A letter to HPS staff in response to the progress of the District’s MCAS scores
To our staff,
I know well how much effort you put into all…each year on most fronts we are improving …and you deserve much praise…I trust the letter below transmits our sentiments when we are not fairly portrayed…Thank you again…Jim
Dear School Committee Members,
I am writing this today to address errors and omissions in today’s Eagle-Tribune story and headline “Haverhill MCAS scores drop below state averages.”
While I rarely address newspaper errors, this one was particularly disheartening to our teachers, students, parents, and families who have worked so hard to improve the district’s MCAS performance.
First, the headline is simply not accurate. The state MCAS averages take into account every school district in Massachusetts, including 100-plus suburban districts such as Andover, Wellesley, Weston, et al. Haverhill’s MCAS scores, like every other urban district in Massachusetts, are and have always been below the state averages. The headline – that we have suddenly this year fallen below the state averages is inflammatory and again, just plain incorrect.
In this whole long ET story, there is only ONE sentence about Haverhill – that 36 percent of Haverhill students either met or exceeded expectations in English and that 34 percent met or exceeded expectations in math. That’s better than Lawrence, but below the state average of 49 and 48 respectively, and below Andover, North Andover, and Methuen. Those are the communities that were highlighted in the ET story.
The ET went on to focus on a category of analyzing MCAS scores called Student Transitional Growth Percentiles. STGP measures progress by comparing yearly changes in students’ MCAS scores with other students with similar scores in prior years. The median STGP percentiles for the state were 50 for MCAS English and 50 for MCAS math. Haverhill’s TSGP was 49 English and 49 math, just about the state averages.
The ET story highlighted and praised Lawrence’s STGP scores of 50 math and 51 English (roughly the same as Haverhill). Haverhill’s STGPs of 49 and 49 WAS NOT MENTIONED IN THE ET STORY. The story also ignored Andover’s STGP, which was below Haverhill’s at 47 math and 43 English, but highlighted North Andover (55 and 60) and Methuen (56 and 60) which were above Haverhill.
In fact, our scores show steady improvement on the traditional “Legacy MCAS” for high school students. The headline in today’s ET story and the story itself present a misleading picture of Haverhill schools, our students and the progress we are making. Again, this has caused a great deal of distress among our hardworking teachers, students, and I’m sure our parents as well as community members.
Here’s the truth about our MCAS results…
- At the high school level, we either stayed the same or improved in 94 percent of the ratings—i.e., how our various groups of students performed.
- Notably, our neediest students — those in Special Education and our English Language Learners –increased their scores in Math by 17.9 and 16.6 points respectively.
- In grades 3-8, Haverhill students performed slightly better on average than students in the other urban districts on the new MCAS test.
Next week each of our schools will be providing more detail to parents on this next generation MCAS.
My job is not to defend what we do, but to make sure we are all are doing our best. To see the hard work of our teachers, and the successes of our students misrepresented is disheartening.
Thank you again for your understanding.