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Joyce Endee

School district still in need of improvement. according to tests

NECAP results do not reflect progress being made, educator asserts

May 19, 2011
WOLFEBORO — According to Governor Wentworth Regional School District's Director of Curriculum Heather Cummings, regardless of how the district is assessed by the state we should be proud of the work that is going on in the schools.

In a well thought out, easily understood PowerPoint presentation at an earlier May school board meeting, Cummings outlined the district's 2011 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) Summary based on fall 2010 New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) test results. The presentation began with NECAP's origins, moved to where Governor Wentworth currently stands, and ended with how the district is working towards improvement. Cummings' report was threaded with praise for the progress presently being made by the staff and administration of each school.

Statistics only indicate how AYP "is not really a good indicator of how New Hampshire schools are doing," she said, "There are other statistics that tell us a different story."

District is not alone

Currently 87 school districts in the state are identified as a "District in Need of Improvement" (DINI), one of which is Governor Wentworth. Within that, 327 of 469 schools (70 percent) missed AYP in one or more areas, resulting in 307 now designated as a "School In Need of Improvement" (SINI).

While five Governor Wentworth schools have been identified as SINI for 2010-11, what's more important, explained Cummings, is to recognize that the whole school scores for some of those SINI's are pretty remarkable. For example, Crescent Lake School has been newly-identified as a SINI, however its whole school index score in reading was a 95.6 and in math a 93.

"This is a phenomenon and I'm very happy to be able to say this publicly," Cummings said of the middle school's (also a SINI) scores, which came in at a 97.1 in reading and 84.7 in math.

The other two elementary schools in need of improvement are New Durham and Ossipee, which also had notable whole school scores.

Carpenter Elementary, Effingham Elementary and Tuftonboro Central remain the district's three schools that have not been identified as SINI.

While the district will be entering its third year as a DINI, overall Governor Wentworth Regional School District has "had incredible success and progress in [grades] three through eighth with reading and math," said Cummings.

The target score set by the Department of Education for reading and math this year was 91 and 88 respectively. Governor Wentworth scored a 94.2 in reading and a 90.8 in math, both scores well above the overall averages for the state.

"These index scores are phenomenal in the state, never mind just in our district," said Cummings.

Though the high school, another designated SINI, experienced a significant drop in its scores, Cummings explained that the reason is not necessarily an accurate reflection of the student's abilities. Many of the juniors required to take the test feel that how well they do doesn't matter. The NECAP test results are dissimilar to those of the PSAT or SAT in that they do not show up on a student's transcript or directly affect their future. In fact, Cummings said, PSAT, SAT and MAP testing results are much more encouraging for this reason.

While the high school administration and teachers continue to work on a way to increase NECAP performance and brainstorm incentives that could be used to encourage students to take it seriously, Cummings reassured the school board that change takes time and that she is happy with the work going on in the district.

And it's not just the high school striving to make improvements. It seems every school in the district has programs, committees and tools put in place to ensure movement towards that 2014 deadline of 100 percent proficiency – though many feel that is an unreasonable expectation.

However disheartening the stats may be, great things are going on in the district, Cummings said. Support techniques and tools are being implemented in and out of the classroom making learning fun and accessible and for all students. Programs such as IXL, a math-based computer program students can practice on at home, after-school tutoring, the creation of the high school student advancement team, utilization of UNH curriculum mapping, and hiring a Title I math teacher for the middle school are just some of ways teachers and staff are getting creative and trying to make improvements.

"It is a journey and we continue regardless of what mandates and sanctions come our way," said Cummings in conclusion. "I really appreciate being in a district who looks at the kids first… It's our jobs as administrators to look at protecting them from some sanctions that just aren't right for them and that we work on improvements."

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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