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Principal reveals NECAP Science scores at PMHS

October 13, 2009
ALTON — Prospect Mountain High School's scores on the NECAP Science exams given to last year's junior class were, for the most part, on par with state-wide results, according to information provided to the JMA board last week by Principal James Fitzpatrick.

Announcing the scores during his bi-weekly report to the board at its Oct. 6 meeting, Fitzpatrick said last year's juniors showed an overall improvement compared to the previous year's score.

While the number of students scoring in the Substantially Below Proficient category increased by one percent, he said, those results were off-set by a two percent decrease in the Below Proficient category and a three percent increase in the Proficient category.

Students, he explained, did particularly well on the Physical Science portion of the exam, but fell slightly below state expectations in Earth and Space Sciences — an issue that he said might stem from the fact that those particular branches of science are not currently taught at the freshman or sophomore level at Prospect Mountain.

In Life Science, Fitzpatrick said, Prospect Mountain was "right on par" with state expectations.

The most problematic portion of the exam was the Inquiry section — a series of open-ended questions that Fitzpatrick said challenge students to question how a biological process or chemical reaction works.

"You really can't teach someone how to respond to those questions in two years of high school," Fitzpatrick said, explaining that the types of questions found on the Inquiry portion of the exam change radically from year to year, making it difficult for teachers to base sample questions off the previous year's exam.

The confusing wording of some Inquiry questions, he said, can also frustrate students who might not understand exactly what is being asked of them.

"It can be a guessing game," he added.

Stating that he was pleased with the school's performance, particularly in light of the fact that results across the state were below par last year, Fitzpatrick noted that, like any standardized test, the NECAPs are "a snapshot of what our kids know at a certain point in time," and do not necessarily tell the whole story.

Board member Terri Noyes suggested that the Inquiry results could be used as a jumping-off point for collaborative efforts between faculty members at Prospect Mountain and its two feeder schools.

Board member Maureen Smith, herself a former teacher, agreed, commenting that the ability to break down and answer complex, open-ended questions is a skill that she felt should be instilled and nurtured in students at a young age.

Along with last year's Science scores, Fitzpatrick announced that the 2009 NECAP exams in Reading, Writing, and Mathematics began Tuesday, Oct. 6, and were scheduled to end on Thursday, Oct. 8.

Help needed for softball dugout project

Board member Terri Noyes, who currently chairs the Buildings and Grounds subcommittee, reported last week that her committee recently discussed moving forward with the construction of dugouts for the school's softball field, and felt it would be best to pour the concrete footings before winter.

With Noyes moving that the board use $4,000 in end-of-year funds from FY09 toward the footings (pending final approval of the design for the dugouts), board Chairman Keith Couch asked whether the Buildings and Grounds Committee had located a "champion," or community member willing to spear-head the project and organize a team of volunteers.

Noyes replied that the committee is still searching for a project champion, and would appreciate any support the local community is willing to provide.

The board voted unanimously in favor of Noyes' motion.

Soccer field issues continue

Buildings and Grounds Committee member Diane Beijer commented at a later point in the meeting that the subcommittee had recently toured the school's soccer fields, and found that the grass was dry enough to be considered "hay."

"They look very bad," she said, asking Superintendent Paul Bartolomucci to confirm whether or not the administration had followed through on a promise made earlier this year to install a water meter in an effort to determine whether or not the fields were being watered often enough.

Bartolomucci replied that the meter was in place, and that the school's maintenance staff were continuing to take readings.

Business Administrator Chuck Stuart reported that roughly 34,000 gallons of water had been pumped into the soccer field sprinklers within the past week.

Bartolomucci promised to investigate the matter further.

Budget preparations under way

Finance Committee Chairman Jeff St. Cyr reported that his committee was in the midst of preparing the school's FY10 operating budget, and planned to have the complete budget available, along with their recommendations, for review by the full board on Oct. 20.

The board, he said, will then have two weeks to go over the budget before formally adopting it, with any necessary revisions, on Nov. 3.

H1N1 update

Updating the board on the administration's on-going efforts to monitor illnesses among students and staff, Fitzpatrick reported that as of Oct. 6, no cases of the H1N1 flu virus (commonly known as the swine flu) had been reported at Prospect Mountain.

Next meeting

The board's next meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 6:30 p.m. in the high school media center.

Brendan Berube can be reached at 569-3126 or bberube@salmonpress.com

Matin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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