HANOVER — If MCAS improvement placed all students at the 10-yard line on a football field, South Shore Tech students would have advanced to the three-yard line this year.
Principal Mark Aubrey outlined the improvement in last year’s scores for the School Committee at its Wednesday, Oct. 17 meeting.
Aubrey reiterated that the state is looking more at how any students achieve proficient and advanced ranking, rather than how many pass the test.
“We’re focusing on learning,” he said. “We’re trying to take a hodge-podge of different curriculums [from sending schools in and out of the district] and put everybody on the same page and move them forward.”
In the English Language Arts (ELA) test, there were 43 students who scored as advanced in 2017 out of 143 students tested, this year 63 students achieved those scores. In math — Aubrey said, using percentages because the data was reported differently — the school went from 79-percent proficient/advanced to 84 percent over the same period.
“Student growth percentile (SGP) measures how far we’ve moved them down the football field,” he said. “This school in ELA was 12th in the state … on moving SGP. That is a phenomenal effort by your staff, every single day, coming to school.”
Still, one student did earn the perfect score of 280 on the mathematics MCAS test this year.
“The math department [based on SGP] was number three in the state,” Aubrey said. “That is teaching and that is learning and that is what this building is about.”
In science, 109 students scored proficient/advanced last year, this year there were 125 scoring at that level.
“We’re moving in the direction the state wants us to move in,” he said. “It’s not just passing. We are moving kids further up the ladder to where they need to be and where the state expects them to be. … This is done by the entire staff.”
Related instructors use math and ELA skills, through reading and bookwork in the latter case, to reinforce classroom instruction.
Hickey thanked School Committee members who were able to attend the Saturday, Oct. 13 open house, during which 265 students were registered for 175 to 180 available places in next year’s freshmen class — 161 applications were completed and 125 interviews were also completed. Of the 265, 198 were eighth-graders and 44 were seventh-graders taking an early look at the school.
“When we only have so much room and we have to turn around and say to parents ‘I’m sorry, but we don’t have room for your children,’ We should be able to get them all in the school that are looking to be here,” said Whitman School Committee member Daniel Salvucci.
Superintendent-Director Dr. Thomas J. Hickey said the data received from MCAS scores and the number of applicants the school receives should help SSVT’s position when the Massachusetts School Building Authority makes its decisions on statements of interest in December.
School Committee member Robert L. Molla Jr., of Norwell agreed with Salvucci’s comments about the number of students that are placed on waiting lists.
“The parents, especially, were positive [at open house] about this school, that’s why the students are here,” Molla said. He noted tat parents from Rockland have been disturbed that SSVT has not been allowed to go to Rockland to conduct interviews with student applicants during the day.
School Committee member Robert L. Mahoney of Rockland said he has already spoken to his town’s school officials.
“The bottom line is public education has become a competitive market and we are in that competitive market a lot stronger than we used to be in the past,” Mahoney said. “What the towns are not realizing is we have to be held to the same standards as they have to be held by the state.”
He said the competition public schools are now experiencing from private, charter and parochial schools are costing them a lot of students and the state funding that goes along with them.
“The frustrating part of this is it’s not about kids, it’s about money,” Mahoney said. “It’s about the money they’re losing, and it’s about the money we’re losing because we’re not big enough to take in more.”
Vocational schools are, however, public education, Mahoney stressed.
“We are the second public school,” he said. “We are succeeding in the public market out there, that’s the problem.”
In other business, the school’s new vocational coordinators, Keith Boyle of Hanson and Robert Foley, reported on their new initiatives at the school.
“These gentlemen are responsible for overseeing and being the direct supervisors for half of our vocational-technical programs,” Hickey said. “Their job is to get to know the teachers and the students, the advisors in these programs and they have both done a phenomenal job from Day One.”
Boyle, formerly a horticulture teacher at Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical High School in Bourne, is also a cranberry grower in Hanson. Boyle is a graduate of Norfolk County Agricultural High School. He is developing SSVT’s horticulture program as well as serving as a vocational coordinator where he is working to expand the cooperative work program.
Right now 33 seniors are working at approved coop sites and have earned a collective $22,000 in the first month of the school year, Boyle reported. He has also started a school chapter of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program, a career and technical student organization, based on middle and high school classes that promote and support agricultural education from horticulture and animal husbandry to forestry and agri-business.
Horticulture students have already been working to improve the outward appearance of the school, Boyle said, including planter boxes at the restaurant/salon entrance and are working to install a well at the front of the building to provide irrigation.
Foley, a former lead carpentry teacher at Blue Hills Regional Vocational Technical High School in Canton, is a Kingston resident. He was president of the SkillsUSA Board of Directors, which he had to forego the position as he is no longer a teacher. He is still a board member and will soon become director of the state SkillsUSA competition.
“I’m excited to help invigorate a very rigorous program that’s already in place here,” Foley said.
A licensed builder with a heavy construction background, he is assisting with construction of the new greenhouse for the horticulture program, and is planning a pre-apprentice vocational school training program sponsored by Mass. Laborers International Union, on Monday, Nov. 5.
That program, part of the UMass Transportation Committee and Workforce Development Program funded by a federal transportation grant through MassDOT. Instructors will work with 25 students from various shops for week, after which students will be certified in first aid, CPR and AED with all hours involved qualifying as pre-apprentice hours transferrable to carpenters, laborers, electricians, sheet metal workers, pipefitters and operators unions. A free CDL license will also be offered through the New England Tractor-Trailer Training School.
“It’s a great opportunity for our kids,” Foley said.
“This is a very exciting time to be in voke-ed,” said Assistant Principal Sandra Baldner. “We’re really in a good spot right now and I think you’re going to see lots of growth in our school.”
An additional Chapter 74 grant is being sought to offer a license in web design and programming, which could help students throughout the school.