Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Brockton Sees Gender Disparities in MCAS Proficiency Rates

In 2011, Lynn saw some significant gender disparities in graduation rates at three out of the four high schools. The Brockton public school system also saw a gender disparity in its graduation rate with 64.5% of males graduating in four years while 74.7% of females graduated. The gender disparity on Brockton's educational related outcomes in 2011 also extended to standardized test scores (MCAS). 

The biggest gaps between males and females were in English language arts where there was a 13.3 point average difference in proficiency rates at each grade level; the range was between eight  and  seventeen points. This is not particularly surprising given research which suggests that females tend to do better in reading/writing than males. The smallest gap between males and females in Brockton was in the third grade reading proficiency rates. In 2011, 33% of third graders scored proficient or above on the MCAS test. When broken down by gender, 29% of males achieved proficiency on this exam compared to 37% of females. Third grade reading proficiency rates have been established as highly predictive of the likelihood of graduating from high school; the gender disparity in reading at this level was mirrored by the previously mentioned disparity in graduation rates between males and females. The largest gaps between males and females was in 7th grade English language arts (ELA) where 64% of females achieved proficiency compared to 47% of males. The disparities in reading/ELA proficiency rates at all of the grade levels were as follows:
  • 3rd:   37% females versus 29% males
  • 4th:   36% females versus 21% males
  • 5th:   52% females versus 40% males
  • 6th:   53% females versus 37% males
  • 7th:   64% females versus 47% males
  • 8th:   75% females versus 61% males 
  • 10th:  80% females versus 70% males

In mathematics, gender disparities were much smaller with an average 2.8 point difference in proficiency rates at each grade level. Males actually performed equal to or better than females at two grade levels in this subject area. At the third grade level, males and females had the same proficiency rate in math (38%) while on the 4th grade exam, males did better than females by a single percentage point (22% females vs. 23% for females). Overall, females in Brockton had a 37% proficiency rate in math while males had a 34% proficiency rate. The disparities in mathematics at all grade levels are as follows: 
  • 3rd:  38% females versus 38% males
  • 4th:  22% females versus 23% males
  • 5th:  36% females versus 33% males
  • 6th:  35% females versus 30% males
  • 7th:  33% females versus 28% males
  • 8th:  34% females versus 32% males
  • 10th: 62% females versus 60% males

    On the 2011 science MCAS exam, which was only taken in grades 5, 8 and 10, females only had a higher proficiency rate on the 8th grade exam (17% versus 14%). On the 5th grade science exam, males had a 20% proficiency rate compared to 18% for females and on the 10th grade exam both genders had a 50% proficiency rate. The average difference in proficiency rates on the science exam was 1.5 percentage points.

    Tuesday, February 28, 2012

    MA Board of Education Approves 4 New Charter Schools

    As previously posted, Ed Commissioner Chester Mitchell recommended the approval of four new charter schools from a field which included six final round applicants. Today (2/28) the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to grant charters to the founders of the proposed new schools. Two of the schools (Dudley Street Neighborhood School, Boston and the Paulo Freire Social Justice School, Holyoke) will open in the fall of 2012 while the other two (Baystate Academy, Springfield and Collegiate Charter of Lowell) will open in 2013.

    Friday, February 24, 2012

    This Day in History: February 24

    -In Marbury v. Madison, the U.S. Supreme Court established judicial review, 1803

    -Arizona is organized as a U.S. territory, 1863

    -The Nazi Party is founded, 1920

    -Fidel Castro retires as the President of Cuba after almost 50 years in power, 2008

    -Holiday: Flag Day (Mexico); National Artist Day (Thailand)

    Thursday, February 23, 2012

    Where are the Charter Schools in Massachusetts?

    In Massachusetts, there are 72 (Commonwealth and Horace Mann) charter schools with students currently enrolled; seven more approved charter schools are set to open for the 2012-13 school. year The Massachusetts Ed Commissioner has also recommended that four more charter schools be approved to open in the next few years. So, where are all the charter schools located in Massachusetts?

    Fall River1
    Marston Hills1
    New Bedford2
    South Hadley1
    West Tisbury1

    *Boston includes Brighton, Dorchester, East Boston, Hyde Park-Readville, Jamaica Plain, Roslindale and South Boston.

    Here we see that a large percentage (31%) of the charter schools in Massachusetts are located in Boston with Dorchester alone housing five charters. Interestingly, most of the other cities/towns on the list only have one or two charters while Cambridge, Springfield, and Worcester have the most after Boston with three each. Of the Commissioner's ten urban districts, Brockton is the only city that does not have any charters; also none of the charter schools approved or recommended for approval will be located there. When the seven new charter schools open this year, two more charters will be located in Lawrence, four more in Boston (with one also serving Chelsea students),  and one more in Springfield. As previously posted, the charters recommended for approval this year will potentially be located in Boston, Holyoke, Lowell, and Springfield.

    Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    Massachusetts Ed Commissioner Recommends Approval of 4 New Charters

    On February 16, 2012, Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Chester Mitchell announced that he will recommend four new charters be granted to groups looking to open schools in Boston, Holyoke, Springfield and Lowell. Baystate Academy Charter (Springfield), Collegiate Charter of Lowell, and Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter (Holyoke) will be Commonwealth charter schools while Dudley Street Neighborhood School (Boston) will be a Horace Mann charter school. Commonwealth charters are fully autonomous and operate independently of the local school district; Horace Mann charters are developed and operated in close operation with the host school district and, unlike Commonwealth charters, require approval by the local school committee. Two other charter school applicants during the 2011-12 cycle (Somerville Progressive and Springfield Preparatory) were not recommended for approval but can reapply during future cycles.

    • Baystate Academy Charter School will enroll Springfield students in grades 6-12 beginning in 2013-14 and has a proposed maximum capacity of 560 students (80 students in each grade). According to the schools' founders, Baystate will have a STEM focused, health sciences orientated curriculum. The school plans to partner with Baystate Health, Springfield Technical Community College, and Expeditionary Learning in order to prepare students to enter their post-secondary education and health careers with scientific and technical knowledge.
    • Lowell Collegiate Charter School (LCCS) will enroll students in grades K-12 also beginning in 2013-13 and has a proposed maximum capacity of 1,200 students. The school will start with grades K-5 and will expand until it reaches the 12th grade. LCCS will fully implement SABIS education program, assessment system, instructional methods and school management model.
    • Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School will enroll 500 students from Holyoke, West Springfield, Chicopee, Westfield, South Hadley and Northampton in grades 9-12. PFSJCS will run on an 180 day school year beginning in 2012-13 with students attending class from 8:30am - 4pm four days a week and 8:30am - 3pm on Fridays. The focus of PFSJCS's educational program will be centered on Personal Excellence, Supportive Communities, and Social Responsibility.
    • Dudley Street Neighborhood School will enroll 308 students from Boston in grades K- 5 starting in 2012-13. Dudley will not only run on a longer school day/year but will also implement mixed-grade, looped two year classrooms so that teachers have time to adequately address individual learning needs. Students will be taught by teacher teams of four who will be responsible for 88 students over the two year period; on each team, at least one teacher will be dual-licensed in ESL and one who is dual-licensed in Students with Moderate Disabilities.
    The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will vote on the Commissioner's recommendations for charter school approval on February 28, 2012. There are currently 79 approved charter schools in Massachusetts; approval of these four schools would bring the total to 83.

    Thursday, February 16, 2012

    Graduation Rates in Lynn Vary by Subgroup

    The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently reported both the graduation and dropout rates for the 2010-11 school year. As previously noted, Lynn's dropout rate decreased from 5.4% in 2009-10 to 4.6% in 2010-11 while the graduation rate increased from 68.5% to 68.6% during the same time period. This data indicates educational outcomes for the district as a whole, but what about individual subgroups? The most salient subgroups for our purposes are male, female, English language learner, special education, low income, African American/black, Asian, Hispanic and White.

    [Note:] The graduation rate in Massachusetts is calculated by dividing the number of students who start 9th grade for the first time in the same year minus those who transfer out plus those who transfer in by the number of students in the cohort who graduate in four years or less. Thus the 2011 graduation rate statistic is related to students who started high school in the fall of 2007. 

    In Lynn, the 2011 cohort group consisted of 1097 students. Females in this group were more likely to graduate in four years or less than males (74.8% graduation rate versus 63.5%). Similar gender disparities were seen in Danvers (92% vs. 84.3%), Revere (77.5% vs. 64%) and Salem (86.1% vs. 74.8%). The graduation rate for low income students was not substantially lower than the average for the city (65.8%) while English language learners and special education students did graduate at lower rates (59% and 48.1% respectively). 

    At Lynn English, 80.2% of students starting 9th grade in 2007 graduated in four years or less. English language learners and special education students did graduate at a lower rate than the school average but at a higher rate than the district statistics (73.1%, 56.6%). Special education students did post the highest dropout and non-grad completer rates for all of the listed subgroups. Interestingly, of the racial/ethnic groups, Asian and African American/black students posted the highest graduation rates.

    At Lynn Classical, 75.3% of students graduated in four years or less. There was an exactly 10 percentage points difference in grad rates between males and females while there was a 13 percentage point difference between white and Hispanic students. English language learners graduated from Classical at a slightly lower rate the Lynn English and the district average (55.1%); this group also had the highest rate of non-grad completers.

