Although the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District only has two years of history as a combined district, the 2013 MCAS scores show clear growth over last year.

As ASRSD is measured in performance levels for each tested subject, the state has set the bar for average at the proficient level in hopes that every student will reach proficient. In Ayer and Shirley, the schools are hitting the mark.

The state ranks a Cumulative Performance Index (CPI) of each school district that directly relates to accountability levels. The schools are rated on a scale of one to five, one being the highest and five falling into state receivership. This year ASRSD is ranked at level two, as it was last year.

The state has determined that the lowest level of any one school in a district ultimately equals the CPI. All of the schools received a level two, except Page Hilltop that came in at level one, "and the high school just barely missed the target," Assistant Superintendent Mary Beth Hamel said.

The state also looks at the Student Growth Percentiles (SGP), which is a one-year look back at the schools' growth over time on English Language Arts and Mathematics.

The state assigns growth rates and sets a target for each subject, and each year they gradually raise them based on how the school did the year prior.

"The state has indicated that between 40 and 60 is the average (SGP) rate and within that they have a target set," Hamel said. "Originally it was set at 49, but this year it was set at 51 for ELA, and our district report for ELA is 49. For math, the state set a target at 51, and as a district, our median is at 49."

According to Hamel, the state also reports the same data for each grade level, and although mathematics has made great strides in this area, there is still room for improvement.

Last year the state set the mathematics SGP at a target of 51. Tenth-grade mathematics only came in at 21.5. This year, that score met the state target of 51.

"When you see this much of an improvement you are looking at the teachers' ability to adapt to new curriculums and help the students in a new way," Hamel said.

Although there have been great improvements in mathematics, ASRSD would like to see the scores even higher. Areas of focus for the district remain in mathematics and ELA composition writing.

In fourth and seventh grade, the ELA MCAS exam requires a long composition portion that seems to be of some concern for the schools, although these grades are coming in at average, ASRSD believes rates could be much higher.

Follow Julia Kacmarek on Twitter and Tout @JuliaEKacmarek and Like her page "Julia E Kacmarek" on Facebook.