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Diman Voc-Tech boosts attendance, makes academic progress

Posted Oct 1, 2019 at 6:18 PM

The number of students who were chronically absent during the 2018-2019 school year, meaning they missed at least 10% of school days, was just about cut in half to 4.8% compared to the previous year.

For comparison, 14.5% of Diman students were chronically absent in the 2008-2009 school year.

The drop-off in chronic absenteeism suggests students want to come to school and are exposed to educators who care about their growth as students and citizens, said Assistant Principal of Student Affairs Andrew Rebello.

“You can have the best test scores, the best numbers, but if you’re not producing good citizens, good human beings at the end of this, then you really lose,” he said.

Last year was the first time Diman 10th-grade students took the “next-generation” English and math MCAS. According to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 65% of students met or exceeded expectations on the English exam. Statewide, 61% of 10th-grade students met or exceeded expectations on the English MCAS exam.

Results show that 80% of Diman 10th-grade students met or exceeded expectations on the math exam, a category of scores in which 74% of Massachusetts students in the same grade fell.

The only MCAS exam on which Diman’s exam results did not exceed the statewide average was mathematics, with half of district students meeting or exceeding expectations, compared to 59% of students statewide.

The district received a two-year accountability rating of 49%, meaning the state has determined Diman made “moderate” progress toward state-set benchmarks. Diman received low marks for progress made toward achievement targets for students who scored in the bottom 25% on the exams.

Assistant Principal of Academic Affairs Kate Warren said the school has something to be proud of in its percentile ranking. Diman Voc-Tech placed in the 60th percentile, meaning Diman performed better than nearly two-thirds of high schools in the state and high schools in each of the school’s four sending communities – Fall River, Swansea, Somerset and Westport.

She said the district’s accountability score of 49% leaves room for improvement, adding that the state-set targets for the district are high because Diman students historically meet or exceed expectations on the annual exams.

The accountability data will inform the district’s learning and instruction plans moving forward, Warren said.

“Our targets were set extremely high because our students have always done well. And so is there room for progress? Absolutely. Are we going to make progress and is there a plan? Absolutely,” said Warren.

Last year’s exams, the results of which were released Sept. 24, were also the first to be entirely administered on computers, which Warren said meant time was spent by students and teachers learning the new testing platform.

After the school committee in December voted against renewing former Superintendent/Director Thomas Aubin’s contract, prompting public protests and Aubin to file a lawsuit against committee members, current Principal and Interim Superintendent Elvio Ferreira said the district is focused on motivating the teachers and staff this school year so they in turn motivate students.

He said there was “tremendous” staff turnover during the summer, which saw the hiring of 14 new staff members. Enrollment also increased by 30 students this year, exacerbating issues with classroom space that administrators will focus on mitigating in coming months.

In relation to the MCAS exam results, Ferreira said Diman students take academic courses for half of the school year and courses in their chosen vocation for the other half.

“As a vocational school we’re only in each cycle half the time. ... Our kids are only in academics 90 days a year – so when you compare that to 180 days at a comprehensive academic high school, it really becomes a much more startling dynamic,” said Ferreira.

However, Warren said vocational training is a boon for students, who have the opportunity to apply academic concepts to real-world projects.