WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — In a recent presentation to the school committee, assistant superintendent Dan Mayer outlined Westborough's performance on the 2012 MCAS exams, and the high percentage of advanced students compared to surrounding towns.
"Most districts are looking for schools that reach proficient, and we just don't accept that," Superintendent Marianne O'Connor said. "We want students to score in the advanced category."
Mayer broke down the results for the board, emphasizing the increased numbers of students scoring 'advanced' compared to those in past years. Most metrics lump those results in as "proficient or above," which hides the top performers, he said. Mayer's presentation highlighted for the board that the number of Westborough students scoring in the top percentile consistently is higher than surrounding towns.
"In this last year, we really outperformed expectations," Mayer said.
The highlight of Westborough's performance this year was in science, with 96 percent of 10th-grade students scoring proficient or higher. Westborough was the sixth-best school district out of 341 in the state.
"To be in the top 1 percent of schools in science is very, very exciting," school committee member Jody Hensley said.
Another point of emphasis was targeted improvement. It was noted in previous years that the fourth and seventh grade, both school transition years, saw the lowest test scores. Mayer said through targeted development of the curriculum of those two grades, scores are now on par with the rest. Grade 4 had the lowest proficiency of any in English (68 percent) and math (62 percent) in 2011. Those scores each saw significant increases to 75 and 74 percent, respectively.
"If you see a flaw, you do your best to fix it and that's across the board," committee member Stephen Doret said. "I think it's fabulous."
After the presentation, board members discussed a recent meeting with the board of finance, in which they were requested to show a school comparison with other towns of similar cost. Board chair Ilyse Levine-Kanji said the test score breakdown is exactly what residents should look at when they consider tax rates and school budget costs in regard to the level of education Westborough students receive.
"[Students] have the attitude of 'good is good, but we're striving to be great,' " Westborough High School Principal John Smith said. "That's a real tribute to, I think, everybody's attitude about striving for excellence."