Watertown School Recognized for MCAS Results, No Schools Require Intervention

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Hosmer Elementary School in Watertown.

The State recognized a Watertown School for its results on the 2019 MCAS test, and Watertown Middle School improved its scores enough so that it will no longer be under special scrutiny by state officials.

Superintendent Dede Galdston gave an overview of the Watertown Public Schools’ results on the statewide standardized test at Monday’s School Committee meeting.

“We did very well on the exams,” Galdston said. “I am very proud of the work that was done last year, and we will no longer require assistance or intervention (from the state).”

Under the new version of the MCAS, schools receive up to four points in a variety of categories, including growth and achievement in English Language Arts, math and sciences. Other indicators are looked at such as chronic absenteeism for all schools and four year graduation rate at the high school. The state also looks at the “lowest performing students,” which is the bottom 25 percent.

The scoring system is different from the original MCAS tests, and calculating a score for a school or district is complicated. The scores are then weighted with the all students category getting more weight than the lowest 25 percent. Then a final percentage is calculated. Then the previous year’s scores are included, and and overall score is calculated, with the current year weighted 60-40 over the previous year.

Schools are also given a target score, and the results classify them in one of seven designations, from “Broad/comprehensive support” on the low end, to “School of Recognition” on the top.

The Watertown Public Schools as a district earned the designation of “Substantial progress toward targets.” The 2019 scores for Watertown gave it a score of 56 percent, after getting 73 percent in 2018, for an overall score of 63 percent.

Some of the scores can be confusing. School Committee Vice Chair Kendra Foley pointed out that as a district Watertown got a zero on English Language Arts (ELA) achievement but got a three in ELA growth.

Galdston said that the growth measures the scores of a cohort students (i.e., the same group as fourth grade one year, and as fifth graders the next year). Achievement, however, is based on the current year’s results.

“Our students grew more than others in that cohort, but did not necessarily achieve as highly,” Galdston said.

See the Watertown Public Schools scores report by clicking here.

School Results

One school in particularly, the Hosmer Elementary School, stood out not only compared to other schools in town, but across the state.

“They got threes and fours across the board,” Galdston said. “Hosmer is one of 67 schools in the state to be recognized for high growth.”

In 2019, Hosmer got 91 percent overall, and 91 percent on the 2019 MCAS, as well. It was given the designation of “Meeting or exceeding targets.” (See the Hosmer Elementary School results by clicking here).

Watertown Middle School’s scored zeros in math, ELA and science achievement in 2018, and the which mean the school required intervention. This included creating a school improvement plan. This year the school got a two in Math, a one in science and zero in ELA overall.

Bigger improvements were seen in the lowest performing students, which got threes and fours in 2019, compared to zeros, ones and twos in 2018. The improvement moved it into the designation of “Moderate progress toward targets.” (See the Watertown Middle School results by clicking here).

The scores at the high school rose from 40 percent in 2018 to 60 percent in 2019, and the overall score was 63 percent. The school got several fours, but got two points for ELA growth and the four year graduation rate. It got the designation of “Substantial progress toward targets” (See the Watertown High School results by clicking here).

Cunniff Elementary School’s overall percentage was 62 percent, and in 2019 the school got 40 percent. It got zeros in ELA and science achievement and in ELA for the lowest performing students. The school was given the designation of “Substantial progress toward targets.” (See the Cunniff Elementary School results by clicking here).

“There was a big increase at the high school, and a little drop at the Cunniff,” Galdston said. “I don’t think it is something we should be alarmed about.”

Lowell Elementary School’s overall score was 75 percent. In 2019 the overall score was 81 percent, and got mostly fours with some threes and a zero for science achievement. It was given the status of “Meeting or exceeding targets.” (See the Lowell Elementary School results by clicking here).

On Oct. 21, School officials will give a more in depth presentation about the school-by-school MCAS results the next the School Committee meets. The meeting will be held at Lowell Elementary School, 175 Orchard St., on Oct. 21.

8 thoughts on “Watertown School Recognized for MCAS Results, No Schools Require Intervention

  1. Congrats! Well done. I’m curious as to what factors account for these dramatic improvements in performance and test scores.

  2. I don’t really believe that our schools improved in any substantial way. This has long been a pattern in this town with much lower performing schools compared to the rest of the state and especially compared to our neighbors. Look at any ranking for schools and you will find Watertown Public Schools ranked BELOW AVERAGE for various reasons. Look at GreatSchools and you will see some troubling comments from parents, teachers, and students.

    What I also find concerning is that there is a lot of discussion about building a new high school and renovating all our elementary schools. My understanding is the money for the elementary schools would come from the town, which of course begs the question – If we had the money for this then why didn’t we do this a lot sooner, as in many years ago?

    The next concern I have is in regards to high school and the plans to rebuild it. In order to rebuild it the additional expense for it needs to come from the property owners in town. This has to be voted on and I am not so sure residents/voters will want to increase their taxes especially given that the schools seem to have many internal problems. The MSBA will not cover the entire expense of a new school the remaining money needs to come from residents. For instance, Belmont voted YES to build a new high school and that increase for property owners will mean the average homeowner in that town will see an increase in their property taxes of at least $1500.00 a year. I don’t see Watertown residents going along with this. I know I will likely vote against it, especially given that we recently had a tax hike for a CPA tax.

    What if voters reject this new tax hike? What happens then?

    • Good questions. The money the Town will be spent on the elementary schools has been going to pay down the pension deficit that Watertown had. That will be paid down at the end of FY 2020. (Note that all towns in Mass ls faced the deficit).

      If the high school is voted down the high school will project will be at the very least delayed. I think the town would have to reapply to the MSBA.

      As for tax Bill’s, I have not seen numbers but I think they will be lower. I believe Watertown has more households and I am pretty sure Belmont does not do the shift property taxes onto commercial/industrial properties, partly because they do not have the commercial base that Watertown has. Stay tuned. The debt exclusion (property tax I create for the high school) will be on the ballot in 2021.

    • I’m not exactly sure what changes some folks expect to see happen in Watertown public schools within a single year, but the specific evidence sited in this article regarding increased MCAS scores (some quite dramatic) across ALL schools over this past year definitely seems to indicate that positive things are happening. Again, congrats WPS. The new school buildings will certainly be a catalyst for progress, as will the influx of upwardly mobile young couples calling Watertown home.

  3. Yes cohorts, who were certainly low, are doing better this year. This is encouraging. However the commenter does make a point that over the years the trend line is not great, which is factual too. Mcast is one data point that, though different tests in the past 5 years with Parcc/Mcast and Mcast 2, certainly provides that trend line comparison against state and other towns as average or below. Looking at Wms, the results are less stellar generally. Other general data points which can be looked at Sat scores, high school graduation rates, college acceptance (where/rates) along with graduation rates from those colleges would be good information to gauge along with feedback from parents(which looks like she/he did look to some sites with parental feedback). I’m not certain if WPs collects the information above but it would be helpful. Other factors would be our schools population and the challenges and opportunities that come with that population. Some of which the value can not be quantitatively measured( The diversity is a great plus IMO) . I agree that Rome was not built in a year but progress in schools is very slow, maybe give it 5-8 more years otherwise supplement if you can which is unfortunate.

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