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Thursday, February 8, 2001

Contact: Frank Conte,
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617-573-8050

Study identifies best performing school districts in Massachusetts

Using a specially-developed statistical model, the Beacon Hill Institute has ranked all Massachusetts public school districts according to the results of MCAS tests taken by 4th, 8th and 10th graders.

The BHI ranking is based on the institute's Massachusetts Education Assessment Model, which first calculates how well schools should be expected to perform and then ranks them according to how much better or worse they performed than expected. The ranking takes into consideration the role of factors such as socioeconomic characteristics, past test performance, class size and changes in spending per student in determining expected school performance.

In January, the Massachusetts Department of Education issued its own rankings of state public schools as part of its School Performance Rating Process report. DOE rated schools for their improvement on MCAS tests for the period 1998-2000 but failed to consider socioeconomic factors and other factors that are known to enter importantly into the determination of school performance.

In 2003, Massachusetts public high school sophomores will be required to pass the MCAS test as a condition for graduation. In view of this, it becomes imperative that school administrators determine as quickly as possible what can be done to improve performance on the MCAS tests.

Said David Tuerck, Beacon Hill Institute executive director and chairman and professor of economics at Suffolk University, “It is important that we rate our public schools correctly. Only then can we learn from the best schools and avoid the mistakes of weak schools.”

To this end, BHI provided altogether six rankings for each district. The first set of rankings was according to how successful the district was, given the expected performance level of that district, in placing 4th 8th and 10th graders in the “good” (Advanced and Proficient) category on the MCAS tests. The second set of rankings was according to how successful the district was in keeping 4th, 8th and 10th graders out of the “poor” (Failing) category on the MCAS tests.

Table 1 lists the 15 best performing school districts in Massachusetts, according to the Beacon Hill Institute rankings. The Hadley school district topped the list by beating expectations in five of the six categories. Other districts performing especially well were Clinton, Methuen, Stoneham and Tyngsborough.

These schools deserve the highest marks for excellence in administration and teaching, given the performance on their students and given the socioeconomic factors and other factors determining school performance that are beyond the immediate control of the schools themselves.

Table 1

The 15 Best-Performing Massachusetts School Districts

Achieving Good Performance (G Rating) Reducing Poor Performance (P Rating)
DISTRICT (number of ratings for which district fell in the top 10) 4th 8th 10th 4th 8th 10th
Hadley (5) X X X X X
Clinton (3) X X X
Methuen (3) X X X
Stoneham (3) X X X
Tyngsborough (3) X X X
Nantucket (2) X X
Chelsea (2) X X
Dighton-Rehoboth (2) X X
Eastham (2) X X
Everett (2) X X
Hanover (2) X X
Oxford (2) X X
Provincetown (2) X X
Shrewsbury (2) X X
Sutton (2) X X

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Posted: 1/01/01
Revised format on
02-Jul-2003 2:35 PM

e-mail:
fconte@beaconhill.org

2001-2003 Beacon Hill Institute for Public Policy Research at Suffolk University, All Rights Reserved.