desired improvements.
"We have significant things we need to do and we know what needs to be done," he said.
This year saw a major change in the commonwealth regarding its preferred litmus for addressing student proficiency. Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) -- part of 2001’s federal No Child Left Behind Act -- has been waived in Massachusetts, one of a handful of states to do so. ACRSD has chosen a Progress and Performance Index (PPI) as its replacement.
PPI improves on the former system, ACRSD officials agreed, by focusing on and rewarding individual student growth and using four years of performance to assess that growth, as opposed to one. The PPI also prioritizes coordinated efforts to pull up struggling students. Preference of the PPI among the committee was unanimous.
ACRSD officials will continue this discussion at their next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 22 at Hoosac Valley Middle & High School at 6:30 p.m.