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Good news and bad for Shaker's NECAP results

February 16, 2011
BELMONT — There's good news and bad in Shaker Regional School District's New England Common Assessment Program results.

Director of Curriculum and Assessment Shannon Bartlett presented a summary of NECAP results to the School Board last week, comparing scores to the state's and to four other schools in the Lakes Region.

"Across the board, we have phenomenal scores in reading," she said.

For reading proficiency, grades four through eight scored higher than the state average; only grades three and 11 scored slightly below the state average. Bartlett said the comparisons were based on students with Level 3 or Level 4 scores, which indicate average to high proficiency.

Math results were a different story.

"The scores in general, most of them dropped (throughout the state)," she said. "I think the test itself was more difficult."

Still, compared with other Lakes Region schools, Shaker's scores were often the top one or two for each of the seven grades that participate. Only Shaker's eighth graders did not score in the top two compared to Gilford, Inter-Lakes, Laconia and Winnisquam.

"Overall, Shaker did really well, comparatively, in math," Bartlett said.

The 11th-grades scores in both writing and math dipped for Shaker this year, and Bartlett said it's in part due to the gap between the eighth-grade test and the 11th-grade test. The gap makes it more difficult to determine what skills need to be added to the curriculum in what grade, but Bartlett said figuring that out is part of the process.

"We're taking a hard look at Belmont High School and filling the gaps in education," she said.

BHS Principal Russ Holden said that in terms of math, the 11th-grade NECAPs require knowledge that hasn't been acquired by most students at the beginning of 11th grade, when the test is taken. He said a lot of questions cover Algebra II, and most 11th-graders are only one month into Algebra II when they take the NECAPs.

"We have 25 to 30 kids that have the knowledge to take a stab at this," Holden said, adding that the state's expectation that students know this material by October of 11th grade is "unrealistic, and it's never, ever gonna happen."

Bartlett said that many students said the test was harder than the SATs.

"Either the timing is off, or there's some flaw with this particular assessment," she said.

School Board member Preston Tuthill said that at some point, the district can't blame the test and is going to have to demonstrate evolving proficiency, particularly with the state looking into implementing models that will require schools to track proficiency.

Bartlett said the district is tracking proficiency and is in general making gains. She said when a Shaker school has not made AYP in the past, it is because of special education and socioeconomic subgroups, a "tiny" percentage of students.

"I don't think John from the public understands that," Tuthill said.

Bartlett also said that 2013 will be the last year that the NECAP is used. The test is changing to better cover the common core subjects and will be taken at different points throughout the year.

Until then, Bartlett said the district will continue to adjust its curriculum to ensure that students are learning what they need to at the right time.

"Are we satisfied with these results? Absolutely not," Bartlett said. "But we're not worried."

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