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Accountability and assistance level

Massachusetts' Framework for District Accountability and Assistance classifies schools and districts on a five-level scale, classifying those meeting their gap narrowing goals in Level 1 and the lowest performing in Level 5. Approximately eighty percent of schools are classified into Level 1 or 2 based on the cumulative Progress and Performance Index for the "all students" and high needs groups. For a school to be classified into Level 1, the cumulative PPI for both the "all students" group and high needs students must be 75 or higher. If not, the school is classified into Level 2. A school may also be classified into Level 2 if it has low assessment participation rates for any group (between 90 and 94%).

Schools are classified into Level 3 if they are among the lowest 20 percent relative to other schools in the same school type category statewide, if one or more subgroups in the school are among the lowest performing 20% of subgroups relative to all subgroups statewide, if they have persistently low graduation rates (less than 67% for the most recent 4-year rate and less than 70% for the three most recent 5-year rates for any subgroup), or if they have very low assessment participation rates for any group (less than 90%). The lowest achieving, least improving Level 3 schools are candidates for classification into Levels 4 and 5, the most serious designations in Massachusetts' accountability system.

A small number of schools each year will not be classified into a level: small schools, schools ending in grades 1 or 2, new schools, or schools that were substantially reconfigured. In general, a district is classified into the level of its lowest performing school, unless the district was independently classified into Level 4 or 5 as a result of action by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Composite performance index (CPI)

Massachusetts uses the 100-point Composite Performance Index (CPI) to measure progress towards the goal of narrowing proficiency gaps. The CPI assigns 100, 75, 50, 25, or 0 points to each student participating in PARCC, MCAS, and MCAS Alternate Assessment (MCAS-Alt) tests based on how close they came to scoring Proficient or Advanced. (For example, all students scoring Proficient or Advanced are assigned 100 CPI points; students with very low assessment scores are assigned 0 CPI points.) The CPI for a student group is calculated by dividing the total number of points by the number of students in the group. The result is a number between 0 and 100.

Core academic classes

Core academic areas include English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography. (Note: Self-contained classroom courses have been weighted to reflect the core academic courses within them.)

District determination of need for special education technical assistance or intervention

The U.S. Department of Education requires Massachusetts to determine which districts (including single school districts) have specific needs for technical assistance or intervention in the area of special education. A district's determination is based on six categories: Meets Requirements - Provisional (MRP); Meets Requirements (MR); Meets Requirements - At Risk (MRAR); Needs Technical Assistance (NTA); Needs Intervention (NI); and Needs Substantial Intervention (NSI). In most cases these categories correspond to the district's accountability and assistance level, except when the district has specific compliance needs. This designation helps signal whether outcomes for all students in the district indicate progress, including that of students with disabilities, or whether technical assistance and/or intervention is needed to improve outcomes for all children, especially students with disabilities. Upon classification of a district into Level 3, two additional focus areas for special education will be reviewed at the district level and may require action: (A) over-identification of low-income students as eligible for special education and (B) inordinate separation of students with disabilities across low income and/or racial groups.

Graduates attending institutions of higher education

Data reported on graduates attending institutions of higher education includes the percentage of high school graduates who enrolled in an institution of higher education within 16 months of graduating from high school. Institutions of higher education include private two-year, private four-year, public two-year, and public four year institutions.

By default, the report provides district information for all high school graduates from the most recent high school graduating class for which data is available.

Graduation rates (4- and 5-year)

All districts, schools, and subgroups are expected to make steady progress toward a goal of 90 percent for the four-year cohort graduation rate or 95 percent for the five-year rate by the 2016-17 school year. Students are assigned to graduation cohorts based on when they first enter grades 9-12 in a Massachusetts public school system. Once a student is assigned a particular cohort year (e.g., 2011), the student's cohort never changes. The cohort graduation rate is calculated by dividing the number of students who graduate within four or five years by the total number in the cohort.

For accountability determinations in any given year, the cohort graduation rate from the prior school year is used. This allows the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) to use a data set that has been thoroughly reviewed by district and ESE staff.

High poverty schools

High poverty schools are schools in the top quartile (25%) of poverty in the state.

Highly qualified teacher

A highly qualified teacher is defined as a teacher holding a Massachusetts teaching license at the Provisional, Initial, or Professional level AND demonstrating subject matter competency in the areas they teach.

Low poverty schools

Low poverty schools are in the bottom quartile (25%) of poverty in the state.

Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) achievement

MCAS achievement levels include Advanced (A) in grades 3-8 and 10; Proficient (P) in grades 3-8 and 10; Needs Improvement (NI) in grades 3-8 and 10; Warning (W) in grades 3-8; and Failing (F) in grade 10.

Advanced: Students demonstrate a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of rigorous subject matter and provide sophisticated solutions to complex problems.
Proficient: Students demonstrate a solid understanding of challenging subject matter and solve a wide variety of problems.
Needs Improvement: Students demonstrate a partial understanding of subject matter and solve some simple problems.
Warning/Failing: Students demonstrate a minimal understanding of subject matter and do not solve simple problems.


The Massachusetts High School Program of Studies (MassCore) is intended to help our state's high school graduates arrive at college or the workplace well prepared and reduce the number of students taking remedial courses in college. MassCore recommends a comprehensive set of subject area courses and units as well as other learning opportunities to complete before graduating from high school.

