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SC Meeting: November 16, 2021

At the November 16 School Committee Meeting, there was a discussion of the Needham Education Foundation Fall Grant Awards and 2021 MCAS results.

School Committee & Superintendent Comments

  • The School Committee congratulated Louis Picariello, who received his NHS diploma this week in honor of Veterans Day, 77 years after he left Needham High School just prior to graduation to serve in WWII.

  • Dr. Gutekanst and the School Committee congratulated Steven Popper who is retiring this week after many years as the Director of Needham’s Building Design & Construction Department. Mr. Popper guided the Town and School Committee through at least 27 school related projects since 2003, ranging from a new roof at Pollard to the construction of the Sunita Williams School. The School Committee thanked Mr. Popper for his expertise, guidance, and collaboration on school projects, and his progressive vision on school design and sustainability.

  • School Committee will establish the Superintendent’s Impact Scholarship at NHS which will be awarded annually to a student who has effected positive change in challenging circumstances by demonstrating advocacy, collaboration, and inclusiveness.

Needham Education Foundation Fall Grant Awards

Rob Murphy and Jennifer Collings from the Needham Education Foundation presented the NEF Fall Grant Awards. 8 Grants were awarded totaling just over $30,000. Every school will benefit from at least one grant and three grants are multi-school initiatives.

  • NHS/Pollard: Guest Jazz Artist

  • Broadmeadow: Kinesthetic Desks for Media Center

  • NHS: Needham Steps Up Mentoring

  • Newman: Ukelele Cart

  • All 5 Elementary Schools: World Language Books

  • Newman: Outdoor Classroom Rejuvenation and Extension

  • NHS/High Rock: Recontextualizing Slavery in Ancient Greece & Rome

  • High Rock: Reading to Build Community

School Committee accepted these grants and thanked NEF for their generosity and support of these exciting and innovative programs. Dr. Gutekanst noted that all grants are aligned with the Portrait of a Needham Graduate, Equity, and Inclusive Classroom goals.

Holiday Season NEF Fundraiser: Teacher Gratitude Cards. Student Art Contest winners were Leah Finizio, Anne Keefe, and Zoey Shapiro. Their designs will be featured on the cards available for purchase at many stores in Needham, including Roche Bros & Sudbury Farms. Virtual cards and video messages are available on the NEF website.

Update on Schools & Learning: MCAS Results

Dr. Terry Duggan presented this year’s MCAS results. MCAS testing was adjusted in many ways to deal with the hybrid & remote learning models, and was a very different test than in previous years.

What was new in 2021:

  • Extended timeline for test administration, some students were testing in June when it was very hot.

  • Shortening the test for students in grades 3-8. The normal two session test was shortened to one session and students were randomly assigned to one session of a regular two session test, in ELA, Math, Science. This led to fewer opportunities to demonstrate learning and incorrect answers had a larger impact on scores. Grade 10 remained a two session, in school test.

  • Students in gr 3-8 learning remotely could choose to take computer based tests at home. 20% of students in MA took the test remotely (6% in Needham). Test administration was monitored by zoom.

  • Modified Competency Determination for the class of 2021-2023. Students in 10th grade in 2020 had no opportunity to take the MCAS. Districts were allowed to certify student competency based on passing courses in each subject area. MCAS Passing levels were also adjusted for the classes impacted by the pandemic.

  • Modification of Student Growth Percentile calculation to more accurately reflect the extent to which educational progress and growth slowed during the pandemic. Cannot compare this year’s Growth Percentiles to previous years.

DESE urges caution when analyzing test scores, drawing conclusions, and taking action based on MCAS data. As there were many changes in testing in 2021, not all differences should be fully attributed to a “Covid effect.” Recommend looking at multiple sources of data to inform instructional practices.

2021 MCAS Results (Detailed slides can be found on pages 23-56 of the SC packet):

  • In MA generally, the pandemic slowed education progress and growth for most students in 2021. Significant departure from typical achievement and growth patterns in prior years. Differences between 2021 and 2019 were much larger than between 2019 and 2018.

  • In Needham, there was some decline in the percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations in most grades and subject areas.

  • High Needs Students (ELL, Economically Challenged, and Special Education) generally showed similar patterns to other students.

  • There continue to be achievement disparities between racial groups, with the most notable gap for African American/Black students. Performance among Asian students remains strongest, and Multi-Race students have shown improvement.

  • Adjusted Student Growth Scores were acceptable in all groups of students.

  • Needham students were learning and are performing relatively well given all of the challenges of the last 2 years.

  • ELA Grades 3-8: 72% Meeting or Exceeding Expectations (Tied for 6th highest in state, tied for 4th among 20 comparable communities)

  • Math Grades 3-8: 62% Meeting or Exceeding Expectations (Tied for 11th highest in state, tied for 9th among 20 comparable communities)

  • ELA Grade 10: 92% Meeting or Exceeding Expectations (Tied for 4th highest in state, tie for 4th among 20 comparable communities)

  • Math Grade 10: 85% Meeting or Exceeding Expectations (Tied for 6th highest in state, tied for 4th among 20 comparable communities)

Schools completed a round of benchmarking assessments in October to get a clearer picture of where students are in their learning this fall. This data is still being analyzed.

They anticipate a return to the traditional two session per subject MCAS testing schedule for 2022.

School Committee Comments

  • Reminder to all registered voters that there is a Special Election for the vacant seat on Needham Select Board on December 7th.

  • Information Items about FY 2023-2037 Enrollment Projections, Elementary Subject Area Time Expectations, and FY2022/23-2026/27 Five-Year Financial Forecast can be found in the SC packet.

The next School Committee Meeting is scheduled for December 7, 2021.


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