Boston-Dorchester Elementary School Exits Turnaround Status, Numerous Boston Public Schools Meet or Exceed Goals

State Releases 2018 School Accountability Results, Implements New Standards System

Winthrop Elementary School paraprofessional Jessica Lopez-Hernandez, on left, poses for a photo on September 26 with longtime teachers LaWanda Finley and Michelle Lydon and students.

BOSTON — Thursday, September 27, 2018 — Today, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released its annual statewide school and district accountability results, which reflect overall improvement for the Boston Public Schools (BPS) as a district and for numerous schools, including the John Winthrop Elementary School in Dorchester, which is exiting “Turnaround” status.

Two other BPS schools were highlighted by DESE as “Schools of Recognition” for making significant gains: the Winship Elementary School in Brighton and the Joseph P. Manning Elementary School in Jamaica Plain.

“These accountability results provide a benchmark of our successes and identify focus areas where we can further improve the Boston Public Schools,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “School improvement doesn’t occur overnight, and these results show the progress we can make with years of commitment and hard work. We will continue our work across the district to provide high quality education and learning facilities for all of our students.”

This year, DESE’s new accountability system designates BPS as “Partially Meeting Targets” as a district; BPS was previously designated “Level 4.” No additional BPS schools this year are being placed into the equivalent of Turnaround status, which is now called “Broad/Comprehensive Support” under the new accountability system. (See more information lower in this release on the new system.)

“It’s important to celebrate and recognize the positive news from this year’s accountability results, while acknowledging that work to raise student achievement across the district remains,” said Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto. “Teachers, staff, and families throughout the district are working passionately every day to make sure all students are making consistent improvements in learning outcomes.”

In grades 3-12, BPS improved or stayed level overall on English language arts and math — with the subgroup of lowest-performing students exceeding the math target for grades 3-8, and meeting the target for English language arts for grades 3-10. BPS also surpassed targets for high school dropout rate, and met many targets for growth in math for grades 9-12. However, the results identify room for improvement on DESE’s newest accountability indicators: chronic absenteeism, progress toward obtaining English proficiency for English Learners, and advanced coursework completion for high school students.

“In the Boston Public Schools, we congratulate the schools that made significant gains while continuing to provide targeted, ongoing support for schools needing improvements,” said BPS Interim Superintendent Laura Perille. “Our schools that made major progress show all of us that, when given the right supports and approach, all students can accelerate their learning. Our teachers, staff, families, and administrators do a tremendous job collaborating and working strategically to create the best possible outcomes for all students.”

NEW ACCOUNTABILITY SYSTEM

The state’s new accountability system no longer ranks schools by using the numerical levels 1-5. The new system includes additional factors such as chronic absenteeism rates, engagement of students who do not graduate within four years, raising the performance of each school’s subgroup of lowest-performing students, progress toward English proficiency for English learners, and advanced coursework completion. Because the new accountability system assesses schools using additional factors, DESE does not recommend comparing a school’s overall percentile ranking from the 2018 accountability results with previous years.

The new system has four categories for ranking schools and districts, which are:

• Meeting Targets. This is the designation for 23 BPS schools.

• Partially Meeting Targets. This is the designation for 29 BPS schools.

• Needing Focused/Targeted Support (requiring intervention.) This is the designation for 41 BPS schools.

• Requiring Broad/Comprehensive Support (requiring intervention). This is the designation for nine BPS schools.

(The BPS rankings do not include Horace Mann charter schools or schools with insufficient data, which are primarily early learning centers or schools that do not serve a sizable group of students above grade 3.)

WINTHROP SCHOOL EXITS TURNAROUND

The Winthrop Elementary School had been placed into Level 4 status in 2013 for being among the lowest-achieving and least-improving schools in Massachusetts. The school is now designated as “Meeting Targets.” DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley determined the Winthrop School may exit Turnaround Status due to improved leadership and instructional practices, along with higher MCAS scores, and meeting of accountability targets, among other factors.

“Our entire school community is grateful that the state has recognized the ongoing improvements taking place at the Winthrop Elementary School,” said Principal Leah Blake McKetty. “With the support of BPS, our school has adopted an inclusionary approach with a differentiated system of instruction for the variety of learners we serve. While we continue to improve our student performance, it’s humbling to be recognized as heading in the right direction.”

This year, the Winthrop School exceeded achievement targets in English language arts and science, met targets for chronic absenteeism improvement, and exceeded targets for performance of its lowest-performing students subgroup.

With the support of BPS, the Winthrop School adopted an inclusionary approach with a differentiated system of instruction of a variety of learners, including those with various levels of special needs and English proficiency. The school has taken advantage of teacher coaching, use of Expanded Learning Time for literacy interventions, coordinating cross-disciplinary lessons (for example, connecting lessons between math and English language arts) to make content more engaging, and increased use of technology through partnerships, including one with Nataxis.

