We’ve had discussions on this blog before about whether MCAS scores are an accurate way to judge the performance of our schools, but Southborough Selectman John Rooney said recently that the scores in our district suggest a troubling trend.
Data from the state Board of Education shows Southborough’s MCAS Growth – a new metric that measures year-over-year growth – is the lowest of ten districts the state says are comparable to ours. More troubling, says Rooney, Southborough has been below the state average in math for the past four years and in English for the past three.
When the K-8 School Committee discussed the most recent MCAS numbers last October, they acknowledged the results were mixed, and said the district needed to focus on math in particular, but they did not discuss the growth numbers in depth.
“(MCAS Growth data), which has been available for years to our school committee, appears to depict a disconcerting decline in the educational quality of our schools,” Rooney wrote in an email. “Equally troubling, however, is the complete lack of acknowledgement or response from our school committee when they reviewed that data at their meeting in October 2011.”
Rooney said the discussion of budget and performance metrics needs to go hand-in-hand. “I am an ardent supporter of education. As a community we need to prioritize our school funding to ensure we produce educational quality,” he wrote.
Referencing DOE financial data from 2008 – the most recent available on its website – Rooney said Southborough spends more per pupil than comparable towns like Acton, Boxford, Northborough, and Sudbury. But an analysis presented at the K-8 School Committee meeting earlier this month paints a different picture.
The school committee’s analysis, which looks at data from 2010, shows Southborough ranks near or below average in spending per pupil and teacher salaries relative to comparable districts. While the analysis does not look at MCAS scores, it shows Northborough-Southborough ranks well in terms of SAT and AP scores and graduation rate. (You can see the complete analysis here.)
“It all shows we’re building a good foundation here at the K-8 level,” School Committee member Paul Desmond said of the analysis.
What do you think? Are you concerned by the MCAS Growth data? Will it influence your decision on the school budget this year? Would you like to see the schools take a harder look at performance data, or are they doing enough? Share your thoughts in the comments.