Somerville Public Schools Show Phenomenal Growth on MCAS


Somerville High Makes Two-Level Leap to Level 1 Designation; District’s Student Growth Percentile Surpasses Nearly All Districts with 1,000 or More Students; Notable rise in number of students scoring advanced or proficient in Math and English Language Arts


Somerville, MA – Somerville Public Schools had extraordinary growth exceeding most other school districts according to results from the Spring 2013 MCAS tests, released Friday by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), leading all Massachusetts urban districts in Student Growth Percentile (SGP).

Somerville’s extraordinary SGP growth this year, following incremental improvements in recent years, moved the District from one hovering at the state median level in 2012 to one that is on par with some of the highest-performing districts in the State. As measured by SGP, Somerville Public Schools grew faster than almost any district, surpassing hundreds of districts along the way as it rose from the 35th to 81st percentile rank. The new 81st percentile rank for combined Math and English Language Arts SGP means that students in the Somerville Public Schools performed as well as or better than students in 320 (of 397) districts in the State as measured by SGP. Furthermore, when small districts with fewer than 500 students are removed from the database, the Somerville Public Schools’ percentile rank jumps to 92nd.

In fact, the Somerville Public Schools showed improvement by every measure—School Accountability ratings, Student Growth Percentage (SGP), Composite Performance Index (CPI) and percentage of students scoring proficient and advanced.

Because of these results and Somerville High School’s overall improved performance, the high school made a two-level leap on the state’s five-level Accountability scale and now has a Level 1 accountability designation for the first time in the school’s history—the highest Accountability Level that can be earned. The John F. Kennedy School also earned a Level 1 designation, moving up from a Level 2 school in 2012-2013. 

Somerville’s SGP growth was coupled with District-wide improvement in the number of students progressing toward proficiency. The number of students district-wide scoring Advanced or Proficient in Math leapt an impressive 7 percent and the number of students scoring Advanced or Proficient in English Language Arts jumped a notable 5 percent. These score improvements are part of a district-wide total for all students known as the Composite Performance Index, but the gains were system-wide with percentage increases made in every grade and in both core subject areas (Math and English Language Arts), with the exception of 4th grade English Language Arts.

“This is great news for the District, for our teachers and students, and for the City of Somerville. Still, this isn’t a destination—this is a foundation,” said Superintendent Tony Pierantozzi. “These results send a clear and undeniable message that the initiatives we have undertaken yield demonstrable improvement in student achievement. Although we’ve had significant growth to celebrate, these results also serve as a beacon for Somerville Public Schools’ future, and that the hard work of our teachers will lead to higher proficiency levels for all students. That type of effort requires patience, consistency, and diligence. That effort will not stop today.”

SGP measures a student’s progress relative to the progress of other students with similar MCAS performance histories from across the state. According to MCAS data, higher-performing districts tend to consistently post higher SGP numbers. MCAS SGP and Composite Index Highlights include:

  • Somerville students have the highest overall SGP—in both English Language Arts (ELA) and Math—of any of the 26 urban districts in Massachusetts. 
  • Somerville students showed District-wide improvement in SGP of 7 points in ELA and 12.5 points in Math, among the largest statewide gains between 2012 and 2013. 
  • Somerville’s 7th graders lead the district, with a combined ELA and Math SGP in the 96th percentile rank. This means that only 12 of 291 districts had higher 7th grade SGP scores and less than 2 percent of seventh graders in the Commonwealth were enrolled in a district with higher growth.
  • By subject, SPS performed in the 79th percentile rank for math, meaning SPS performed as well as or better than 314 of 397 districts and only 9 percent of MCAS-tested students were in districts with higher SGPs. For ELA, the percentile rank was 78th, meaning SPS performed as well as or better than 309 of 397 districts and only 12 percent of MCAS-tested students were enrolled in districts with higher SGPs.
  • Somerville’s 2013 median English Language Arts SGP was 58 and its Math median SGP was 59, compared to the statewide median of 51 in both subjects. In 2012, Somerville’s median English Language Arts SGP was 51 and its Math median SGP was 46.5.
  • The percentage of SPS students scoring Advanced or Proficient in both English Language Arts and Math was the highest it’s been in the last four years with a 7 percent improvement in the number of students District-wide scoring Proficient or Advanced in Math and a 5 percent improvement in English Language Arts, led by a 10 percent growth in the percentage of Grade 10 students scoring Proficient or Advanced in both ELA (84 percent) and Math (69 percent).  Close to 70 percent of all 7th and 8th grade students scored Proficient or Advanced in ELA.
  • Somerville’s CPI was higher in all tested areas (Math, English Language Arts, and Science/Technology/Engineering) than in 2012, including a Grade 10 CPI improvement of 10 points in ELA to a 2013 CPI of 94.2.


