2010-02-11 / Front Page

Island students fare well on NECAP tests

By Eileen M. Daly

The test results are in and it’s good news for Jamestown schools.

Gov. Donald Carcieri and Education Commissioner Deborah Gist released the results of the 2009 New England Common Assessment Program tests last Wednesday. The tests, administered in October, 2009, to students in grades 3 through 8, measure proficiency levels in reading and mathematics throughout public schools in Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire. Students in grade 11 are also tested in reading, mathematics and writing.

“I am very pleased that we continue to make progress,” Jamestown Superintendent Marcia Lukon said. “The NECAP results give us rich data to evaluate. That’s how we use it. We want to see every one of our kids grow. They don’t all start at the same place and they won’t end at the same place. We are looking for growth.”

Jamestown students achieved a proficiency level of 86% in reading and 80% in math, while North Kingstown students achieved a proficiency level of 82% in reading, 69% in math and 65% in writing.

Graduation rates for the class of 2009 were also released.

North Kingstown High School’s 2009 graduation rate of 92.46% was significantly higher than the state average of 75.48%.

Both Jamestown and Narragansett fared well across all tests. Statewide, approximately 70% of students were proficient in reading, 54% were proficient in math and 55% were proficient in writing.

North Kingstown High School students achieved a proficiency level of 85% in reading, 43% in math and 65% in writing. Writing is assessed in grade 11 only at the high school.

Lukon and North Kingstown’s Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Phil Auger emphasized the usefulness of NECAP results as a method of gauging progress and directing teaching. Now that they have the results, Lukon said she and her staff will look over the data and question both what happened and why.

An admitted data lover, Lukon said she would tear the results down question by question over the coming months.

“We can get so much information from this,” she said. “For example, we are seeing big jumps in math by grade level and we’re still asking why. Did changes in instruction increase proficiency? What questions are they answering correctly, where are they losing points?”

The information garnered from the NECAP results will be scrutinized “not so much for the scores themselves, but to help ensure that our students are getting what they need to compete in a global marketplace,” she said.

Similarly, Auger said he would use the data to “pinpoint exactly the information our kids need to learn. This is the absolute essence of common expectations.”

He outlined three basic questions administrators and teachers need to ask:

• What do we want kids to know and be able to do?

• How do we know if they’ve learned it? (This includes NECAP tests, as well as ongoing evaluations)

• What are we going to do if they don’t know it?

Auger emphasized the need for consistency across grade levels and classes.

Administrators can no longer just assume that a child taking algebra with Teacher A is receiving the same instruction as a child taking algebra with Teacher B, he said.

“In the past, nobody asked about effectiveness,” he said. “Teachers just did what they felt they needed to do to teach the subject.”

Education reform, on the other hand, is designed to ensure that every child in every class throughout the state will receive the same instruction, he said.

Auger also stressed the need for formative, as well as summative, tests to be included in the educational process. The NECAP tests are summative tests, he said, adding that they tell educators how they’ve done. Formative tests that tell educators how they are doing at the time can be used to direct teaching while it is happening, he said.

Both Jamestown and North Kingstown students scored lower overall in math than in other subjects, a trend that is reflected throughout the state.

“It’s safe to say that we have a better handle on expectations for reading than for math,” Auger said, adding, “I don’t know any teacher or administrator who would be happy with these scores.”

Lukon said she was pleased that math scores at both Melrose and Lawn Schools have shown a steady incline, but added, “Our goal is to add more challenge to our curriculum.”

Both Auger and Lukon are determined to use this and other data to continue to improve education in their respective towns.

“We are going to use this assessment data and do everything we can to respond with effective instruction to get our kids to profi ciency,” Auger said. “We will not be satisfied until every child reaches proficiency.”

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