The latest MCAS results for Nantucket have school administrators optimistic that scores are beginning to recover and trend back to their original levels prior to the COVID pandemic. But, they said, there is still significant ground to make up to reach pre-pandemic success in some areas.
The Nantucket School Committee held a workshop Tuesday evening to present the 2023 MCAS results. They said that the 2023 English language arts (ELA) and math data indicates that the achievement slide from 2019 has halted and “recovery is underway.”
Nantucket High School principal Mandy Vasil, Cyrus Peirce Middle School principal Mike Horton, and Intermediate School principal Becky Janda each discussed their school’s scores, what they mean, and what the schools are taking away from the results.
Nantucket High School:
In ELA, NHS saw 59 percent of its students meeting or exceeding expectations compared to the state average of 58 percent. The average NHS ELA score was 506, which is up from the 2022 average of 505 and one point shy of the state’s target number (50th percentile) of 507.
Hispanic/Latino numbers dropped from 500 in 2022 to 491 in 2023. The target number was 502.
Meanwhile, white students saw their average score increase from 511 last year to 518 this year – easily surpassing the state’s 50th percentile number of 512.
In math, 48 percent of students met or exceeded expectations compared to the state average of 50 percent. The average NHS score was 497, which was one point down from the 2022 average and two points shy of the state’s 50th percentile score of 499.
Hispanic/Latino scores dropped from 492 to 486 – with the state’s 50th percentile score being 496.
White students surpassed the 50th percentile in math as well. They increased their average score from 503 last year to 507 this year. The state’s 50th percentile score was 505.
In science, 56 percent of students met or exceeded expectations compared to the state average of 47 percent. The average NHS score was a 505, which was a three-point increase from their average score last year and one point shy of the state’s 50th percentile score of 506.
Hispanic/Latino scores decreased from 491 to 488 and fell six points shy of the state’s 50th percentile score of 494.
White students increased their average score from 510 in 2022 to 515 in 2023 – eclipsing the state’s 50th percentile score of 512.
There was not enough data for African American/Black subgroups for each of these three categories, but their scores were included in the overall averages.
Vasil said she was encouraged by the participation rate in her school, which was 100 percent, but said work needs to continue being done towards assisting the English language learner (ELL) student population. She said one way the school has attempted to improve its efforts to educate the ELL students is by developing ELL-specific math, science, english, and social studies courses.
Both Vasil and superintendent Beth Hallett are also participating in a DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) Scheduling Cohort, which was funded through a grant. Nantucket High School is one of eight schools in the state participating. The group helps evaluate schedules and what changes are needed in order to allow certain groups of students to take specific courses.
Vasil said the largest population of students who fail classes in NHS are in the ninth grade. She said they need to continue working towards further supporting the ninth graders to give them a solid foundation to build on as they enter high school. She said establishing that educational foundation in the ninth graders is something she has always felt very strongly leads to a higher rate of student success as they progress through high school.
The high school added an SEI (Sheltered English Immersion) instructional coach this year and Vasil said it has been met with very positive feedback from teachers. They are hoping to add STEM and Humanities instructional coaches because of that feedback – hoping that it will further help give each student the individual instruction they may need.
Cyrus Peirce Middle School:
Horton said that the data, as a whole, is relatively flat – meaning there wasn’t much change in most areas. Horton said the Class of 2026 was one of the strongest classes they have seen in years, so he wasn’t surprised by slight declines in the school averages after that class moved to the high school last year. He also said that when comparing one year to another, it is important to remember that you aren’t always comparing the same groups of students (2022 eight graders are different from the 2023 eighth graders, for example).
In ELA, CPS students averaged a score of 487 compared to the state's 50th percentile score of 494. Last year, the CPS average in ELA was 490.
Hispanic/Latino scores dipped from 482 last year to 476 this year – with the state's 50th percentile being 484.
African American/Black scores rose from 486 to 488 with the target score being 489.
White students remained the same at 496 with a target score of 499.
In math, CPS students averaged a score of 485 compared to the state's 50th percentile of 490.
Hispanic/Latino (480 to 477) and African American/Black (486-483) both dropped three points from the year prior.
White students (492) remained the same. The 50th percentile was 495.
Horton said they had more kids exceeding expectations in math than they have had in a number of years, however they also had a greater number of students who were finding themselves in the not meeting expectations category.
In science, CPS students averaged a score of 492 compared to the state's 50th percentile of 500 and the 2022 average of 496.
Hispanic/Latino scores dipped from 489 last year to 484 this year with the state's 50th percentile score being 493.
White students rose from 501 last year to 503 this year with a target score of 505. There was not enough data for an African American/Black subgroup.
