hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

School News

October 5, 2011

Special ed students have big drop in MCAS scores

Teachers work against downward trend

Special education students suffered significant setbacks in their 2011 MCAS scores, school officials said.

Haverhill's schools made progress with the other student subgroups tracked by the state — students from low income families and those with limited English skills — but experienced significant dips in the scores of special education students at several schools.

According to data released by the district, none of Haverhill school's special education student groups scored above 80 percent on the comprehensive performance index (CPI).

The CPI is a 100 point scale used by the state to rate a school's overall MCAS performance in both the English language arts and math tests.

State education officials want all math scores to meet or exceed a score of 92 points and English scores to reach 95 by 2014 across all student populations.

Some drops were relatively minor, such as the two-point dip in math scores at Haverhill High, but a few schools saw the scores of their special education students decrease by 10 points or more.

Schools that had large drops in their scores included: Pentucket Lake Elementary, Nettle Middle School, Whittier Middle School and Golden Hill Elementary.

Superintendent James Scully and other school officials said are working to reverse the downward trend.

Bonnie Antkowiak, principal of Golden Hill Elementary School, said her staff kicked up their efforts to reverse the 14-point drop which that school's students experienced in special ed English MCAS scores — a dip from 70 points to 56.

Antkowiak said her staff will primarily focus on improving students' responses on essay portions of the test and encourage teachers to take part in a workshop offered through Lesley University in Cambridge.

Golden Hill scores did improve in almost all other subgroups.

Hunking Middle School bucked the trend this year, however, with positive gains in both tests.

"That's a credit to the kids that have done that work and the staff who have put in the long hours," Hunking Principal David Cook said.

He said the school's success came primarily through special education students participating in alternative testing methods, typically putting together a portfolio of work rather than taking standardized tests, and frequent teacher meetings.

According to the state Department of Education website, Haverhill has 54 special ed teachers and 1,292 special education students. That is about a quarter of the city's student population.

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