Lynn Schools improve grade on MCAS

LYNN — This year’s report card from the state shows Lynn Public Schools has shown a significant improvement in meeting its achievement targets, but there’s still a lot of work to do with meeting the needs of its English Language Learners and special education students. 

Results show Lynn is meeting 64 percent of its targets, up from 45 percent last year, which is based on Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) scores, student growth, high school completion, progress toward English proficiency, chronic absenteeism and advanced coursework completion.

The new scores, part of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) accountability system and shared during Thursday’s School Committee meeting, have upgraded the district’s status from “partially meeting targets”  to “showing substantial progress toward targets.”  

Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler said the designation is one step away from the highest the state offers. A district is considered to be meeting targets at 75 percent. 

“I always will credit the incredibly hard work and dedication of our staff in situations such as these,” Tutwiler said in an interview before the meeting. “Make no mistake about it, this is a reflection of excellence in the classroom.” 

In addition, he credited the new “Every Student, Every Day” attendance initiative and the extended learning time initiative around math for the bolstered student performance. 

For instance, the district met its chronic absenteeism targets at the high school level, and improved, but did not meet its targets in grades 3 to 8. Math scores increased in the majority of grades 3 to 8, but declined in sixth and seventh grade. 

Although Lynn’s MCAS scores are below the state average, Tutwiler said a more fair comparison would be to compare the district’s results to the state’s 10 commissioner’s districts, or 10 largest urban districts. 

Lynn outperformed those districts in grade 5 and 8 science scores, and scored second to Lowell in English Language Arts and math scores for all grades. 

Despite an overall improvement in MCAS scores and accountability measurements, there’s still a 20-point achievement gap between ELL and non-ELL students and special education students and their regular education counterparts for ELA in grades 3 to 8. A similar gap is seen for those subgroups in math scores in those grades. 

“This has to change,” Tutwiler said. “One should not be able to predict gaps of this magnitude. We need to continue to improve performance among subgroups.” 

Overall achievement scores are much higher at the non-high school level, where the district met 71 percent of its targets. Lynn only met 49 percent of its targets for high school. 

Part of the challenge of the new accountability system, which is in its second year, is that the performance of the lowest 25 percent of students constitutes half of a district’s performance determination.

Lynn’s scores mean the district is not categorized as “requiring assistance” from the state, but three schools — Washington STEM Elementary School, Thurgood Marshall Middle School, and Lynn Classical High School” are in that category, based on their performance.

In addition, the district has identified Ingalls Elementary School and Lynn English High School, as needing targeted support. Those schools, along with the three identified by the state, will be required to enter the district’s framework of support, which is an extra layer of support for schools. 

Still, Tutwiler said administrators are encouraged by what they’re seeing. He said performance was strong, but the district is approaching work this year with a sense of measured urgency in terms of meeting the needs of its student population. There’s unique challenges in an urban district, such as many students who experience trauma, he said.

“Make no mistake about it, we still have work to do,” said Tutwiler, adding the district was committed to meeting its targets.

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