The schools took center stage at a marathon 4-hour Board of Selectmen and Advisory Committee meeting last night. During a discussion of the K-8 school budget, Superintendent Charles Gobron defended the district’s performance in the face of recent concerns about MCAS scores.
Selectman John Rooney asked Gobron to respond to data from the state Department of Education that shows Southborough’s MCAS Growth – a metric that measures the overall performance of a school not of individual students – has been lower than comparable schools, and lower than the state average, for several years running.
“Are we concerned?” Gobron said “Of course we are, but I don’t see it as a huge problem.”
Gobron, who participated in the effort to create the MCAS system back in the 1990’s, said MCAS scores were never intended to be the sole judge of a school’s performance. He pointed to Algonquin’s high graduation rate of 98% – the sixth highest in the state – as a better indicator.
“MCAS is not the be all and end all, and as long as I am superintendent it will not be the be all and end all,” Gobron said. “When it counts, when it is a question of graduation, we perform extremely well.”
Gobron said Southborough places a lower emphasis on MCAS scores at the elementary school level than other comparable districts. “We believe very strongly in a developmental approach. Kids don’t develop at the same rate,” he said. “MCAS are formative assessments until high school. They’re practice (at the elementary school level).”
“We view education as a journey, not a race,” K-8 School Committee member Susan Dargan said.
Rooney noted that the Northborough-Southborough district also falls below comparable towns when it comes to SAT scores, according to Department of Education data.
Gobron disagreed, saying Algonquin ranks well on SAT scores. “If you want to say we’re inferior to other districts, I don’t buy that.”
The K-8 schools have requested a 0.68% increase to their budget for next year. While Rooney said he was pleasantly surprised by the relatively low request, he argued performance still needs to be part of the discussion. “There needs to be some yardstick to measure performance, especially when year over year more money is requested,” he said.
But Rooney got little support from his fellow selectmen and Advisory Committee members on linking the budget discussion to performance metrics like MCAS.
“We could have a debate for days or weeks on standardized test scores and what they mean,” Advisory Committee member Tim Langella said. “I think you guys do a great job.”