The Malden High School Council met at the high school on October 13 to discuss the school data. Principal Edward Lombardi briefed the Council on a variety of topics: how MCAS is scored, how those scores impact the school, and pitched a number of ideas that might help increase scores.

Lombardi stated that “knowing the game we’re playing” is extremely important and expressed the importance of understanding how standardized tests impact the school. The first thing he explained was the Performances and Progress Indicator (PPI), which is an accumulation of test results and other statistics within the school, that plays a large role in classifying schools into levels. For K-8 schools, the only thing that measures is how many students score proficiently on their MCAS as well as the student growth throughout their MCAS experiences. For high schools, both the proficiency and the growth influence the PPI, but graduation and dropout rates are also taken into account.

Lombardi made sure to address a common misconception about how different students affect the PPI and other classifications; it is often believed that ELL students and Special Education students poorly influence the school’s data. However, Lombardi claims quite the opposite: Special Education students who qualify get a specific form of the test, known as MCAS-alt, which is assessed differently, and ELL students actually are quite beneficial to the system, because their growth rate is a huge boost in the school’s PPI.

The Council began briefly discussing a variety of ways to help continuously improve MHS’ scores on the MCAS. The “Writing with Colors” reading and writing program got brought up, in which students are taught to break apart texts into claim, evidence, reason, sentence starters, and words and phrases using different colored highlighters. Lombardi claimed that in the school he worked at previously, students were taught to analyze essays with this method, and their test scores had incredibly high growth rates. Giving students a visual aid will obviously not transform test scores, but the Council agreed that it would give students more confidence in their writing. Everyone at the meeting seemed to agree that if the school focuses on helping students graduate in 4 years, by getting good grades and passing their MCAS tests, the graduation rate would increase; an increased graduation rate and a decreased dropout rate would greatly improve MHS’ PPI, which would be a large step closer to becoming a Level 1 or 2 school.

Although he has only been principal for a few months, Lombardi, along with the School Council, has already begun changing the high school and will continue trying to improve the school with the students’ best interests in mind.

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