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NECAP scores take a hit in Winnisquam


Administration 'digging deep' to understand drop


March 03, 2010
TILTON — NECAP testing results show that while some schools in the Winnisquam district increased their proficiency achievements levels all around, the middle school and high school showed significant declines in reading proficiency, bringing the district's percentage down in that area.

New England Common Assessment Program testing results show that overall, students in grades three through 11 had a 4 percent decrease in reading proficiency from 2008 to 2009. In 2007, the district's average percentage of students who were proficient or above was 70 percent. In 2008, that percentage was 76; in 2009, it's down to 72 percent.

Superintendent Dr. Tammy Davis emphasized that although the seventh and 11th grades brought the district percentage down by 4 percent, the elementary schools continue to make progress. Furthermore, the district saw a 4 percent increase in math proficiency. In the past three years, math proficiency levels have gone from 55 in 2007 to 58 in 2008 to 62 in 2009. Davis said she feels the district is giving equal attention to all testing areas and that seeing bigger gains in one area doesn't mean the other is being neglected.

"Yes, we did put a strong emphasis on our math, but we did continue our emphasis on reading as well," she said. "At the elementary level you can see that."

At Winnisquam Regional Middle School, reading scores declined 8 percent and math scores went down 1 percent based on results from the tests implemented last fall compared to the previous year's.

Since 2005, reading scores are down 1 percent and math scores are up 10 percent.

The high school's reading scores also declined, from 72 percent in 2008 to 61 percent in 2009. Math scores increased by 2 percent, from 25 percent in 2008 to 27 percent in 2009. Writing scores, which were not tested at the elementary or middle school level in 2009, increased from 28 to 36 percent at the high school.

Davis said that one of the changes the schools are considering implementing in light of the test scores is to "incorporate more writing into everything." That, along with teaching students how to "chunk" text so they get the information that's critical without being overwhelmed by the amount of text, may better prepare them to answer open-ended questions.

Before making too many changes, though, Davis said teams of teachers in the middle and high schools are analyzing scores and looking at weaknesses in order to improve teaching methods and curriculum. The high school will also look at the 11th graders' scores and compare them to their eighth-grade scores.

"We're really digging down pretty deep," Davis said. "I want us to really understand why we took such a drop."

The elementary schools have shown greater improvements. Union Sanborn School's reading scores have increased gradually each year since 2005, moving from 65 percent to 82 percent in 2009. Math scores are also up, though they have fluctuated since testing began in 2005. They started at 69 percent, then decreased to 62 percent, then 64, reaching a low of 50 percent in 2008. This year the school's math scores increased math proficiency levels by 28 percent, bringing them up to 78 percent.

Sanbornton Central School's reading results are down 2 percent after reaching a high of 90 percent in 2008; it had started at 75 percent in 2005. Math scores are up 7 percent, reaching 86 percent in 2009; that number is 20 percent higher than when NECAP testing began in 2005.

Southwick School's scores for both reading and math have gradually increased each year for the past five years, moving from 64 percent to 79 percent in reading and from 53 to 69 percent in math.

Davis said that with the elementary scores consistently higher than the middle and high schools, and consistently improving, she expects that as those students continue on in the district, their proficiency levels will carry over to the seventh and 11th-grade testing.

However, Davis said the only caveat this year is that the elementary schools are following a brand new reading program, which could temporarily bring down NECAP scores as teachers acclimate to it.

"I hope that we don't have a dip," she said.

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