When Watertown's MCAS scores are released, some look better than the state average, while others lag behind, but school officials looked closer and found that those students who have been in the system from the start – or at least since third grade – fared better on the statewide test.
Dan Wulf, the math coordinator for grades 6 to 12, got more detailed data about MCAS scores from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and looked he at students who have been around since third grade, he told the School Committee Wednesday night.
Students scores on the test put them in one of four categories, from best to worst, Advanced, Proficient, Needs Improvement and Warning (called Fail in 10th grade). Advanced and Proficient are considered passing.
Wulf found that Watertown students who have been in the system for many years fare better than the state average in English Language Arts, and tends be around the state average on the math test.
The class of 2014 showed great improvement through the years on the English Language Arts test.
"In fourth grade they were level with the state, but after that we attack," Wulf said. "Students who have stayed in the district reached Proficient by the 10th grade."
For the class of 2016, students improved their English scores through the years so that the number of students in Warning and Needs Improvement nearly disappeared, Wulf said.
In math, the group from the class of 2014 stayed at or above the state average every year, Wulf said.
"Math tends to track where the state is until the SAT, where we are ahead of the state," Wulf said.
Even students who move into the schools in the middle of their career show improvement, Wulf said. Children who did not score well during their first year in the district generally improve and are up with their classmates the next time they take the test, Wulf said.
Town Council President Mark Sideris, who sits on the School Committee, found the presentation very useful and encouraging.
"For me, I found this incredibly helpful and I am pleased to hear about everything we are doing to help students achieve at exceptional levels," Sideris said.
The number of students fluctuates each year, and throughout the year, but Watertown has a core of students who remain in the district their whole school career, which Wulf called a cohort.
For the class of 2014, current 10th graders, there are about 116 who have been in the district since at least the third grade. Of the current eighth graders - the class of 201, 161 have been in the system since third grade or longer. There are 191 10th graders and 172 eighth graders in Watertown this year, according to the enrollment report filed with the state.
Students leave and come into Watertown's schools for many reasons, Wulf said. They also come from near and far - from overseas or just from a local private school or neighboring town.