While schools across the city struggled with the new version of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), a Springfield charter school is celebrating its students' success on the test.
Veritas Preparatory Charter School ranked second in the state for student growth percentiles (SGP) in math and fifth in English language arts. SGP is a measure used by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to compare how students are scoring on the test in relation to their peers.
"It comes down to good old-fashioned hard work and teamwork," said Rachel Romano, founder and executive director of the South End charter school, which serves grades five to eight. "We give our students a lot of individualized supports, both socially and emotionally, and academically to ensure that all of our students are making progress towards meeting the state's academic standards."
Massachusetts education officials released data from the 2017 MCAS tests Wednesday.
Charter school performance on the 2017 MCAS varied widely, as did performance in traditional public schools. Veritas, particularly in eighth grade, had much higher percentages of students scoring "meeting expectations" or above than the state did as a whole, state officials said.
According to state data, 73 percent of Veritas eighth-graders met or exceeded expectations on the English test and 71 percent met or exceeded expectations on the math test. The statewide percentages on those tests were 49 and 48, respectively.
A total of 27 percent of Veritas eighth-graders exceeded expectations in math, compared with 9 percent of eighth-graders across the state and 1 percent of eighth-graders in Springfield.
Veritas' eighth-grade math SGP of 94 is the highest of all the schools in the state.
The Student Growth Percentile is a state measure used to determine how much progress an individual student has made year to year compared to his or her peers.
"Our students have two periods of math," Romano said. "One is devoted to problem solving which is an inquiry-based class where they can grapple with problems, try different strategies and discuss them as a class. The other is dedicated to procedure."
Romano said the dual math class approach, along with additional tutoring for students who may be struggling, has been essential to the school's success in math.
The school's SGP in English language arts was also high, with students in grades six through eight scoring 72.5-82.5.
"We read high quality and challenging text with our students to make sure they are reading at or above grade level text and have a lot of exposure to rigorous text," Romano said. "We also make sure they are reading independently, books at their own reading level throughout the year."
On the science test, which was only administered to fifth-graders at Veritas, 56 percent scored "proficient" or higher, compared with 46 percent statewide.
Veritas Preparatory Charter School is a tuition-free public school for grades five through eight that is open to all students through a lottery system.
Unlike individual MCAS scores, Romano said, the SGP scores shed light on how much a student is actually learning.
"To me the SGP is the most important number to look at because it shows how a student or a group of students has grown and learned in comparison to their academic peer group across the state," she said. "It shows how aggressively a school is closing achievement gaps for their students."
Veritas Prep serves 324 students. As a charter school, it is tuition-free and open to the public, but students must go through an open lottery system to be selected.
Romano said she hopes the school's success is proof of what Springfield schools are capable of.
"It's so great for Springfield because the schools have historically performed so poorly and have so many challenges," she said. "We can be a proof point for other schools in Springfield to show what's possible when you have a team with a common mission."