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ANwSU schools excel on NECAP

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Posted on February 21, 2011 |
By Andy Kirkaldy



VERGENNES — The recent release of last fall’s New England Common Assessment Practice (NECAP) test scores brought mixed news to Addison Northwest Supervisory Union, ranging from positive results at Addison Central School that earned statewide notice to stagnant math scores at Vergennes Union High School that disappointed local administrators.

Results at Vergennes Union Elementary and Ferrisburgh and Addison central schools bettered state averages, and students at VUES, FCS and ACS also showed improved math and English test scores over time.

In both the cases of VUHS and ACS, a key measure of how well schools are faring is how their students from poorer families score on tests. Those students are identified by whether they qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches (FRL).

ACS was identified as one of “14 Effective Schools Closing the Poverty Gap” in a Feb. 11 Department of Education press release, but at VUHS the math scores of students from FRL families failed to show improvement.

Overall, VUHS results are comparable to state averages, while those at ANwSU elementary schools surpass them.

All Vermont 3rd- through 8th-graders take reading and math NECAP tests, and students take them again as 11th-graders. Only 5th-, 8th- and 11th-graders take the reading test.

Statewide, 2010 elementary and middle school results showed 73 percent of Vermont students meeting or exceeding reading standards, 65 percent doing so for math standards, and 57 doing so for writing standards.

For example, the combined scores of ANwSU 3rd-, 4th-, 5th- and 6th-graders range from 74 to 89 percent, all in excess of the 73 percent state average.

And the combined scores for the three elementary schools for math grades 3 through 6  range from 67 to 86 percent, all in excess of the state average of 65 percent.

The numbers also show progress for the same groups of students over the years.

For example, when current ANwSU 5th-graders took tests as 3rd-graders two years ago, collectively 67 percent met or exceeded reading standards; that number jumped to 82 percent when the same group of students took the test last fall.

The corresponding two-year jump in math went from 60 percent meeting or exceeded math standards to 78 percent.

High schoolers generally fare less well statewide and in ANwSU: The Vermont meeting-or-exceeding numbers were 72 percent for reading, 38 percent for math, and 50 percent for writing.

At VUHS in 2010, 72 percent met or exceeded reading standards, 36 percent did so for math, and 40 percent did so for writing. Those numbers are essentially comparable to the school’s scores in the past two years, although there was 4 percent uptick in math that officials had hoped would be higher.

Tests show Addison students are learning

Because of ACS FRL students’ strong performance, Addison Principal Wayne Howe was invited to the Feb. 9 education department press conference at which state test results were announced.

According to state figures, 83.3 percent of Addison’s FRL 5th-grade students met or exceeded Vermont math standards, compared to 82.5 percent of non-FRL students.

In reading, 70.8 percent of Addison’s FRL 5th-grade students met or exceeded Vermont standards, compared to 82.5 percent of non-FRL students.

The test numbers at ACS also showed students increasingly meeting the state standards as they progressed through the grade levels, when current results are compared to 2008 test scores for the same students.

For example, when current 5th-graders took the reading tests as 3rd-graders, 63 percent met or exceeded grade-level standards. According to testing last fall, 80 percent did so as 5th graders.

For the same students in math, in 3rd grade 76 percent met or exceeded standards. This fall, 93 percent did so as 5th-graders.

When ACS 4th graders took the reading test two years ago, only 47 percent met or exceeded standards. This past fall as 6th graders, that number had jumped to 80 percent.

 Howe credited ACS math specialist Tara Trudo and literacy coordinator Sheryl Thurber as well as all ACS teachers for lifting all students’ scores over time.

“We’re really proud of everything we have been doing here,” he said.

Although currently the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act measures schools’ progress on a year-to-year basis by checking different groups of students at the same grade levels, Howe is among many educators who believe it makes more sense to track how the same group is progressing. He said the improving scores for the same students heartened him.

“(You ask) is that bar graph going up, and in more cases than not, that is the case,” Howe said. “That is a really valuable way for educators to measure the progress of the individual students.”

Other highlights for ACS include:

•  ACS reading scores for the beginning of grades 3 through 6 range between 80 and 83 percent at least meeting the standard.

