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Board goes over AYP results

April 20, 2010
BARNSTEAD — Although the administration's hopes of lifting Barnstead Elementary School's "In Need of Improvement" designation this year were dashed by the school's failure to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) on the fall 2009 NECAP exam, Principal Tim Rice assured the school board during its April 13 meeting that plans are under way to get test scores back on track.

Informing the board that the school did not make AYP this year in either Reading or Math (as reported in this paper last week), Rice explained that Barnstead will be entering its third year as a School and District In Need of Improvement (SINI/DINI) in Reading, and its second year as a SINI/DINI in Math.

In order for a SINI or DINI designation to be lifted, the affected school or district must make AYP in all areas for two consecutive years.

One of the things going against Barnstead on last fall's exam, Rice said, was the fact that the target scores established by the state Department of Education for Reading and Math were raised (to 91 for Reading and 88 for Math).

Barnstead's average score in Reading on the fall exam was 85.5 (an improvement over last year), while its average Math score was 80.7 (a slight drop).

Comparing the target scores to a high-jump competition, Rice explained that in the beginning, when the bar is set at its lowest point, nearly every competitor (in this case, every school) will make it over the bar.

As the bar is set higher and higher, however, there comes a point where "eventually, more and more people don't make the jump," he said, pointing to the fact that of the 473 New Hampshire schools that participated in last fall's NECAP exam, only 133 made AYP in all areas.

Had the target score in Reading not been raised, he said, Barnstead's score would have fallen sufficiently within the margin of error for it to make AYP.

This is the first year that Barnstead Elementary has not made AYP in both subjects as a whole school, he added, explaining that the problem areas in the past have been the Educationally Disabled and Economically Disadvantaged subgroups, whose scores have skewed the school-wide average.

[Editor's note: Under the provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the scores of any subgroup containing 11 or more students are counted against the school-wide average.]

Asked by Chairman Keith Couch whether the board had ever had an opportunity to review the SINI/DINI plan that was submitted to the state last year, Rice said he had shown them a preliminary draft of the plan, but not the final product.

Stating that he would like to see a more detailed presentation on the administration's plans for addressing NECAP scores, Couch suggested that it might be beneficial for the board to be brought "up to speed on this."

A special board meeting or work session on NECAP strategy, he said, would also demonstrate to the public that action is being taken to address the problem.

Board member Eunice Landry said she would also be interested in delving into the situation in more detail.

"I don't want to micro-manage this," she said. "I just want to understand it."

Rice promised to put a detailed action plan and timeline together in preparation for a future meeting.

At the conclusion of last week's meeting, resident and longtime paraprofessional Priscilla Tiede suggested that one way to promote reading might be to introduce more material into the curriculum that students would be interested in reading.

In view of the fact that many children do not grow up with access to books at home, Tiede also proposed the idea of a community book drive as a way to encourage reading.

Agreeing that thinking outside the box when it comes to curriculum can sometimes be beneficial, Couch explained that the Prospect Mountain JMA board has begun allowing English teachers to drop classics, such as "The Scarlet Letter," from the curriculum in recent years in favor of more contemporary novels, with promising results.

Commenting that, "we're sometimes disjointed in how we do things," Couch also voiced his support for the idea of book drive, calling it something that could become "a great rallying cry" for the community, and a demonstration of educators and community members working together toward a common goal.

Board Vice Chair Diane Beijer suggested that students could be challenged to collect a certain number of books in exchange for the chance to see Rice or Assistant Principal Jeff Drouin do something outlandish, such as shave their heads.

A book drive, she said, would also be the "perfect way to help parents clean out their houses."

"I think it could be a real opportunity for us to come together as an educational community," Couch said.

"We don't have a lot of fluff"

Business Administrator Amy Ransom's request for a series of transfers aimed at addressing shortfalls within the district's FY10 operating budget prompted some board members to comment on how rapidly unforeseen situations can sometimes deplete available funds.

Ransom requested a total of $101,572 in budget transfers, most of them stemming from unanticipated overruns in the Special Education budget (including bi-lingual education services for students who recently moved into the district and additional support staff).

Other transfers, she said, were proposed as a way to cover health insurance buybacks, unanticipated summer school services and transportation costs.

Noting that the unanticipated Special Education expenses would have left a $44,000 shortfall in the budget, Landry commented that the district was extremely lucky this year to have money set aside in the Special Education Trust to off-set unforeseen expenditures.

Couch described the list of requested transfers as a good demonstration to the public and the budget committee of how constricted the district's budget is in reality.

"We don't have a lot of fluff in our budget," he said, praising district officials and school administrators for putting in a "very diligent effort" to live within their means.

With Landry noting an apparent shortfall in the Maintenance budget, Ransom said she anticipated being able to make up the difference at the end of the year through savings on electricity, heating oil, and other utilities.

The board unanimously approved all $101,572 in transfers.

Site visit leads to Title I changes

Updating the board on the outcome of a recent site visit/assessment of Barnstead's Title I program, Drouin said the biggest point of contention noted by the evaluator was the fact that the school's Title I staff tend to supplant the work of classroom teachers by "co-teaching," rather than augmenting what goes on in the classroom and providing the "added value" that the Title I program was designed to promote.

Those changes need to be made "right away" in order to avoid having to pay back grant funding, he said, adding that the new process might mean sending Title I staff into classrooms at different times of day.

Apart from the need to ensure added value, he explained, the evaluator recommended that administrators work on documentation and re-assess the selection criteria for the Title I program in order to ensure accountability.

Although the evaluator appreciated the fact that "we're working really hard," he said, she commented that Barnstead seemed to be stuck in the days before No Child Left Behind, and needed to catch up with current federal regulations.

Superintendent William Compton said he had spoken with the evaluator over the phone shortly after her visit, and assured her that the district would begin making the necessary changes and moving forward in order to be more compliant with federal guidelines.

"Were going to make a major effort to change, starting right now," he said, informing the board that he had invited the evaluator to return in November or December and observe the district's progress.

Compton also commended Drouin for his management of the Title I program, commenting that, "he's really doing a terrific job."

Odds and ends

In other business, the board approved the hiring of a new sixth grade Reading teacher and a temporary one-to-one paraprofessional aide, and heard the latest enrollment figures from Rice (529 students as of April 7).

The board also approved a new policy concerning the dispensation of medications in the second reading, and approved a proposed calendar for the 2010-11 school year, with the first day of school slated for Sept. 2 and the last day tentative set for June 15 (barring any emergency or weather-related cancellations).

Ransom informed the board that she had been invited by the superintendent of the Gilford School District to join in with several surrounding districts on a collective bid for 700,000 gallons of heating oil at a cost of $2.80 per gallon (20 cents cheaper per gallon than what is currently budgeted for next year).

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

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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