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NECAP science tests show most area schools are above average

October 07, 2010
LITTLETON – Most of the North Country's schools scored better than the state-wide average on the recently released science portion of the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) but still many students – in grades 4, 8 and 11 – are not proficient. This test was given last spring.

All fourth graders in the region beat the state-wide average. The Whitefield School led the region and outperformed the state-wide average by ten percentage points. Six percent of their fourth graders achieved the rare merit of "proficient with distinction" or "proficient plus." Ellen Turcotte, the school's principal, said several grades had an assembly to celebrate their scores and psychological lift as they head into this week's fall testing. "Kids love science," she said, "it tends to be hands-on and experimental." But, she added, the best way to achieve good test results is "through good quality instruction."

Eight graders and eleventh graders didn't perform as well as their 4th grade counterparts, but remained close to the state average. Lisbon and Haverhill eighth graders had the best scores, while eleven graders from Lisbon and Lin Wood did the best.

Steve Saxton, Lisbon's middle and high school principal, was pleased with the results of his school. Lisbon lead the region last year in the NECAP results for reading, math and writing.

"When you focus on something you improve," he said. Saxton cautioned against reading too much into these scores because "we are such a small group,' one or two students can sway the numbers. The smaller schools in the North Country, like Monroe, Landaff, and Bath, aren't included in the report as their student body is too statistically small to provide any meaningful data.

Littleton Superintendent Tommy Stevens was pleased with the progress of the three Littleton schools.

"I'm happy with the progress; pleased that our scores increased," he said, but "that's not to say we're where we want to be. We set our standards higher than that."

Retired science teacher Art Hammon, who taught at local schools for over two decades and served in various state positions to design the science standards and first tests, said standardized test results are not a true measure of student knowledge or school success. He questioned the validity of using a multiple choice test to assess the diverse and enormous field of science.

"The test results," he said, "only tell you about the ability of children to take a multiple choice test and whether the education programs focused on the very things that will be on the test."

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