    At Lynn Tech, 55.2% of students graduated in four years or less. Less than half of English language learners , special education and Asian students graduated in four years while white students had a 66.7% graduation rate. In this cohort group, nearly 12% were still in school (likely to complete a fifth year) while almost a quarter had dropped out. Four year dropout rates for all subgroups ranged between 20 - 33.3%.

    Fecteau-Leary had a small cohort (56) of which 19.6% graduated within four years. Nearly 30% of these students dropped out while 30.4% of the students were still in school and 12.5% received a GED. This was the one school in Lynn where males were more likely to graduate than females (20% vs. 18.8%). The graduation rate for special education students did not differ greatly from the average for the school though this group did have the highest dropout rate.

    *All Data Taken From:

    Monday, February 13, 2012

    This Day in History: February 13

    -Spain recognizes Portugal as an independent nation, 1668

    -New Delhi becomes the capital of India, 1931

    -Stockard Channing, American actress, is born, 1944

    -The last original "Peanuts" comic strip appears in newspapers one day after Charles M. Schulz dies, 2000

    -Holiday: World Radio Day

    Saturday, February 11, 2012

    Will the Increasing Divide Between the Lynn School Committee and Lynn Parents = A Push for More Charters?

    In light of the Lynn School Committee's vote to renew Superintendent Latham's contract for another three years despite parent protest, I thought it would be apt to repost a piece written in December 2011 regarding the disconnect between Lynn school officials and parents/citizens.

    Will parents continue to fight to be heard within the existing system or will increasing frustration related to the Lynn school administration's perceived unresponsiveness to parent concerns/criticisms result in a demand for more charter schools in the city? 

    Friday, February 10, 2012

    Urban District Dropout Rates 2010-11

    On February 10, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reported the annual dropout rates for the Massachusetts as well as the individual districts and schools for the 2010-11 school year. Below are the dropout and graduation rates for the urban districts in the state.

    Dropout RateGraduation Rate
    Fall River 4.7%71.0%
    New Bedford7.1%56.4%

    Statewide the dropout rate decreased from 2.9 to 2.7% while the graduation rate increased from 82.1% to 83.4%. Lynn's dropout rate in 2010-11 was 4.6% which is a decrease of 0.8% from 2009-10; the graduation rate increased by 0.1% from the previous year. Lynn's total high school enrollment in 2010-11 was 4,003 so a 4.6% dropout rate means that 184 students dropped out. In terms of the individual high schools, both Lynn English and Lynn Classical had a 3.9% dropout rate while Lynn Tech had a 4.6% dropout rate (down from 7.1%). Among the urban districts, Lynn ranked second in the dropout category behind Worcester and fifth in the graduation rate category.

    *For last year's figures, see here.

    *All Data Taken From:

    Wednesday, February 8, 2012

    How Much of Lynn's Academic Performance Should be Attributed to the Superintendent?

    On February 7, the Daily Item published an article regarding the topic of renewing Lynn Superintendent Catherine Latham's contract versus posting the job opening. Latham's contract expires on June 30, 2012 and school committee members must inform her by May 1 whether it plans to renew the contract for another three years. If the Lynn SC decides to post the position, Latham would not be precluded from re-applying for her position and could be re-hired if she is deemed to be the best candidate for the position among other potential candidates. While many of the comments in the discussion section of the related to this issue supported either opening the position to the public while still considering Latham or looking for a new super all together, one commenter raised an interesting point. LadyJane04 remarked: 
    Latham may not be doing the best job and many great points have been made, but let's look at what she has to work with and what the real issue is.  We live in a city with a high percentage of minorities and many who do not even speak English then we expect that they are going to take MCA's [sic] and pass?  What about the amount of SPED students in comparison to other districts and the social/emotional issues of our students that come along with a city like Lynn.  Not all students are brought up in a stable home....gangs, drugs, is all here and effects our children every day!  It is no surprise that MCA's [sic] scores are low especially in schools like Harrington and Connery.  There is not one school, teacher, principal, superintendent, etc. to blame.  It is a combination of factors that need to be addressed at the district and state levels.
    This remark raises the important question "How much of the district's failure (or success) should be attributed to the superintendent?"  If one were to simply look at the city's MCAS scores and the fact that Lynn has two Level 4 schools, it would appear that the city is not doing well. But what about those contextual factors that LadyJane04 mentioned? According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 82.4% of Lynn students are low income and nearly 20% of students are Limited English Proficiency  (LEP) while 53.6% speak English as a second language. The LEP populations at some individual schools are even greater; Connery is 43.6% LEP while Harrington is 32.9% LEP. Additionally, 16.5% of the students in Lynn are special education; many of the special education students may also fall into the LEP and/or low income category adding yet another layer to this already complicated picture. There are also other bio-psychosocial issues to consider such as parental involvement, the number of student absences, teen pregnancy, drug use, (sometimes untreated) mental/physical health disorders, homelessness, domestic violence and the list goes on and on. The negative effects of poverty on children have also been well established. While some may compare Lynn's test scores to surrounding communities, it is debatable whether this is an appropriate comparison because there is a considerable population difference between Lynn and  Beverly or Swampscott, for example; Lynn SC members have noted that among urban districts with similar populations, Lynn performs the best academically. While Lynn certainly needs to improve in many areas, what level of responsibility  should be assigned to a single figure (the superintendent) within a large and complex school system?

