2009-02-26 / Front Page

NECAP results show improvements

By Eileen M. Daly

Results from the Fall 2008 Beginning Grade New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) tests are in and overall the results are good, according to Superintendant Marcia Lukon.

Students in Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont are given the NECAP tests as part of each state's statewide assessment program. Results are used for school improvement and accountability, while achievement level results are used to assess each state's performance under the No Child Left Behind program, Lukon said.

According to the test description packet, NECAP tests in reading and math are administered to students in grades 3 through 8. NECAP writing tests are administered to students in grades 5 and 8. The tests measure grade level expectations that have been developed in each of the states. The tests are designed to measure content and skills that students are expected to have at the start of their current grade, in other words, the tests measure the previous years learning. Scores are designated: Proficient with distinction (Level 4) when the student's performance demonstrates ability beyond grade level, Proficient (Level 3) when student performance is at grade level, Partially Proficient (Level 2) when student performance is inconsistent and Substantially Below Proficient (Level 1) when student performance is below grade level.

"By year 2014, every child will have to be proficient in order to comply with No Child Left Behind. In order to reach that goal, each state has set a schedule of improvement. NECAP scores are then compared against the state's target rate for that year," Lukon said. Under this system, she said, a state can have improved scores and still fall short of the target rate. Consistently falling short of the target rate could result in state sanctions against the school in question.

According to the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Rhode Island's Accountability System classifies schools as High Performing, Moderately Performing or In Need of Improvement. Both Lawn School and Melrose School are High Performing schools, Lukon said.

Lukon called the NECAP test "a reasonable test that our kids should do well on." Looking at the 2008 results, Lukon said, "Overall I am very pleased with the level of improvement in the areas we have emphasized, writing for example. We are seeing progress in decreasing the numbers of students who are not yet proficient, but we still have work to do. My goal is to help the district to elevate the level of every student and to move more students into a level of Proficient with distinction," she said. Lukon pointed to the district's Rigor and Relevance Program as one way to go about meeting this goal. She emphasized the fact that the Rigor and Relevance Program helps students to use learning in a way that is applicable in the real world. In order to compete in the global market, Lukon said, children are going to need these kinds of advanced thinking skills.

"This is the third year that the NECAP tests have been given," Lukon said, "so we are beginning to be able to track the progress of our students." Overall, scores are improving with more children scoring in the levels of Proficient and Proficient with distinction, she said. Lukon was particularly pleased with the level of improvement in student writing scores. She called these scores, "scores to celebrate." Reading and math scores have also improved, but at a more moderate level, Lukon said.

In order to make the most use of the NECAP test results, Lukon said that she has taken the time to review responses question by question, to look for patterns and determine how best to proceed with teaching strategies. Lukon meets with the teachers and reviews the scores along with any strategies that might be implemented in order to remain compliant with NCLB target rates of improvement.

She will be presenting the results of the NECAP tests at the school committee meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at Lawn Avenue School.

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