The recommended program of studies includes: four years of English, four years of Math, three years of a lab-based Science, three years of history, two years of the same foreign language, one year of an arts program and five additional "core" courses such as business education, health, and/or technology. MassCore also includes additional learning opportunities including AP classes, dual enrollment, a senior project, online courses for high school or college credit, and service or work-based learning.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as "The Nation's Report Card," is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subjects. In Massachusetts, NAEP assesses representative samples of students in grades 4 and 8 in reading and mathematics.

Overall progress in narrowing gaps

See Progress and performance index.

Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) achievement

PARCC scores fall within five performance levels, Levels 1 through 5. Students achieving a level of 4 or 5 have demonstrated that they have a thorough understanding of grade-level content and are on the right track to being ready for college-level coursework. Students receiving a 3 are approaching expectations, but may need additional assistance mastering content. Students receiving a 1 or 2 need more assistance in mastering the content and are in need of greater supports.

Level 5: Exceeded expectations
Level 4: Met expectations
Level 3: Approached expectations
Level 2: Partially met expectations
Level 1: Did not yet meet expectations

Progress and performance index

A school's overall progress in narrowing gaps is measured by the Progress and Performance Index (PPI). The cumulative PPI combines information about student achievement, growth, and graduation and dropout rates over the most recent four-year period into a single number between 0 and 100. All districts, schools, and groups with sufficient data are assigned an annual PII based on two years of data and a cumulative PPI between 0 and 100 based on three annual PPIs. The annual PPI is a measure of the improvement that a group makes toward its own targets over a two-year period on up to seven indicators: narrowing proficiency gaps (in English language arts (ELA), mathematics, and science); growth (ELA and mathematics); the annual dropout rate; and the cohort graduation rate. The cumulative PPI is the average of a group's annual PPIs over four years, weighting the most recent years the most (1-2-3-4). A cumulative PPI is calculated for a group if it has at least three annual PPIs. If a group is missing an annual PPI for one year, that year is left out of the weighting (e.g., 1-X-3-4). While a group's annual PPI can exceed 100 points, the cumulative PPI is always reported on a 100-point scale. For a school to be considered to be making progress toward narrowing proficiency gaps, the cumulative PPI for both the "all students" group and high needs students must be 75 or higher.

School percentile

A school percentile between 1 and 99 is reported for schools with at least four years of data. This number is an indication of the school's overall performance relative to other schools that serve the same or similar grades.

Student groups

African American/Black: A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
Asian: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent.
First Language not English: A student whose first language learned or used by the parent/guardian with the child is not English.
Former ELL: A student who has transitioned out of English Language Learner (ELL) status during the current school year or within the past two school years.
Hispanic/Latino: A person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
English Language Learner (ELL): A student whose first language is a language other than English who is unable to perform ordinary classroom work in English.
High needs: Beginning in 2014-2015: An unduplicated count of all students in a school or district belonging to at least one of the following individual subgroups: students with disabilities, English language learners (ELL) and former ELL students, or economically disadvantaged students. Prior to 2014-2015: An unduplicated count of all students in a school or district belonging to at least one of the following individual subgroups: students with disabilities, English language learners (ELL) and former ELL students, or low income students (eligible for free/reduced price school lunch).
Economically Disadvantaged: Student's participation in one or more of the following state-administered programs: SNAP (food stamps); TAFDC (welfare); DCF (foster care); MassHealth (Medicaid) in October, March, or June.
Migrant: An indication of whether an individual or a parent/guardian accompanying an individual maintains primary employment in one or more agricultural or fishing activities on a seasonal or other temporary basis and establishes a temporary residence for the purposes of such employment.
Multi-race, Non-Hispanic/Latino: A person selecting more than one racial category and non-Hispanic.
American Indian or Alaska Native: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment.
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.
Students with Disabilities: A student who has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) as defined under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
White: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.

Student growth percentile

Each student who participated in the MCAS English language arts (ELA) or Mathematics tests in grades 4-8 or 10 and who also took the last MCAS test in that subject receives a Student Growth Percentile (SGP) score. The SGP compares a student's MCAS score with the scores of all students in the state at that grade level who received similar MCAS scores in prior years. SGPs range from 1 to 99; higher numbers represent higher growth and lower numbers represent lower growth. An SGP of 75, for example, means the student's progress is higher than 75 percent and lower than 25 percent of the students in the state with similar prior test scores. This method works independently of MCAS achievement levels. Therefore, all students, regardless of the scores they earned on past MCAS tests, have an equal chance to demonstrate growth at any of the 99 percentiles.

School and district growth percentiles represent the growth of the median, or middle, student in the school or district. All groups (districts, schools, and subgroups) are expected to demonstrate growth in student performance at or near the state median or show high growth each year between 2011 and 2017. Most school and district median SGPs tend to range between 40 and 60. Schools outside of that range are showing less or more growth than the typical school in Massachusetts.


Waivers are granted to unlicensed or inappropriately licensed personnel upon district request if the district was unable, after making a good faith effort, to find a capable, appropriately licensed candidate for a teaching position. Waivers are valid for only one school year.

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