Reading, MA — Superintendent of Schools Thomas Milaschewski provided a “district-level” review of last year’s MCAS scores to the School Committee last Thursday, highlighting three positive results and three areas for concern.
MIlaschewski reported that the school accountability profile for six of the eight schools in the district was the highest in school history, with seven of the eight schools scoring in the eightieth percentile. These scores are representative of school improvement in scale and consistency of improvement. Of note was the school accountability score for Joshua Eaton Elementary School, scoring in the ninety-second percentile, the highest in the district. Milaschewski attributed these scores to investments made in leadership, consistent professional development, and improvement in systems and structures.2023-MCAS-District-Level-Data-Review
Reported student growth percentiles (SGP) was also a positive result for the district. This is a score that is developed through a combination of both growth and proficiency. Milaschewski shared that Reading Public Schools (RPS) is the only district in the state with grades four and five scoring over the sixty-first percentile in English and Language Arts (ELA). The district scored fourth in the state overall for elementary ELA. He also reported that every elementary school in the district was over the fiftieth percentile in math.
Milaschewski attributed the scores as an “early return on investment” the district made in the new literacy curriculum this past year with funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. “SGP is a really encouraging trend for us,” School Committee chair Thomas Wise noted.
Milaschewski continued to share that RPS scored in the top ten percent of districts in the state in overall ELA achievement. “We would not have made these gains without this investment in curriculum,” Milaschewski proclaimed.
The third positive result highlighted by Milaschewski was in math results at Reading Memorial High School (RMHS). He reported that RMHS scored the highest SGP, 64, in its history, with an average score of 60 for students on individual education plans or high-needs groups. Milaschewski said that RMHS math scores exceed pre-pandemic levels.
Milaschewski also reported on three areas of concern. Overall performance percentage has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels. “Overall, proficiency levels are in the middle to lower levels of our peer communities,” Milaschewski stated.
The achievement gap between those in high-needs groups and regular-day students has yet to improve. He also noted the disparity between achievement scores at Coolidge Middle School and Parker Middle School. Of particular concern was the School Accountability Profile for Parker, which scored a 62 in the measure, the only school in the district to score below an eighty in the same measure.
Milaschewski outlined plans for improvement in scores, including increased professional development, improved systems and structure and use of data, and curriculum review at the middle school level. He did note that some of the disparity between Parker and Coolidge had already been diagnosed as a curriculum mapping issue that has already been addressed. The discovery of the issue, according to Milaschewski, emphasized the need for continued improvement in school systems.
School committee member Shawn Brandt noted that the SGP scores for elementary students were encouraging and stood out as an “indicator of where we are going.” Member Sarah McLaughlin used the data to encourage even more targeted interventions for grades two and three students.
Milaschewski shared that each district school will present its school-level results to the school councils and the community at large in a series of events. At that time, each school will offer improvement plans, which will provide roadmaps for improvement in specific areas of need. Parents should expect their students’ individual reports sometime in the next two weeks.
Resident Steven Cool proposed a plan to the School Committee by which 13,000 square feet of space adjacent to Birch Meadow Elementary School could be set aside to create a dog park. Cool noted that 30 percent of Reading households have a dog and that the need for a dog park has been shared with the Select Board. He also said that Reading could apply for a $275,000 grant from the Stanton Foundation to help pay for the park if plans could be developed by December.
Cool indicated that the school would benefit through improved lighting, the area’s clean-up, and a possible water fountain for student use. “We could be a good neighbor for the school,” Cool concluded.
School committee member Erin Gaffen, while supporting the need for a dog park, said that she would have difficulty removing outdoor play areas for the students at the school. She also added that while Killam Elementary School is the focus of the school building project, future building plans for Birch Meadow still needed to be resolved. “I don’t feel like putting [the dog park] next to one of our schools is an optimal choice,” Gaffen concluded.Reading-Dog-Park-Proposal
Member Carla Nazzaro agreed. “It bothers me to see a little playground for the kids and a large one for the dogs,” Nazzaro stated. She also expressed potential security concerns with locating the park next to a school. Brandt added on with concerns regarding students who may be triggered by dogs. “[The space next to Birch Meadow] doesn’t feel like the right space,” Brandt declared.
The committee chose to refrain from acting on a motion to provide the space for the dog park.
Milascheski provided the committee with an updated school enrollment report, noting the rise in students with disabilities, up over 100 since last year. He reported that similar statistics have been seen in other communities as well. He also shared that the district has 73 students above projected enrollment, many of whom are in preschool.
Birch Meadow Phase II
The School Committee voted 5-0 to approve an updated letter from the Killam School Building Committee to be presented at Town Meeting. It also voted 5-0 to transfer control of a piece of land in the Birch Meadow complex to the Select Board. This will allow the town to use PARC grant funds to enhance the area as part of the Birch Meadow Phase II project. The committee also welcomed its new student representative, Emily Goodhue, to the committee and heard from members of the Rocket Ambassador Program.
The School Committee adjourned at 8:50 p.m.