Test Scores Show Nantucket Students Keeping Pace In Math, Lagging Behind In Reading

JohnCarl McGrady •

Results from last year’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests indicate that Nantucket Public Schools (NPS) are roughly in line with averages for student achievement in math, but lag behind in reading, though it is unclear how much of the lag is the result of the school system’s large English language learner population.

MAP tests are administered three times a year as a district-level educational monitoring tool, operating at a degree below the MCAS, to help the district understand student achievement and program effectiveness.

Though there were slight differences across the schools, the data suggests that students are achieving at an average level in math, with results trending up from last year. Nantucket Elementary School (NES) was in the 47th percentile for student achievement in the fall, jumping to the 49th percentile in the spring, comparable to the Nantucket Intermediate School (NIS), which moved from the 45th to 55th percentile and Cyrus Peirce Middle School (CPS), which improved from the 43rd to 51st percentile. All three schools improved from last year. Nantucket High School (NHS) was not tested.

Given the small sample size, it is difficult to say if the upward trend is reflective of an actual shift in the underlying data, but Director of Curriculum in STEM Amanda Bardsley believes that as the schools continue to implement the new curriculum introduced last year and gain some distance from the COVID-19 pandemic, scores will continue to improve.

“Our confidence is growing and the data is reflecting that,” Bardsley said. “We just have to keep the cycle of improvement going”

Evan Classroom 042 Katie Kaizer Photography 8d2b89384532f18e1a29b57432d167b9
Dr. Amanda Bardsley. Photo via Egan Maritime Institute

Over the last few years, Bardsley has worked with NPS to improve math teaching practices and implement a new curriculum across the school system.

Bardsley believes that growth demonstrated by students from one test to the next in the same year is just as important as achievement levels. NES was in the 45th percentile for growth, comparable to its achievement score, but NIS and CPS excelled in growth metrics, landing in the 76th and 71st percentiles respectively.

The results of the reading tests were more concerning for NPS. NES, NIS and CPS were all below average in both achievement and growth for reading, with NHS untested. NES was in the 41st percentile for growth and fell as low as the 38th percentile in achievement, the lowest score in the entire district. NIS managed to reach the 48th percentile for achievement in the fall, but fell to the 43rd percentile in the Spring, and was only in the 37th percentile for growth. CPS fell from the 56th to 48th percentile in achievement over the year, scoring a dismal 36th percentile for growth. These numbers put all NPS schools tested in the low achievement, low growth quadrant for reading.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Director of Curriculum in Humanities Mellisa Devitt said.

The problem is not just confined to Nantucket.

“This is one of the first times the state is getting involved with literacy because they are seeing such low literacy rates,” Superintendent Elizabeth Hallett said. But Hallett agreed that NPS needed to do better. “We should be seeing better growth, there’s no question. Everyone should be growing from one test administration to the next. So now we need to see why that’s not happening.”

Superintendent Beth Hallett

One possible reason is that Devitt’s program began later than Bardsley’s, so there has been less time to make progress.

“It was only the first year. Implementation takes three years to show growth,” she said. “We’re just going to start exploring what’s out there. What are other schools doing, what’s working?”

Over the next few years, Devitt plans to increase professional development, establish common terms for literacy, and work on a new curriculum for teachers to implement. But that might not be enough. Devitt also suggested several other reasons for Nantucket’s poor showing on the MAP reading tests. A full 30 percent of island children do not attend pre-k, and Devitt worries they may be entering kindergarten without the necessary reading skills. Additionally, COVID-19 seems to have hit NPS particularly hard.

“Why are we so much lower than the rest? We’re bouncing back from [COVID-19] slower,” she said.

Devitt also pointed out that NPS has a large English language learner population. Throughout the school system, 19 percent of students are English language learners, and fully half have a first language other than English. These numbers are also likely higher if Nantucket High School, which was not tested, is excluded. On a state level, only 13 percent of students are English language learners. Nationally, that number drops to below 11 percent. Given the limitations of the current data, it is impossible to say if this fully accounts for the gap between Nantucket and other schools, but it is likely a factor.

Loading Ad
Loading Ad
Loading Ad

Current News