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Amherst Regional School Committee weighs MCAS results

Overall, Amherst students did well under the state’s new measure of growth, said Michael Morris, the director of educational evaluation and assessment analysis. This “student growth percentile” compares changes in MCAS scores to changes in scores of other students statewide with similar scores the prior year, with 50 showing average progress, he said.

“In most places, we’re growing faster than a year ago,” Morris said.

The strongest growth was seen at Wildwood Elementary School, which posted growth scores of 62 in both English and math. Most other elementary growth percentiles were above 50. The Regional Middle School had a 47 in English and 58 in math, while Amherst Regional High School had a 52 in English and 46 in math.

The Amherst and regional schools did well in relation to comparable communities such as Northampton, Leverett, Shutesbury, Brookline, Newton, Cambridge and Longmeadow, Morris said.

Mark Jackson, the high school principal, said his staff has worked on intervention with ninth-graders who are struggling with math. The school has added intervention staff and instituted a new reading course to help struggling students, he said.

Betsy Dinger, the interim middle school principal, said she was pleased with the strong growth in math, crediting intervention coordinator Joel Singley. The school has started a program this year of writing across the curriculum, and noted a significant increase in science scores this year.

Nick Yaffe, principal of Wildwood School, credited the new elementary coaches in math and English, while Fort River School Principal Monica Hall said teacher collaboration and data analysis have made a difference. Crocker Farm School interim Co-Principal Derek Shea said the schools are better able to identify students who need help than they used to be.

“We’re not sitting back and saying we’ve made it to the mountaintop, and there’s more work to do,” he said.

Morris said the MCAS results get a lot of attention, but provide only one set of data. The schools also want students to be emotionally healthy, be able to make friends, and acquire the skills necessary for success in life, he said.

“We don’t want to go to the place where the MCAS is all we talk about all year long,” he said.

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