Metro

State to release MCAS scores for English High

The state on Tuesday validated MCAS scores for English High School, drawing cheers and tears from the Jamaica Plain school nearly a month after the results were suppressed because of unspecified anomalies.

“Everybody was happy,” said Valentina Fernandes, 17, of Dorchester — one of the students whose scores in the math portion of the test had been withheld. “We were all jumping up and down, squealing, hugging each other. It was as if we won the Super Bowl or something.”

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Officials from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education have declined to say what kind of anomalies led them to withhold the scores, stirring frustration to build among some families and educators at the school, because passage of the MCAS is a requirement for high school graduation in Massachusetts.

Mitchell D. Chester, the state’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education, said Tuesday that the state concluded its investigation last week and found the scores were justified.

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“They are an accurate reflection of what these students have achieved,” Chester said. “I’m very pleased to see that.”

Chester said the state did not flag the math scores because they marked an unusual level of improvement from one year to the next, noting that the school’s scores in English were also much improved. He said he could not be specific about his concerns with the scores.

“We saw some anomalies in the students’ scores and their test booklets that were hard to reconcile with a test administration,” he said.

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State officials said the scores would soon be posted online, and that individual score sheets had been sent to the school for distribution.

Tommy Chang, Boston’s schools superintendent, said he was deeply proud of the students’ accomplishments and satisfied that their scores truly demonstrated what they had learned.

“Based on my own knowledge and investigation, and my conversations with the [headmaster], it makes absolutely perfect sense,” he said.

After teetering for years on the edge of a state takeover, English High has undergone an abrupt turnaround under the guidance of Headmaster Ligia Noriega-Murphy, teachers and students said. It has also brought in Blueprint Schools Network, a Newton nonprofit, to assist with academic improvement, including providing intensive math tutoring.

“We had a teacher who was a great math teacher, who basically pushed us and motivated us to progress and do better,” said Carimar Melendez, 16, of Charlestown. “We worked basically throughout the whole year thinking toward the MCAS and . . . how proud we would feel to pass it.”

Melendez said that initially it was “annoying” to have an additional math class in their schedules, but students saw the value when the time came to take the test.

Jakayla Clark, 16, of Mattapan, said there was a noticeable difference when she took the test this spring, compared to previous times she had taken it.

“I felt like I was better prepared,” she said.

Belinda Ranstrom, a business technology teacher at English High, said Noriega-Murphy’s high standards have driven her to greater performance.

“It has upped my game as a teacher,” Ranstrom said. “It’s been very hard, but it’s also been very rewarding.”

A music teacher at the school, Eytan Wurman, said he sees how hard the students work.

“They love the English High School so much that they are here for hours after school, whether it be in a sport, in a music program, in the marching band, in the cheerleaders, in the dance guard,” he said.

The students said having their scores withheld had cast a shadow over the school, even Chester told reporters last month that he had no reason to suspect cheating had occurred.

“Everyone thought that we were accused of cheating,” said Cristina Delcarmen, 16, of Roslindale. “I think it was wrong to accuse someone without any evidence.”

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.
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