Most Bedford MCAS Results Show Slight Fluctuations

October 26, 2023

Results from last spring’s MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) testing among Bedford students between Grades 3 and 10 showed small fluctuations from the previous two post-Covid years.

The results reflect “a very good story in many ways,” said Assistant Schools Superintendent Dr. Tricia Clifford in her report to the Bedford School Committee on Tuesday, especially when comparing results to 2019, the last pre-Covid MCAS.

 “We have much to work on,” she said, but “there has been much improvement in many areas,” especially “with everything that’s happened. Overall, our focus is on making sure that we are addressing the standards, utilizing tools that increase teaching and learning, and measuring those. We are in pretty good shape.”

Committee Chair Dan Brosgol recognized that statewide, saying, “We are in the top 10 percent of just about everything.” He also stressed that “we consistently have 25-30 percent of kids who struggle, and that hasn’t changed.” 

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The results were discussed against a backdrop of concerns about the quality of the literacy curriculum in the elementary grades, as expressed by eight parents who spoke during the public comment segment early in the meeting. Several shared personal accounts of children who aren’t learning to read.

One caller said, “The current curriculum is outdated and not science based and many districts have moved away from it. We are told every year everything is fine, but the testing doesn’t show it.”

“This is not a new topic. It goes back to when Tricia got here in 2019,” noted Brosgol. “We welcome the feedback.”

“We did hear tonight some concerns,” acknowledged Superintendent of Schools Cliff Chuang. Noting that he is “still in the learning phase” after fewer than four months on the job, he said he hopes to gain additional insight from the “robust” response to his community survey, which closed this week.

Individual school MCAS results, with numbers reflecting the percentage of students who met or exceeded state expectations on the tests, are:

English Language Arts, Grades 3-5 
2021: 74 percent
2022: 69 percent 
2023: 68 percent

English Language Arts, Grades 6-8
2021: 73 percent 
2022: 68 percent
2023: 73 percent

English Language Arts, Grade 10
2021: 88 percent
2022: 78 percent
2023: 86 percent 

Mathematics, Grades 3-5
2021: 65 percent
2022: 68 percent
2023: 71 percent  

Mathematics, Grades 6-8
2021: 68 percent
2022, 69 percent
2023: 65 percent 

Mathematics, Grade 10
2021: 81 percent
2022: 78 percent
2023: 81 percent 

Science and Technology (engineering), Grade 5
2021: 68 percent
2022: 71 percent
2023: 68 percent 

Science and Technology (engineering), Grade 8
2021: 59 percent
2022: 61 percent
2023: 59 percent  

Science and Technology, Grades 9 and 10 (physics)
2022: 70 percent
2023: 74 percent

Brosgol said that as a result of 2020 and 2021 remote and hybrid classes at Davis School, those students’ scores are down. “I think we are still reaping the consequences of Covid.” He noted that “five years ago, Lane had the highest ELA scores in the state.”

Committee member Sarah McGinley cited a 6 percent drop in ELA proficiency for Grades 3-5 since 2019. “To what would you attribute this drop” she asked. Clifford said “fourth grade writing is the area I would say is the most concerning,” particularly in the subcategory called constructive response. That is very clear to me and very much the focus this year.”

“I am hearing quite a lot of community feedback,” including personal experiences, McGinley said, and parents will “see this data and look at it as justifying their concerns.”  Clifford replied that “it is really important to hear people’s stories.” She said, “We just finished a three-year plan and there still obviously is concern. Sometimes you have different groups come in and take a look at what you’re doing. That could be a place to go.”

She emphasized the hard work and dedication of teachers. Many of the speakers during the public comment period echoed those sentiments. Parents, McGinley said, “love our teachers, They are concerned about the tools, the right materials.” 

In answer to a question from committee member Brad Morrison, Clifford commented, “I like to compare Bedford over a span of time. Even if it’s just one or two higher, we are going in the right direction. If we are going down, that’s an area for me to say, ‘What’s going on?’”

Clifford provided some detail on the early elementary school reading curriculum, including a literacy program called Fundations. There is “a very organized approach to teaching phonics” in kindergarten through third grade, “a very clear scope and sequence. During the pandemic we worked to make sure the scope and sequence was really meeting the needs of our students.

“We have added a lot of phonemic awareness,” she continued. “We increased the number of grade-level assessments in writing,” with “longer literacy blocs to make sure there is time for writing.” There have been professional development offerings by a literacy specialist and an ELA curriculum coordinator.

Asked by member Sarah Scoville if there was anything new she wants to implement, Clifford said more structured writing approaches and common assessments at the elementary level. She also mentioned a math curriculum review group. “I hope we are prioritizing teaching to the standards and not prioritizing teaching to the test,” Scoville said.

Committee member Sheila Mehta-Green said it is important to understand the impacts on students with learning disabilities, to “continue to track that and make sure we have the right resources to support those students and families. We know a lot of people are struggling.”

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