Monday, June 04, 2007

Conservatory Lab Charter School

The Boston Globe ran a story about Brighton's Conservatory Lab Charter School, located on the St. Columbkille's property. Conservatory Lab is the only state-chartered school in Brighton, and includes elementary grades kindergarten (K2) through five. As a charter school it is required to hold a lottery for entrance when the number of applicants exceeds available spaces.

Its innovative feature is that every student, beginning in grade one, is given a violin to learn to play. All take daily music classes, two music lessons a week, perform throughout the year, and have music topics integrated into other subjects. An interesting approach to education to say the least, especially in this age of No Child Left Behind and MCAS.

Is it working? Yes and no.
[Executive Director Jonathan] Rappaport admits, though, that it has been a struggle to raise the MCAS scores of the students... Last year the school finished below the state average in a number of categories. However, it improved from the previous year, prompting the state Department of Education to say the school had achieved "adequate yearly progress" in math and English language arts. Rappaport says he expects further improvement this year.
The school's MCAS scores can be found online for 2006 and compared with Boston Public Schools and state-wide averages, as he noted. Here I'll pick out the CPI for comparison. The Composite Performance Index (0-100 with 100 being highest) is the degree to which students are progessing toward proficiency. MCAS starts with grade 3.

In grade 3 reading/math the school scores 82/65 compared with a BPS average of 66/63 and state average of 83/78. In grade 4 the school scores in ELA/Math at 76/70 compared to 62/62 for BPS and 79/73 for the state. In grade 5 the school scores in ELA/Math/Science at 70/45/52 compared to 69/57/57 for BPS and 84/70/78 for the state.

The school is therefore performing around the state average for half the indicators, and below the state average for the other half; grade 5 is below the state for all three tests. Comparison with BPS is more fair, though, because it is always a problem to compare urban with suburban or rural schools. The school is performing at or above the BPS average for all tests except for grade 5 math. A mixed bag.

As a state-chartered school, it has performance metrics to meet as part of its regular review: a five-year accountability plan (MS Word document). As the school moves forward, it will be interesting to see if this experiment in music-based education can beat its competition in Boston and Massachusetts.

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