2011 Student Growth Percentile (SGP) for MA School Districts with 1,000 or More Students


(horizontal axis = Median SGP Math, vertical axis = Median SGP English Language Arts)



2013 Student Growth Percentile (SGP) for MA School Districts with 1,000 or More Students

(horizontal axis = Median SGP Math, vertical axis = Median SGP English Language Arts)



(Embeddable motion graph available online hereHi-res chart images available here.)


While SGP is not the state’s sole measure of progress, it does provide a clear measure of a school’s ability to help students at every level of proficiency show growth compared to their “academic peers” from across the state.

“That measure shows that all Somerville students, from all backgrounds and regardless of their past academic performance, out improved their peers in most other districts. Whether students in Somerville are performing at the higher end of the spectrum, are performing in an at-risk category, or if they fall somewhere in the middle, what this shows is that overall they learned more. Our SGP shows that in nearly every grade in both core subjects overall every level of learner in our schools advanced to a higher level of learning,” said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Vince McKay. “As an urban school district, Somerville has a diverse student population with a wide array of socio-economic backgrounds and past academic performance. These results show that Somerville Public Schools educate each and every child, improving student achievement for all students. In Somerville Schools, every child can succeed.”

“Education needs to go beyond keeping a student at the same level of proficiency from year to year. An ideal education helps students develop into more advanced self-learners no matter what the starting point. Our SGP shows that this is what we are doing in Somerville. We are giving every level of student the tools, the targeted education and support needed to advance to the next level, and ultimately to reach their full potential,” said Superintendent Pierantozzi. “Whether a student is an at-risk learner or an A student, the bar should be set higher every year.”

School administrators credit these results to the district’s highly data-informed systems approach that takes a holistic approach to educating and supporting each student both academically and as a whole child. Within that effort, five factors are key:


  • Somerville Schools have improved general instruction in every classroom by setting high, formal standards.
  • Targeted instructional support that predicts student performance and intervenes early supports Somerville’s richly diverse student population and a wide range of educational backgrounds and learning abilities.
  • Remediation initiatives quickly adapt to students targeted for instructional support—providing intervention to students at risk of a decline in proficiency before they begin to decline.
  • Technology brings leading edge techniques to the classroom and provides the data points that return information fast and quickly to teachers, constantly measuring student progress throughout the year, improving communication between teachers, students and parents or guardians, and empowering teachers and the district to stay nimble and proactive in adapting to the individual needs of each student.
  • Finally, Somerville has expanded academic opportunities both before and after school, while addressing the education and needs of the whole child.


“We’ve been encouraged by the incremental improvements in the last few years, expecting that our focus on laying a solid foundation for improvement would pay off,” said Dr. McKay.  “These steps have included a rigorous and up-to-date curriculum and effective strategies to intervene quickly with students who need extra support.  I have been confident that these improvements would lead to the type of success in student achievement we’re seeing now.  I am thrilled for our teachers to see that their hard work and focused instruction is showing such extraordinary results.”

Today’s results can also be attributed to the all-hands-on-deck approach and cooperation between the City and School District, from the establishment of the SomerPromise joint initiative between the Mayor’s Office and Superintendent’s Office, to providing opportunities for students and their families to stay involved in the community through the Recreation Department and other programs.

“This isn’t about writing a check and handing it over to the schools—it’s about a community effort and this is a community success,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “Our investment in active, engaging education, not only within the classroom but outside the school walls, reflects Somerville’s commitment to educating the whole child, engaging the community in a students’ education and ensuring that every student is exposed to the same rich curriculum. We cannot only change what’s happening inside the schools, but must change our whole environment to create an atmosphere where our students’ can reach their greatest potential.”

“This announcement comes as no surprise.  With the close working collaboration both inside and out of our school buildings, together we will continue to better our mark of student achievement,” added School Committee Chair, Mary Jo Rossetti.  “These results are indication that Somerville Public Schools teachers and students are up to the challenge of a rigorous learning environment, and meeting that challenge with innovative and engaging approaches designed to help students reach their individual potential.  With a staff that has a focused commitment to meeting the school committee’s targeted goals, we shall continue to rise.”

“Somerville stands committed to educating the whole child through innovative, engaging and inclusive approaches that meet the needs of our wonderfully diverse community,” added Superintendent Pierantozzi.  “We’re excited about our progress, but are even more excited about continuing to pursue our vision of helping every student in the Somerville Public Schools reach their potential and be inspired to learn and grow throughout their lives.”


For additional details, analysis, and commentary on the Spring 2013 MCAS test results, please contact Dr. Vince McKay, Assistant Superintendent of the Somerville Public Schools at 617-629-5214 or

For an embeddable, interactive motion graphic showing the change in SGP for all school districts with 1,000 or more students in the state, please visit If you need assistance in using or embedding the graphic, please contact Daniel Hadley, Director of SomerStat at 617-625-6600 ext. 2122 or

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