SCHOOLS WITH STRONG IMPROVEMENTS

Many BPS schools met or exceeded their targets in 2018, representing significant improvement in many cases. Those schools include:

●     The Winship Elementary School in Brighton

●     The Ellis Mendell Elementary School in Roxbury

●     The Joseph P. Manning Elementary School in Jamaica Plain

●     The Oliver W. Holmes Elementary School in Dorchester

●     East Boston High School

●     The Dante Alighieri Montessori School in East Boston

●     The Michael J. Perkins Elementary School in South Boston

●     The Hugh R. O’Donnell Elementary School in East Boston

●     The James Otis Elementary School in East Boston

●     Boston Latin School in Fenway

●     The Edison K-8 School in Brighton

●     The Wolfgang Mozart Elementary School in Roslindale

●     The Patrick Lyndon K-8 School in West Roxbury

●     The Harvard-Kent Elementary School in Charlestown

●     The Curtis Guild Elementary School in East Boston

●     The John D. O’Bryant School for Math and Science in Roxbury

●     The James Hennigan K-8 School in Jamaica Plain

●     The Nathan Hale Elementary School in Roxbury

●     The Oliver H. Perry K-8 School in South Boston

●     The Joseph Tynan Elementary School in South Boston

The Winship School in Brighton, which was designated as a Level 3 school in 2016 — meaning it was in the lowest 20% of schools statewide — met or exceeded nearly all targets in every category this year, which led to its “School of Recognition” designation. Monakatellia Ford Walker, the principal of the Winship, said in recent years teachers have increased peer observation and feedback, coaching, use of data, expanded opportunities for hands-on learning, and aligned instruction to best practices.

“The Winship teachers and staff have created a clear and shared vision of student learning,” Ford Walker said. “We’ve established high standards and expectations for all students, and focused on creating a positive school culture that is welcoming to all. Our school recognizes the power of students learning by doing, and I think that has helped make learning fun and engaging for everyone.”

The Manning School in Jamaica Plain, which had a Level 2 designation in 2016, exceeded all achievement and growth targets in English language arts and math this year. Additionally, the school exceeded its target for decreasing chronic absenteeism for students with disabilities. The Manning was recognized as a “School of Recognition” for both high growth and exceeding targets.

“At the Manning we have been focused on doing two things incredibly well: high level academics for all students and creating an inclusive environment in which students with emotional impairments are able to be successful,” said Manning Principal Ethan d’Ablemont Burnes. “This data shows that this is possible! And it is also a testament to all of our team members of the hard work they have done over many years to make this possible.”

At the Mendell School in Roxbury, Principal Julia Bott said embracing an inclusionary model, which includes the Excellence for All program, has improved school culture and performance. The school was most recently a Level 3 but now exceeds targets on MCAS and several other areas.

“Our entire staff and school community are ecstatic at the improvements our students have made,” Bott said. “The Mendell School’s progress is a reflection of our core values, which promote inclusionary practices and a deep belief that all students — not just some — have the ability to learn at high standards. I would like to thank our teachers, staff, and families for always having faith in our students.”

At East Boston High School, formerly a Level 3 school, Headmaster Phillip Brangiforte credits the school’s increasing graduation rate and a strong school culture as factors in its improvements.

“For many years, we at East Boston High School have worked tirelessly to serve all of our students, especially recent immigrants learning English as teenagers and students with disabilities,” Brangiforte said. “As these populations have grown, we have done everything we can to support our students to make sure they graduate high school. All of our hard work as a school community is beginning to pay off. We are pleased that the state is recognizing these efforts as we continue our important work.”

WHERE IMPROVEMENT IS NEEDED

While the Boston Public Schools is proud of its achievements on the 2018 accountability results, BPS continues to focus on several areas in need of improvement.

BPS has taken a proactive approach to supporting schools in the district whose performance was declining. Over the last year, BPS reorganized schools with the highest needs of support into small networks to collaborate and receive additional assistance from BPS academic specialists. This followed BPS conducting targeted assessments and interventions of these particular schools. BPS will continue to support these schools with individualized assistance and resources.

Science, in particular, has been identified as a focus area in need of further improvement. Despite slight improvement on science MCAS test results for grades 5 and 10, an overall low proportion of students scored proficient or advanced in any grade level. In an effort to address this challenge, several BPS schools have begun to use new science curricula that are aligned with updated national “Next Generation” science standards. The district is evaluating the effectiveness of these new materials.

Chronic absenteeism, defined as students missing 10% of the school year or more — typically 18 school days or more in a 180-day school year — is another area the district seeks to improve. Since last year, the chronic absenteeism rate increased from 19.1% to 19.7% for grades 1-8, and 35.4% to 36.1% for grades 9-12. BPS has taken a number of steps to address chronic absenteeism, which include the use of teen mentoring programs, attendance officers, an automated Attendance Intervention Plan system, and the “I’m In” attendance campaign in collaboration with the Boston Celtics.

ACHIEVEMENT GAPS

A top priority of BPS is working to close achievement gaps among students, and new data highlight areas of need. For example, in MCAS math scores for grades 3-8, 71% of Asian students met or exceeded expectations, compared to 60% of White students, 23% of Latino students, and 20% of Black students with an average of 32% of all students. For students with disabilities, 8% met or exceeded expectations in math for grades 3-8; while 15% of current English Learners did so along with 51% of former English Learners.

COMPLETE DISTRICT AND SCHOOL RESULTS

To view the complete list of 2018 accountability reports for the district and each school, visit this page on the DESE website.

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