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Boston Public Schools hits record level for student MCAS improvement

Martin Desmarais | 10/2/2013, 10:44 a.m.

McIntyre and her staff sought out students’ opinions through meetings and group sessions that let them share ways they feel could help them do better in school. “The idea was to make the work part of them and part of who they are in the classroom,” said McIntyre.

Burke staff also spread the word far and wide — using data to back up their arguments — that coming to school is priority number one if students want to improve. The school made T-shirts that read “If You Miss School You Miss Out.” And McIntyre said many students wear the shirts. She pointed out that the school’s average daily attendance is a strong 92 percent.

“It is not accidental. Children understand that they need to be here,” she added. “I think it is very important … to encourage children to be here and feel like this is the place for them to grow and learn in order to reach their potential.”

Like other schools throughout the BPS system, Burke High School practices a “tiered intervention” approach to improving student support. What this means is that the school will try and determine which students can use additional help and work that help into a normal school day to help these students keep up with their peers. As McIntyre explains it, an example of tiered intervention would be the school doing an assessment of a math class and finding students who are behind, then creating an additional 30-minute class for them to get more math instruction while still keeping them in their regularly scheduled math class with other students.

This approach also relies on partners from outside the school, many of which can help provide additional teachers. The Burke High School works with organizations, including City Year and Boston Teacher Residency.

“We are very careful and thoughtful about what we do and how we do it,” said McIntyre. “That is the level of commitment that teachers here bring to the work. They are more than willing to give up themselves beyond compliance and into compassion. … You are not looking at the job description; you are looking at what this child’s life needs in terms of learning.”

At the elementary school level, Boston schools including the E. Greenwood Leadership Academy in Hyde Park, the Trotter Elementary School in Dorchester and the Higginson-Lewis K-8 School in Roxbury led the way for improvement.

Higginson-Lewis School Principal Joy Salesman-Oliver said her school focused on mathematics and studied past data about what has been successful in teaching to establish improved instruction strategies. Her school also worked with outside partners such as City Year and the Roxbury Multi-Service Center to work with students outside of class.

Salesman-Oliver said her school is thrilled about the improved MCAS numbers.

“We’re really proud because everyone worked so hard on identifying and targeting the problem,” she said. “We found ways to extend learning time for students to do project-based learning.”

Other schools singled out by the Boston School Department for their improvement are Boston Green Academy in South Boston, the Clap Innovation School in Dorchester, the New Mission High School in Hyde Park and the Eliot K-8 Innovation School in the North End. Sixth-grade students at Eliot School placed first in Massachusetts on the mathematics MCAS. Six years ago, the school’s scores were among the lowest in the state.

“Boston is a community that embraces academic innovation,” interim Superintendent John McDonough said in a statement. “We are committed to providing a quality education to all students, in all schools. Our mission is to offer great teaching and learning in every classroom, for every child.”