A new state report finds that MCAS scores in Franklin are "very high" and overall district management is "strong," but that low-income and special-education students still lag far behind their regular-education peers on the exams.
"Overall, we were pleased with the whole report," said Superintendent Wayne Ogden. "I suppose I could be happier, but not much. The assessment was thorough and generally positive, and we'll use the areas where they made some recommendations to help make us better."
In April and May, the state's Office of Educational Quality and Accountability conducted an assessment of the Franklin public schools by reviewing its performance from 2004 to 2006. The review emphasized an analysis of student performance on the MCAS exams, as well as interviews with staff and community members.
District officials say they will present the report to the School Committee next month, and offer specific ideas for addressing the shortcomings cited in the report, which, they say, is a process that has already started.
"The process, while it seemed very intimidating at first, was a very positive op portunity for the district to reflect on where we were going," said Assistant Superintendent Maureen Sabolinski, who facilitated and organized the review process on the district's end. "It helped the district identify what we're doing well and what we need to work on."
School Committee chairman Jeffrey Roy said he expects the report to validate the good things going on in Franklin's schools, as well as some areas in which the district needs to improve.
"If we want to stay on the path of districts that are moving from good to great, we will have to address those concerns," Roy said.
The state report finds that, on average, three-fourths of all Franklin students attained proficiency on the 2006 MCAS tests, well above the statewide average. Overall, Franklin ranked "very high" on the exams, with "very high" scores in English/language arts and "high" in math.
During the three-year period under review, Franklin's MCAS performance showed slight improvement, with the percentage of students scoring in the "advanced" or "proficient" categories rising 5 percentage points.
Low-income and special-education students lagged far behind the rest of the district, however, with more than one-third of students in each subgroup attaining overall proficiency.
"The areas in which we need to get better are our subgroup performance, in both the lower-income group and the special-education children," Ogden said. "We don't do well with those students as an aggregate. That's something we knew from that period and continue to work on."
The report also points to shortfalls in school funding, which was "insufficient" to fully fund costs associated with increased enrollment, additional special-education teachers, contractual salary increases, and utilities.
But the report praises Franklin for passing a $2.7 million property tax increase last spring, which "solidified the community's commitment to the school district and the educational needs of the children in Franklin."
"The community needs to be concerned in the future," Ogden said. "Our per-pupil [spending] average is below state standards, even though enrollment is increasing. The towns and schools must work together so that schools are funded" at an adequate level.
Roy said he recognizes the School Committee represents an important piece of that process.
"We have to continue to be vigilant and advocate for the Franklin public schools, as we've done a pretty good job at in the past years."