A note about MCAS from Steve Zrike

Posted on: September 21, 2021

September 21, 2021
Dear Salem Public Schools Families,

Earlier today, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) publicly released Spring 2021 MCAS assessment results for all schools and districts in the Commonwealth.  As expected, Salem, like many districts across the state, saw a decline in performance given the interrupted learning that students experienced over the last 18 months.  

Salem’s results mirror that of the state where more students struggled with their performance on the Math MCAS than on English Language Arts or the Science MCAS.  Given the wide variation in participation rates, the unconventional conditions under which the MCAS was administered, and district teaching and learning approaches, DESE has cautioned us not to make comparisons across districts or across schools within the same district.  Due to the impact of the pandemic, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education also chose not to issue updated district and school accountability ratings this Fall.

The MCAS data provides Salem Public School educators and our families with important diagnostic information on areas where students progressed and where additional support is necessary.  All families will receive their child’s MCAS scores after September 30. Please know that the tests given this Spring were shorter than usual and the results might vary as compared to prior year performance.  Families should also remember that the MCAS is only one indicator of student and school success.  

We know that the remote and hybrid experience presented was challenging conditions for students to learn complex concepts and material virtually during the last two abbreviated school years.  Now that all our students are back full-time for daily in-person learning, we are prepared to respond in a systematic and thoughtful way to address identified gaps, while at the same time taking great care not to overwhelm them.  Specifically, we are taking the following steps:

  • We are beginning the school year with a strong understanding of where each student is through baseline assessments that pinpoint where learning gaps might exist.  This information will help us establish an individualized instructional roadmap for each child.
  • In an effort to assist with the mastery of unfinished learning, we maintained small class sizes while hiring additional staff to personalize learning for as many students as possible.  Each school has been assigned additional staff including tutors and university fellows who will collaborate with classroom teachers to provide coordinated and timely small group instruction that is designed to meet students’ individual needs. 
  • Finally, we will monitor individual student growth throughout the year to regularly adjust our plans for each student depending on their progress.  It is now more essential than ever to provide targeted and nuanced support to all students throughout the year.

More information on Salem’s results can be found on the DESE website.  We will also share more detailed information about our MCAS results and our extensive plans to accelerate student learning at our next School Committee meeting scheduled for Monday, September 27th at 7 pm via Zoom.  Thank you for your continued partnership as we strategically work to use our additional resources to ensure that our students will grow and thrive academically this year.   

Stephen Zrike