Test Results Questioned

Schools, Council Meet

Some below average test results in city elementary schools prompted Cambridge School Department and City Council officials to hold a special joint meeting this week to air their concerns.

The tests, which were administered last April to students in the fourth, eighth and twelfth grades, drew attention from city educators, parents and officials because of the poor performance of the city's fourth graders.

Brenda Thomas, an employee of the Massachusetts Educational Assessment Program, explained the test results at the meeting.

Although the city's twelfth graders scored at expected levels in reading, mathematics, science and social studies, eighth graders were below level in reading and fourth graders scored below their comparison scores in all four categories.

Expectations are based on com- parsons with demographically similar communities from around the state.

Thomas explained to the council and the school committee that the tests were intended to assess individual school's curriculum rather than to test individual students.

"The tests are intended to be a sort of 'snap shot' to let schools know how they are doing," Thomas said.

Thus, Thomas said, while individual schools did not perform at a level equivalent to that of comparable school systems such as Worcester and Brockton, this may reflect either a particular student group or a difference in curriculum.

The tests, Thomas said, were created primarily to provide schools with a series of benchmarks to which they could compare their curriculum.

New Strategy

Cambridge School Superintendent Mary Lou McGrath said her office has developed a strategy to assess the Cambridge curriculum in light of the test results.

McGrath said her office has released a pamphlet which calls for "skilled curriculum leadership" and an "improved communication structure."

Longfellow School Principal Margarita Otaro-Alvarez said yesterday she shared the test results, which she views as an indicator of the school's progress, with parents and teachers.

Longfellow fourth graders performed as expected in reading, mathematics and social studies and above their comparison score band in mathematics, while eight graders scored above their band in all foot categories.

"The test red flags areas that need to get better either through developing curriculum or working with kids at things like being able to read and pick out abstract information." Otaro-Alvarez said.

Other principals said their schools had not yet made plans for curriculum changes due to the test scores.

Assistant Principal of the Peabody School Jeana Lewis, whose school scored as expected said yesterday Peabody had yet to decide what to make of their scores.

"As of right now we haven't for malized our plans," Lewis said.

Several principals of schools that scored below their expected band on the tests declined to comment yesterday.

Principals will describe their plans for curriculum development in response to the tests at the next regular school committee meeting on March 2