The following is a letter to the editor from Paul Cully. Letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the views of WestfordCAT or its Board of Directors. To submit your own letter, e-mail [email protected]
How interesting that, using three-year-old data, you find an entity that rates the Westford School District third in the nation [WestfordCAT News Online – 05-12-2016 edition]. How quickly a school system can go downhill is perhaps clear by considering more current data.
Boston Magazine, which considers numbers provided by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and rewards schools that have smaller class sizes, lower student-to-teacher ratios, and higher rates of per-pupil spending. They’ve also deemphasized test results. They still take standardized test scores into account—but they reduce the weight of those scores within the overall rankings. They also changed the way they measure Advanced Placement scores. Previously, they considered only the percentage of Advanced Placement test takers who scored highly on the AP exam. This year, they also looked at the percentage of students in each school who took the exam in the first place.
This netted 19th place, just among Massachusetts schools.
Independently, Great Schools rates schools in Massachusetts using more than just raw test scores:
· Student achievement: Student achievement tells parents how well students at a school are doing in academics. This is measured as the percent of students meeting state standards based on state standardized tests. While this measure tells parents how well students at a school are doing currently, it does not necessarily show how much students are learning at that school — that is, how much students are growing.
· Student growth: Measures of student growth tell parents how much students are actually learning in a year, rather than how much they already know. A school with high growth could be a school with students that started behind grade level and have now caught up. It could also be a school with students that started already above grade level and have moved even further ahead of similar students. Student growth is typically measured through gains on test scores year-over-year, comparing similar students with each other.
· College readiness: Data on high school graduation rates and performance/participation on college entrance exams (such as the SAT and ACT) show how well students are prepared for life after high school in college or career.
In this rating scheme, Westford fails to secure a top rating. Instead, it rates a 9 out of 10, where it used to rate a 10.
And U S News ratings are even worse. It rates Westford Academy 46th just in the State of Massachusetts.
Parents of children in Westford should consider banding together to insist that town government stop alienating teachers and start properly funding their school system. It takes so little to bring down a school system that took years to raise to the high standard that homeowners expected when they made the decision to move to Westford for the schools. In this, town government has failed.