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Four of five Winnisquam schools fail to make AYP

April 28, 2010
TILTON — Only one of Winnisquam Regional School District's five schools made AYP this year, a step down from the past two years when three of the five schools hit the state's Adequate Yearly Progress benchmark.

To make Adequate Yearly Progress, schools need to meet performance targets for student proficiency in math and reading. This is tested with the New England Common Assessments Program, which students take in the fall. The targets increase gradually each year.

Southwick School did not meet the state target in the special education subgroup for reading, while Sanbornton Central School didn't meet the target for special education in both reading and math. Both have been designated as Schools in Need of Improvement in those areas, because they didn't make AYP for two consecutive years in the same content area.

Winnisquam Regional Middle School did not meet the state's target in reading or math, for both the whole school group score and for the subgroups. This is the polar opposite of last year, when the middle school made AYP in all areas.

Superintendent Dr. Tammy Davis said the middle school "took a big dip as a result of changing from a more inclusive environment."

As part of the mandated restructuring process after several years of not making AYP, the middle school started offering more pre-Advanced Placement classes. The "unintended consequence," Davis said, was that scores went down and students who were not in pre-AP classes reported not feeling as smart as their classmates.

"We can't have that," Davis said.

Though the middle school will continue with the pre-AP framework, it will go back to the more inclusive classroom model from the previous year, when the school had shown gains in testing scores.

"It may be a one-year dip," Davis said, but based on student interviews, the more segregated classes hurt their ability to learn.

Despite its scores last year, the middle school is still a School in Need of Improvement, because it needs to make AYP for two consecutive years to obtain "exit status."

The high school also missed the state target in all content areas for the whole school and for the subgroups. In the two previous years, it had met the targets for both reading and math as a whole school, but not in the subgroups. It is still a School in Need of Improvement.

Union Sanborn School was the only school in the district to make AYP this year, for the third consecutive year. Davis attributed part of that to the fact that the small school doesn't meet the enrollment requirements to test for special education and economically disadvantaged subgroups, which impact a school's overall ability to make AYP. But Davis also credited the school's faculty and administration, which focused on math the year after getting low math scores and subsequently brought those scores up.

Davis said USS's teachers, as well as teachers throughout the district, have been working on professional development.

"Each year they're looking at data and coming up with activities to fill the (learning) gaps," she said.

In a letter sent out to parents, Davis highlighted the areas that the school plans to work on to improve student learning. One of those areas is technology.

"They connect better with technology in many instances than with books," Davis said. "The world they live in is technology based."

The district is already using several programs that incorporate technology components, such as Read 180 and the new middle school science program.

The district will also utilize rubrics, which outline the expectations of an assignment and specifically show students what they need to do to get a C, a B or an A.

"It sets clear expectations," Davis said.

Davis pointed out that while the district's scores faltered this year, in certain areas the schools are showing growth. She said the NECAPs are only "one slice of data," but it's data that the district is taking seriously. The administration, faculty and staff is "working diligently" to continuously improve student learning.

"All of our students have the ability to think at a higher level," she said.

The district will be working toward improvements with less money than the administration had hoped for.

In March, the district Budget Committee presented a budget to voters that was significantly lower than the administration's original proposed budget. The administration was asked to cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from its original proposal.

Davis said some of the cuts might hurt the students in terms of test scores. In particular, she noted the elimination of updated science materials for the elementary schools.

"That will impact getting up to date in the science curriculum," she said.

Davis also noted that a curriculum audit this year would have allowed a third party to come in provide an objective point of view that could have helped the schools focus their teaching goals.

Garnett Hill
Martin Lord Osman
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