A new school year begins Monday in Springfield, Massachusetts where rising standardized test scores and a falling dropout rate are seen as signs of a turnaround in the struggling public school system. A new test, based on the Common Core educational standards, will be introduced in a majority of the city’s schools next year.
The scores of last year’s MCAS tests given to Springfield school students rose across the board at a higher rate than the gain recorded by school districts statewide, and the dropout rate has fallen more than any other school system in the state.
Monday’s ceremony marked the installation of the Born Learning Trail, a series of signs along a pathway through a playground at Springside Park in Pittsfield, aimed young children and their families to encourage outdoor activity and reading.
The Born Learning Trail comes from efforts by Pittsfield Promise, a city-wide coalition that is working through a variety of projects with a goal of boosting reading proficiency levels among Pittsfield third-graders to 90 percent by 2020.
The latest results of standardized tests taken by Massachusetts students were a mixed bag. The 2012 MCAS scores were the highest in the 14 year history of the test. Education officials say the achievement gap is closing between minorities and whites. But early childhood education advocates decry the lack of progress in third grade reading, which is a strong predictor of future success in school. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.