The largest Proficient/Advanced gain in the state
by Gary Kaplan, JFYNetWorks Executive Director
MCAS scores for 2017 were released last month. JFY’s partner schools logged many good results, but Madison Park Technical Vocational High School was far and away the year’s high point.
Madison Park has come in for heavy criticism for many years. Every news story about school problems cites it as one of the lowest performing schools in the state. There is justification for concern: scores have historically been low and the school was demoted to Level 4 in 2015. In our skill-hungry labor market, it makes sense to be concerned: how can we support a burgeoning tech-based economy if Boston’s only vocational school can’t produce skilled workers?
However, the news out of Madison Park is not all grim. In fact, MCAS scores at Madison Park are actually rising.
JFYNetWorks has been conducting our MCAS math preparation program there for the past two years. In each of those years, performance went up significantly. In our first year, 2016, the math failure rate went down 16 points while Proficient went up 4 points and Advanced 3 points. The second year, 2017, Proficient rose another 5 points and Advanced 7 points. The net two-year increase in Proficient/Advanced was a stunning 19 percentage points.
Madison Park and JFY partnered to improve student achievement by using JFY’s “AIMS” blueprint: Assess, Instruct, Measure, Support. They assessed student skills, provided online instruction as indicated by the assessment, measured student performance online to track progress, and supported teachers with in-class coaching and professional development in the techniques of blended learning. The AIMS design looks good on paper but it can only be effective in producing results if it is implemented in the classroom every day. That requires the commitment of administration and the daily diligence of teachers and students. The success of the program at Madison Park begins with the no-holds-barred commitment of Executive Director Kevin McCaskill and extends through other administrators to the teachers whose work in class with the students produces the results we have seen.
McCaskill’s goal is to lift Madison Park out of Level 4 by raising skills and MCAS scores. He’s shown that it can be done. In a year when the city and the state barely gained 1 point in math, Madison Park leaped 12 points—the largest Proficient/Advanced gain in the state.
The same thing can happen at all ten of the state’s officially “underperforming” Level 4 high schools (six of them in Boston) and the many more that are hanging on to Level 3 by a thread.
As Boston’s only vocational high school, Madison Park embodies the challenge of our workforce development system. Nothing is more important for the economic future of the state than the quality of our workforce. Our public K12 system, which educates 90% of our young people, is our primary workforce development pipeline. We have to raise student performance on all indicators, beginning with MCAS and continuing through early college and into post-secondary training. That’s the pipeline to supply our industries, especially STEM industries, with the skilled workforce they need. What’s happening at Madison Park needs to happen at all our schools.