PEPPERELL -- Just as student performance is periodically evaluated with report cards, so is the performance of every school in the state.
Schools from the North Middlesex Regional School District were given report cards at the end of December gauging each school's performance in areas including attendance, standardized test scores and growth from year to year.
Although North Middlesex Regional High School did not meet its target goals in some areas, Superintendent Joan Landers said progress is being made, and overall the developments are positive.
The high school was designated as a Level 2 school, with Level 1 schools meeting their goals to narrow the proficiency gap, and Level 5 schools being the lowest performing in that metric.
Throughout the state, 48 percent of schools were designated as Level 2.
Landers cited the example of low MCAS participation, which contributed to the Level 2 rating, as being a somewhat misleading statistic.
"This is not indicative of low overall participation, but that one of our identified subgroups had less than the required 95 percent participation. That means that if a subgroup consists of 20 students and more than one student misses the exam, less than 95 percent of the students participated," she said.
Overall participation for all NMRHS students was 97 percent for the English language arts exam, 98 percent for mathematics and 97 percent for science.
Landers also said that while the high school's daily attendance rate was below the state average, it has improved over the last three years due to changes in the attendance policy, better communication about attendance issues and more consistent enforcement.
The suspension rate, she said, is well below the state average.
Landers praised student improvement on the ELA exam, which saw the number of students who scored as proficient or advanced rise from 86 percent to 97 percent last year.
"Additionally, we have made adjustments to our mathematics curriculum. The students who have experienced the new curriculum will be tested this year, and we are confident that we will see similar increases in our math scores as well in next year's report card," she said.
In the district's elementary and middle schools, the reports were mixed.
Nissitissit and Hawthorne Brook Middle Schools did not reach their target goals for narrowing the proficiency gap and were also designated as Level 2 schools.
At Nissitissit, proficiency rates were 77 percent in ELA, 64 percent in math and 47 percent in science. But although these numbers are low, they are still all above the state averages.
Hawthorne Brook is slightly below the state averages in math and science, at 52 percent and 41 percent, respectively.
Ashby, Spaulding Memorial and Varnum Brook Elementary Schools also all received the Level 2 ranking. Varnum Brook and Spaulding Memorial saw below-average growth rates.
To combat this in ELA, Landers said the schools have already put in place new strategies to improve student learning.
"We have instituted a reader's workshop at all grade levels that allows students to be assessed at their individual level in areas of accuracy, fluency and comprehension. We have redesigned our reading blocks to ensure that in-class individual student reading takes place for 30 minutes daily with on-level text," Landers said of developments at Varnum Brook.
In math, the Envision Common Core program, which is now in its third year, is just beginning to show results, Landers said.
"Our goal this year is two-fold: to increase the amount of opportunities students have to discuss mathematical problems using academic vocabulary, and to increase their knowledge of completing performance tasks," she said about efforts at Spaulding Memorial.
Special-education sub-groups at all three elementary schools did not meet their growth targets this year.
Landers praised the work of the teachers and administrators who are working to make sure the schools continue to progress.
"Our staff continue to work to provide the best education we can for our students. During the last few years, staff participation in district-wide professional and curriculum development is moving our school programs in the right direction," she said.
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