Vineyard elementary schools scored well across the board on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), earning marks well above the state average. Science continues to be a standout, with all the elementary schools exceeding the state average by nearly 20 per cent.

Regional high school results fell more in line with state averages, which saw a steep decline across the state in ELA and math scores as 10th graders faced what is called the Next Generation MCAS for the first time. The past few years have seen multiple configurations of the test as the state has worked to update it. Grammar schools have been taking the Next Generation MCAS for a few years, but 10th graders had been taking a version called the Legacy MCAS. Going forward, all schools will continue to take the Next Generation MCAS.

“This test is a little more challenging,” Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. Matthew D’Andrea said, speaking to the Gazette by phone after test results were released this week. “It’s on the computer and incorporates different types of questions and it has a video component.”

Mr. D’Andrea said he was pleased with the scores. “Overall they did well. The test compares the school to itself and also compares it to schools across the state,” he said.

All the elementary schools did well compared with state averages, achieving similar results in the categories of English Language Arts (ELA), math and science. Mr. D’Andrea pointed to the Oak Bluffs and Edgartown schools as showing particular improvement when compared with last year’s results.

Island students continued to test well in science, with Tisbury leading the way at 74 per cent meeting or exceeding expectations compared to the statewide percentage of 48 per cent. Edgartown was close behind in science with a score of 72 per cent meeting or exceeding expectation.

“We have strong science programs and I think a lot of that has to do with the community and the programs we can tap into like Felix Neck and Island Grown Initiative,” Mr. D’Andrea said.

The regional high school also had a strong showing in science, with 78 per cent meeting or exceeding expectations compared with the state average of 74 per cent.

Math and ELA scores, however, were below state averages, with 60 per cent meeting or exceeding expectations in ELA compared to 61 per cent statewide, and 55 per cent meeting or exceeding expectations in math compared to the state average of 59 per cent.

“I’d like to see us improve on that and be above the state average,” Mr. D’Andrea said. “We will continue to make changes to instruction and professional development.”

The test also measures participation rates, and the regional high school received a classification of requiring assistance or intervention due to a slightly lower percentage of ESL (English as a Second Language) students taking the test.

“We went from 95 to 94 per cent ESL participation on the science test,” regional high school principal Sara Dingledy explained. “Thirty one students were enrolled and 29 assessed.”

Ms. Dingledy said she welcomes the increased rigor of the new test.

“I like it because it can create more urgency in how it’s worded now,” she said. “It confirms we need to continue to focus on our high needs kids.”

“The gains I care a lot about are where we were targeted,” she continued. “Chronic absenteeism went down from 24 to 15 per cent overall, and 27 to 8 per cent for the lowest performing students.”

Advance coursework completion went up from 59 to 66 per cent, she added, and the school’s overall accountability profile went up from 26 to 28 per cent.

“But we still have a lot of work to do,” she said.

For the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School the main issue is the small class size of each grade which makes many of the categories statistically insignificant in the eyes of the state.

“You need a cohort of 20 to get a sample population to get all the data,” school director Dr. Peter Steedman said. “But we still get some data.”

The school scored well on its ELA assessment with 63 per cent meeting or exceeding expectations compared to the state average of 52 per cent.

“We really focused on literacy last year without sacrificing the core of who we are and our project-based learning,” Mr. Steedman said. “But we are not done. This year we have implemented the Reading and Writing Project from Columbia University's Teachers College in New York city.”

Scores for math and science were lower, with 41 per cent meeting or exceeding expectations in math compared to the state average of 49 per cent, and 47 per cent meeting or exceeding expectations in science compared to the state average of 48 per cent.

Some grades did substantially better than others, in particular the third and fourth grades, which scored well above the state averages in math and science, as well as ELA.

“We have to pay particular attention to middle school math,” Mr. Steedman said.

All three administrators expressed a fondness for the data the test generates and in the coming weeks said they will be drilling down deeper into the numbers. “I’m a firm believer in the MCAS,” Mr. D’Andrea said. “I think it’s a good test and assessment, and a good marker of where we are in our instruction of our students.”