•  ACS math scores for at least meeting the standard are grade 3, 94 percent; grade 4, 71 percent; grade 5, 93 percent; and grade 6, 60 percent.

•  Only 5th-grade students were tested for writing; 60 percent met the standard. Two years ago, in a different group of students only 25 percent met the standard.

VUHS struggling with math scores

Meanwhile, VUHS officials would like to see their numbers rise, but the immediate concern is NCLB, which insists on achieving the designation “adequate yearly progress,” (AYP) as measured most critically by FRL students’ performance on 11th-grade math tests.

And the VUHS FRL students’ scores are lagging. Because VUHS had already been tagged as failing to make AYP under the federal law, last fall’s scores will mean a return to the drawing board.

VUHS officials had hoped efforts to improve scores would pay off, including improving the school’s testing atmosphere and adding extra summer school and remedial instruction for students during the school’s mid-day call-back period, which is essentially free time set aside for teachers to help students master material.

VUHS Co-Principal Ed Webbley said VUHS will probably be asked to come up with an improvement plan that will require a “good-faith reconstruction of our remediation system.”

“We doubled up math services. We pulled kids out for callback. We did everything that the state was excited about, but we didn’t get the rise in scores we had hoped,” Webbley said.

One likely change will be testing for math one week and English the next, a request made by students.

“The kids say the testing schedule is onerous,” Webbley said.

But he said that alone will not satisfy the requirements to demonstrate AYP or meet the school’s own goals.

“I’m not sure if two years of the same thing would give us what we want,” Webbley said. “We may have to restructure some personnel and the way in which we deliver our services to kids in need. We may have to have a math interventionist.”

ANwSU curriculum coordinator Carol Spencer said as well as evaluating the school’s approach to math and bringing a math specialist aboard, VUHS would probably insist many incoming 11th graders attend summer school. 

“Our math teachers ... have worked so hard to close this gap,” Spencer said. “Yet we feel like in high school we just haven’t gotten them there yet ... So what we need to do is expand our summer school program, which we’re going to do, and if we can figure out a way without costing more money to introduce a math intervention teacher for grades 7, 8, 9 and 10, the time has come.”

VUES students beat Vermont averages

The 2010 numbers from the VUES tests show 3rd- through 6th-grade students outperforming state averages.

Reading scores at VUES for the four classes range from 77 to 93 percent meeting or exceeding standards, compared to the state average of 73 percent.

Math scores at VUES for the four classes range from 69 to 81 percent meeting or exceeding standards, compared to the state average of 65 percent.

Writing scores at VUES for 5th-graders showed 69 percent meeting or exceeding standards, compared to the 57 percent state average.

Scores for the same students over time also improved: 77 percent of 5th graders met or exceeded state reading standards, compared to 67 percent of the same class when they were 3rd-graders. The same comparison for math standards shows a jump from 55 to 69 percent.

When the current VUES 6th-graders were 4th-graders, 64 percent met or exceeded reading standards; now, 81 percent do. The same comparison for math standards showed a jump from 57 to 74 percent.

Ferrisburgh students show improvement

The 2010 numbers from the FCS tests also show 3rd- through 6th-grade students outperforming the state averages, with one exception: Current 6th-graders are 3 points below the state’s 73 percent average for meeting or exceeding reading standards.

Reading scores at FCS for the other three classes range from 78 to 94 percent meeting or exceeding standards.

Math scores at FCS for the four classes range from a low of 67 to a high of 94 percent meeting or exceeding standards, compared to the state average of 65 percent.

Writing scores at VUES for 5th-graders showed 84 percent meeting or exceeding standards, compared to the 57 percent state average.

Scores for the same students over time also improved: 87 percent of 5th graders met or exceeded state reading standards, compared to 70 percent when they were 3rd graders. The same comparison for math standards shows a jump from 59 to 74 percent.

Gains were more modest for current 6th graders: As 4th graders 68 percent met or exceeded reading standards; now, 70 percent do. The same comparison for math standards showed a jump from just 69 to 70 percent over two years.

Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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