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    Lynn School Committee Meeting 2/9/12

    The next Lynn School Committee meeting  is scheduled for Thursday February 9, 2012 at 7pm. SC meetings take place at 90 Commercial Street.

    Items on the agenda for the next meeting include: 

    -Superintendent's Contract
    -Opening the Washington School/Redistricting
    -Ratification of Votes Taken in Personnel Sub-Committee - Posting Superintendent's Position

    Friday, February 3, 2012

    This Day in History: February 3

    -The Illinois Territory is created, 1809

    -The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified guaranteeing voting rights to citizens regardless of race, 1870

    -The Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, authorizing the federal government to impose and collect an income tax, 1913

    -Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, dies, 1924

    -The first day of the seven-day Iran blizzard which would later kill 4,000 people making it the deadliest snowstorm in history, 1972

    -A military coup overthrows Alfredo Stroessner dictator since 1954, 1989

    -Holidays: Heroes' Day (Mozambique); Veteran's Day (Thailand)

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012

    School Enrollment Surging in Some Urban MA Districts; Overcrowding an Issue

    Based on the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's 2011-12 enrollment report, it appears as though a number of urban districts are experiencing a huge growth in their public school populations. Worcester, for example, grew from 24,192 students in 2010-11 to 24,411 in 2011-12 while Brockton went from 15,828 students to 16,162. Unanticipated student enrollment growth has left some of these districts to figure out how to accommodate all of their new students while keeping class sizes as low as possible. Additionally, for some schools increases in student enrollment has occurred simultaneously with increases in their limited English proficiency  population as many of the new students that urban school districts are welcoming are immigrants who speak English as a second language. This leaves some financially strapped school districts to not only have to find space for a large group of new students, but also address the added challenge of educating students with limited English language proficiency.

    Overcrowding and concerns about space has been a particularly salient issue in Lynn, which has also seen a large influx of new students. The Lynn Public School District increased from 13,547 students in 2010-11 to 13,731 in 2011-12. This has resulted in a proposal for the opening an innovation school  at the elementary level (Washington) to help lower class sizes at a few of the most populated schools which are mostly those that house the lower grades. Focusing on the lower grades (K-5) at this point is important as this is where much of the dramatic increases in student enrollment in Lynn are currently concentrated. Below is a table detailing student enrollment by grade from 2007-08 to 2011-2012 for the Lynn Public School District. Only enrollment numbers for pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade are shown here as, again, this is a particular area of concern. 


    Here we see that the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten populations are exploding; the enrollment for these grades has increased by 34% and 25%, respectively, from 2007-08. Worcester and New Bedford saw a similar trend. In Worcester, pre-kindergarten enrollment increased from 1,554 students in 2010-11 to 1,624 students in 2011-12 while kindergarten enrollment went from 2,068 to 2,145. New Bedford had 108 more pre-kindergarten students enter its school district in 2011-12 when compared to the previous year.

    Not all schools within each district are seeing an increase in their enrollment. Some schools in Lynn are relatively stable in their enrollment numbers; Brickett's enrollment increased by only two students from 2010-11 to 2011-12 while Callahan has eight fewer students this school year than it did last year. There seems to be just a few schools that are experiencing a substantial growth in their numbers.

    Connery 583606

    *[Editor's Note 2/7/12]: According to the Massachusetts DESE report, Ford School has 598 students; Ford's principal, Dr. Claire Crane, however confirmed on 2/6/12 that enrollment is actually 605.

    From 2010-11 to 2011-12, Ford School grew by 51 students while Harrington welcomed 76 students. Cobbet currently has five 1st grades classrooms and six 2nd grade classrooms because there is a total of 269 students in these two grades combined.  I alluded to English language proficiency previously as this is serious concern for the schools growing at a rapid rate. Ford, for example, is 37.1% limited English proficiency (LEP) and 65.1% 'first language not English;' Ingalls is 34.6% LEP and 66% 'first language not English.'  Large class size is of particular concern for students with limited English skills who may require more personal instruction in order to learn adequately and become proficient in English. For this reason (among others), focusing on and seriously addressing the issue of overcrowding should be a top priority for the city of Lynn and other districts who are experiencing similar increases in student population growth.