Bedford MCAS Scores Improve Despite Pandemic Hybrid-Remote Learning

The past 20 months have tested students, educators, administrators, parents, and staff of the Bedford Public Schools in myriad ways, some of them unprecedented.

So the School Committee on Tuesday was ready to celebrate when Assistant Superintendent of Schools Tricia Clifford delivered some encouraging reports.

Clifford told the virtual meeting that at almost every level, the results of last spring’s state-mandated MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) tests were not only unaffected by the year of remote and hybrid learning but in many cases reflected improvement over 2019 and 2018 outcomes. (MCAS tests were not administered in 2020.)

“I am thrilled,” declared member Dan Brosgol, “This is absolutely fabulous news,” agreed member Brad Morrison. He asked Clifford if the results reflect “several years of greatness” rather than the pandemic year alone. “I feel like many of these things we’ve been working on are in place,” said Clifford, adding, “But we need to keep working on them.”

District-wide, Clifford said, a number of assessment and response processes already in place helped navigate the exigencies of the unusual school year.

The benchmark that Clifford used in reporting on each outcome was the percentage of students who met or exceeded grade-level expectations.

After each result, she reviewed the many variables that helped produce the results. These ranged from specific curricular elements and assessment tools to collaborative practices, interventions, and making sure students understand key concepts.

  • English language arts in third, fourth, and fifth grades: 74 percent met or exceeded expectations. “I think that much of the work that we’ve done had a promising result during a really difficult time when we had to make a lot of changes,” Clifford said,
  • English language arts, grades six, seven, and eight: 73 percent of students met or exceeded expectations, an increase over the past two years of testing. “Even during the pandemic, the trajectory for us is moving up,” said Clifford.
  • English language arts, grade 10: 81 percent met or exceeded grade-level expectations. “This was huge,” Clifford declared, praising the entire batting order: students, teachers, assistants, program administrators and directors, principals.
  • Math in grades three, four, and five: 65 percent met or exceeded, and math in the middle school grades: 68 percent. “Overall, I am encouraged by the results in so many ways,” Clifford said. “During the pandemic, we didn’t lose as much ground as I feared we would.”
  • Math, grade 10: 81 percent met or exceeded, an improvement over 2019. This outcome defied statewide trends, Clifford said. She credited the “one-school model” used by the middle and high school, which established the “building blocks.”
  • Science and technology/engineering, grade five: 70 percent met or exceeded, a better outcome than in 2019 or 2018. Clifford applauded teachers in Davis and Lane Schools for “much of the work leading up” to the success.
  • Science and technology/engineering, grade eight: 59 percent met or exceeded, a result lower than 2019 but higher than 2018. “At the higher level, it is difficult to teach some of the hands-on in a hybrid or remote environment,” Clifford commented.
  • Science and technology/engineering, ninth grade: 82 percent met or exceeded, a slight decline over the past two testing years. “Teaching physics remotely is difficult,” Clifford said.Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763

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