2010-03-11 / Front Page

Student NECAP test scores trend upward

By Dara Chadwick

NECAP test scores for Jamestown students are trending upward – news that pleased School Committee members during last Thursday’s School Committee Workshop meeting at Lawn Avenue School.

Lawn Avenue School Principal Kathleen Almanzor and Melrose School Principal Carole Melucci reported on NECAP scores, trends and the district’s action plan for improvement. Overall, Lawn students’ scores were the third highest of the state’s middle schools in both math and reading.

What is different about this year’s test scores, Almanzor said, is that the school can now break out data for individual students and more easily track their performance over four years at Lawn Avenue School.

“It’s important to look at kids over time,” she said. “It shows that our model is working and that we’re using good instructional practices.”

Superintendent Marcia Lukon agreed, saying, “Looking at individual students and individual numbers is really where the power of the data is.”

That data is one more piece of information for parents, Melucci added.

“We can look at a particular student,” she said. “And we can use that information at parent confer- ences to show improvement.”

Reported trends included an upward trend in the percentage of students falling into the “profi- cient with distinction” category in reading, as well as an overall improvement in mathematics and an increase in the number of students scoring “proficient with distinction.”

Almanzor attributed the improved math scores to a change in curriculum made back when current seventh-grade students were third-graders.

“That group was the pilot group for the Everyday Math curriculum,” she said.

The principals also discussed the district’s “action plan” for improvement.

In reading, that plan includes professional development focused on K-2 literacy training, a focus on critical thinking skills and an increase in use of technology-based reading interventions. In mathematics, the plan includes continued professional development, increasing the number of problem-solving opportunities and a “guaranteed and viable curriculum for grades K-8.”

Guaranteed, in this case, means that “students are getting the same instruction,” Almanzor said, adding that “viable” means that the curriculum is tied to grade-level expectations.

The committee also heard a presentation by Paul Morse, who represented the Greene School, a new charter high school approved by the state for 2010, which will enroll 42 students in grades 9 and 10 for September 2010.

In other business, the committee:

• Heard an update on the school bus parking situation from Lukon, including a report on her discussions with the Dept. of Transportation about the possibility of using the Park ‘N Ride commuter lot on Rt. 1A to park up to 10 buses.

Lukon confirmed that Town Administrator Bruce Keiser had written a letter to the DOT requesting that space be allotted to accommodate the buses, which are all part of the statewide transport system.

Town Council liaison Michael White confirmed that Keiser will make a follow-up call to the DOT. Lukon reported that the school department will incur an additional $35,000 annually if it is unable to find parking for the buses. After some discussion about paving part of the Melrose School grounds or using part of the Lawn School paved courtyard – where a playground is planned – it was agreed that neither option is practical and that a backup plan must be created.

• Reviewed regulations governing health and wellness committees, noting that regulations specify that the health and wellness committee be chaired by a member of the “full School Committee.” The committee tabled the appointment of a chair until its next meeting.

• Discussed an agenda item proposed by committee member B.J. Whitehouse, who urged the committee to identify a percentage cap on the unreserved fund that it would consider reasonable and to return monies above the cap to the town. While committee members supported the idea of a cap in theory, discussion ensued as to the wisdom of setting such a cap in the current economic climate.

Committee Chair Cathy Kaiser was reluctant to set a new cap on the unreserved fund, saying, “There is no bright spot on the horizon fi- nancially” for Jamestown schools.

Whitehouse agreed, but added, “There is no bright spot for taxpayers either.”

Committee member Julia Held agreed with Kaiser, saying, “You can only plan for what you know about. I’ve been surprised at how well our school administration is able to put together budgets with so many variables. I don’t know how you can pick a cap.”

Ultimately, committee member Julie Kallfelz suggested that the committee formalize the practice of discussing and evaluating the fund status on a semi-annual basis.

“Maybe that’s a more flexible, sensible way,” she said.

Whitehouse said he will meet with School Department Finance Director Jane Littlefield to examine potential cap figures.

The next business meeting of the Jamestown School Committee will be held on Thursday, March 25, at 7 p.m. in the Lawn Avenue School Library. A joint budget meeting with the Town Council is scheduled for Tuesday, March 30, at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

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