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State education officials raise Waltham High School to level one status

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  October 24, 2012 04:43 PM

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State education officials have raised Waltham High School's accountability level from level two status last year, which designated the school as not closing proficiency gaps to state standards, to level one status, the highest level the state can award.

"This year, they were designated as a level one school because they were meeting their targets," said JC Considine, a spokesman for the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The new high school designation comes after a scathing state review of Waltham public schools was released. The report found that the district is poorly managed, with a high turnover rate in top school positions, relatively underfunded technology, and student drop-out and absentee rates climbing higher than the state’s average.

The upgrade for the high school also comes after the state's education department changed the way they measure Massachusetts school accountability levels due to a federally-granted waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act.

The No Child Left Behind Act "required every school that missed its targets to implement the same set of one-size-fits-all interventions, regardless of whether the school needed drastic reform or targeted action," according to the state.

The waiver was granted to Massachusetts this February, allowing them to use a more unified rubric to grade local schools, Considine said.

The new system combines information about narrowing proficiency gaps, student growth, and graduation and dropout rates over four years into a single number between 0 and 100. For a group to be considered to be making progress toward narrowing proficiency gaps, its cumulative grade must be 75 or higher.

However, the Waltham school district as a whole is still classified as level three, since districts receive the same classification as its lowest-graded school. Most Waltham schools are designated as level two, but Northeast Elementary School and Henry Whittemore Elementary School received level three grades. Also, according to state data, all Waltham subgroups - except students identified as Asian - failed to narrow proficiency gaps as designated by the state.

Waltham High School is the only level one school in the district.

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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