Horton said the goal has always been to continue moving in a direction where the average scores are above the target scores and in the top half of the state. He said Nantucket’s scores have always appeared to be in the 40th-45th percentile, but he is confident they can get those scores into the top half of Massachusetts.
One notable concern Horton had and spent a length of time discussing on Tuesday was the drop in ELA average scores for EL and former EL students, which dropped from 477 to 467. He said they continue to work towards addressing the problem, however he said throwing these scores at their ELL learners can be a lot to ask.
"When we have kids moving to the island, coming to the school, and then asking them to take an ELA test in their second year as part of our district when they speak a different language, that is tough," he said.
Horton believes additional instruction after school would be one of the most effective ways to support not only this group of students, but also to provide as much support as possible for the rest of the school's population.
He suggested the idea of bringing back Parent University, which was an after-school program from 5-7 p.m. every Wednesday that Horton created in 2018. It was funded through a $3,000 grant from the Nantucket Rotary Club, which was used to buy discounted dinners for everyone who attended.
Both students and parents were welcomed to the Intermediate School where there would be two 45-minute learning sessions with a 30-minute dinner period sandwiched in between with food provided by different restaurants across the island each week. The learning sessions were free to attend, and part of the motive was to get parents in the same room as the teachers so they could learn the concepts their kids were working on so if their kids had questions at home, parents would be more equipped to help them with teachers not readily by their side. It also allowed for more interpersonal, direct learning for students with teachers and administrators.
Horton suggested Tuesday/Thursday evening tutoring sessions, or even Saturday morning sessions during the workshop. He said the school is also looking to add a math intervention teacher.
Horton said CPS is continuing to address “chronic absenteeism,” which is students absent for 18 days or more. That number dropped from 20.1 percent in 2022 to 16.6 percent in 2023. It earned them four out of four points for state accountability. He said they have made a dent in this number through a clear process and consequences – including Saturday morning detention.
Nantucket Intermediate School:
The Nantucket Intermediate School saw student growth in a number of areas and performed very well.
In ELA, students averaged a score of 490, which was an increase from 488 in 2022 and is just one point shy of the state’s 50th percentile score of 491.
Hispanic/Latino scores increased from 478 to 482 this year – hitting the 50th percentile score of 482 on the dot.
White students also saw their ELA scores increase from 496 to 498 this year. There was not enough data for an African American/Black subgroup, but their scores contribute to the overall school average.
In math, students averaged a score of 489 – equivalent to last year and two points shy of the state's 50th percentile score of 491.
Hispanic/Latino scores increased from 481 to 482 and came up just one point shy of the 50th percentile score of 483. White students also saw an increase from 496 to 498 – reaching the state’s 50th percentile number. There was not enough data for an African American/Black subgroup, but their scores contribute to the overall school average.
In Science, students averaged a score of 492 – up from 491 last year and one point shy of the 493 state target number.
Hispanic/Latino scores went up from 478 to 479 and are just one point shy of the state’s 50th percentile.
White students saw a leap from their average score of 501 last year to 505 this year. The state’s 50th percentile number is 504. There was not enough data for an African American/Black subgroup, but their scores contribute to the overall school average.
Some of the notable takeaways outlined in the presentation by NIS principal Becky Janda were:
- In ELA and Science, all students and subgroups demonstrated growth towards targets.
- The NIS ELA Mean Student Growth Percentile score of 59 exceeded the state (49.7) mean by almost 10 points.
- NIS Math Mean Student Growth Percentile score of 53 exceeded the state (49.8) by 3 points.
Some of the next steps at NIS to further assist students are a 90 minute, uninterrupted math period for all grade levels; a new math curriculum that aligns with state standards; continued focus on professional development in areas such as math and sheltered English immersion strategies and “belongingness” to increase student growth; adding an EL teacher to support language development in smaller, more targeted groups with opportunities for more inclusion support; and some of the school’s special education and English language teachers participating in an intense professional development program to support struggling readers.
Janda said they are also exploring the possibility of providing additional STEM time for all students.
NPS finds itself below the state averages in a number of areas.
Educators said that beginning in 2022, they begin to see the impact of inconsistent delivery of foundational literacy skills due to the COVID pandemic.
Grade 10 ELA scores remain above the state average, but are lower than last year’s score and pre-pandemic scores.
In math, Nantucket appears to be rebounding at a faster rate than the state on average in most grades, however they still find themselves below pre-pandemic scores outside of grade four.
In science, growth was shown but administrators say that there is still work to be done to reach pre-pandemic levels.
For EL and former EL learners, the school has identified former EL learners as a subgroup that needs further support. They added that by Grade 10, they make up ground on the state in nearly every special category within the District's special population (includes students with disabilities, high needs, low income, EL learners, and former EL learners) outside of EL students.