Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


October 4, 2012

Andover High advanced in math

...but 'needs improvement' at two elementary schools


Andover High School had a whopping 76 percent of 435 test-takers in 10th grade (about 330 kids) score in the advanced category for math compared to a statewide average of 27 percent.

English Language Arts scores continue to be very strong in Andover middle schools. All three middle schools scored 91 percent or higher in the “proficient or higher” category. Doherty Middle scored 97 percent for all three grades (6, 7, 8); West Middle scored 92; and Wood Hill scored 91 for their “all grades” scores.

Science and tech/engineering scores were much lower at all three middle schools, although still better than the state average. Doherty scored 73 percent for all grades in the “proficient or higher” category while West Middle and Wood Hill each had 63 percent in that category. The state average is 54.

While “very pleased” with the terrific math scores at Andover High School, Superintendent of Schools Marinel McGrath said lower math scores in elementary school don’t necessarily add up to trouble. She said there is a wide gap in how kids think and solve math equations at that age.

“We would be concerned if we did not understand what is occurring longitudinally with cohorts of students coupled with our understanding of how children develop mathematical thinking and their ability to think abstractly,” McGrath said in an email. “There is great cognitive variability in students ages 9 to 11.”

Fourth grade math is a big change for students, she said.

“In the early grades, students can ‘see’ that 3 x 3 = 9 readily through the manipulation of objects and study of patterns of numbers. Beginning in fourth grade, a student can not so easily ‘see’ that 27 x 45 = 1,215 due to the level of abstraction,” McGrath said.

She called fourth grade math a “stepping stone” as students step from concrete math to the more abstract nature of math. Math understanding shifts again in grades 7 and continues through grade 12, she said. “If we look at our fourth grade MCAS scores historically, 67 to 74 percent of our students have scored in the proficient/advanced category while in fifth grade – when they are able to think more conceptually and abstractly –our students’ MCAS scores in the proficient and advanced categories are historically in the range of 82 to 86 percent,” McGrath said.

MCAS scores are analyzed by teachers and principals who make instructional and curricular decisions. Staffers determine if more time is needed on a particular topic, they identify the best strategies for that topic and get supplementary materials if needed, McGrath said.

“We are fortunate to have strong teachers and programs in mathematics. I believe our teachers are preparing our students to understand, use and apply mathematics,” McGrath said.

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