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Rising to the challenge Bridge Street leaders respond to poor MCAS performance

  • Pippa Watts of Fran Cooper's 4th grade class at Bridge Street School works on her Math Journal Friday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Madison Marney of Fran Cooper's 4th grade class at Bridge Street School works on her Math Journal Friday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Math journals are one way leaders of Bridge Street School are trying to boost student achievement. Here, Madison Marney works on a journal in Fran Cooper's 4th-grade class.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Bridge Street School Northampton.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Bridge Street School Northampton.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

Analyzing the data

Demographic factors

A state waiver from some of the stricter requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law means that schools ranked Level 3 no longer have to notify parents of their school choice options.

Still, Bridge Street supporters worry about what the ranking will do to public perceptions of their school.

“It’s always a surprise to me when I meet people who live a block away from the school and aren’t attending,” said Sarah Hougen, president of Bridge Street’s PTO. “We’re considered the problem school in Northampton.”

On the other hand, Hougen pointed to the record turnout at the first PTO meeting of the school year and Bridge Street’s Open House as signs of community support.

“People have concerns but they do feel like we’re moving in the right direction,” she said.

Jennifer Towler, Northampton’s school choice program coordinator, said a review of data over the last few years shows the number of families requesting to leave Bridge Street is no greater than at any other city elementary school.

Mandy Gerry, another active school parent, said she hopes MCAS scores don’t become the overriding focus at Bridge Street. “Our kids are really proud of their school,” she said. “I’m feeling really hopeful.”

Dion, the fifth-grade teacher, agrees. “There’s no other area of my life where I use only one tool” to assess progress, he said. “MCAS is a piece of the whole. What’s more important are the projects and activities we’re doing every day.”

Test scores appeared far from the minds of the students in Cooper’s fourth-grade class who were working on their math journals.

Jalen Silva said he likes using the daily math vocabulary words and writing down “wishes” for skills he needs to master.

“It’s fun,” he said.

Madison Marney said the journals “are kind of helping to learn about what you’re learning about.”

“You know a lot of stuff if you know about math,” added classmate Katalyna Newsham.


Amherst Regional High School drops in state ranking due to ‘clerical missteps’

Thursday, October 11, 2012

AMHERST — Amherst Regional High School has slipped one notch in the state’s ranking system, but Principal Mark Jackson attributed the drop to a coding error while administering last spring’s state standardized tests and not to lower student achievement. In fact, 10th-graders did well on the tests under the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, known as MCAS. In English, 93 percent …

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