2011-03-17 / Front Page

Test scores released, compared with other states

By Geoff Campbell

The single item on the agenda at last week’s Jamestown School Committee meeting was a presentation by Melrose Avenue School Principal Carrie Melucci and Lawn Avenue School Principal Kathy Almanzor regarding the fall semester’s test results from the New England Common Assessment Program.

The assessment program is a series of academic progress tests designed to measure student learning and achievement. As a secondary goal, it also grades curriculum and teacher effectiveness. The tests were created in response to the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Along with Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine also participate in the program.

Parents recently received individual student scores and the administration has been reviewing individual, class and grade level data to better understand what direction planning should take, said Superintendent of Schools Marcia Lukon at the March 10 meeting.

The principals noted that progress over time has been good, and Almanzor pointed out that rising math scores indicate that “math interventions” are successful.

Committee member B.J. Whitehouse remarked on the consistency of the scores while others noted the extraordinary writing scores in the eighth grade, which are the best in the state. All of the school scores will be posted on the district web site and they are also available on the state Department of Education web site. Individual student scores will not be posted.

While proficiency-or-better scores are often used to speak broadly about the district’s success, the principals said that they focus on the movement of those students who achieve proficiency for the first time or on those students who move from proficiency to proficiency with distinction.

Scores are tracked longitudinally. For example, fifth graders in 2008 were 81 percent proficient or better in mathematics, but only 18 percent of the students were proficient with distinction.

The next year’s fifth grade was only 4 percentage points higher in overall proficiency, but 32 percent higher in proficiency with distinction.

Lukon said that the scores are good information to have and she cautioned the group not to make too much out of minor shifts in data. She also pointed out that in a small district such as Jamestown, each student could represent 2 or 3 percentage points depending on the size of the class.

The Committee expressed its gratitude for the analysis of the scores and the continued improvement.

The Rhode Island averages for proficiency is 70 percent in reading, 59 percent in mathematics and 60 percent in writing. The Jamestown School District, for students in grades 3-8, achieved 86 percent proficiency in reading, 83 percent proficiency in mathematics and 77 percent in writing. The writing aspect of the program for Jamestown students is based only on students in grades 5-8.

The Jamestown district was recognized for “significant improvement from 2007-2010 in both reading and mathematics,” according to state Department of Education Commissioner Deborah Gist’s executive summary on the assessment program.

New England states that also use the program to track student achievement in reading for grades 3-8 averaged 77 percent proficiency in New Hampshire, 73 percent in Vermont, and 70 percent in Maine. For math, profi- ciency or better were achieved at rates of 71 percent in New Hampshire, 65 percent in Vermont and 61 percent in Maine.

In writing, 60 percent of New Hampshire’s students are profi- cient or better, Vermont was 57 percent and Maine was 48 percent.

Excluding charter schools, and comparing both reading and math scores, only the Barrington School District achieved higher proficiency-or-better scores than Jamestown.

Lukon explained that the state uses “testing year results” in all of the data analysis. Testing year results are the scores of students at the time the test was given regardless of where they attended school in the prior year.

Jamestown School District administrators also consider teaching year results, which are test results achieved by students who have benefited from at least one year of instruction at either Melrose or Lawn. For example, nearly 20 percent of the 2010 test takers did not attend either Jamestown school in the previous year.

Testing year results and teacher year results were remarkably close on average, but a classby class analysis reveals the importance of considering the differences in the scores when attempting to draw curricular conclusions.

The principals have drawn up an action plan to help insure further progress. It includes specific teacher in-service programs, continued use of skill specific technology and expanded implementation of programs already in use.

In other news, Whitehouse, the clerk of the Committee, announced that the Committee unanimously agreed to extend Lukon’s current and amended contract for a period of two years.

Finally, Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser called for a motion to approve the Capital Reserve Budget. Whitehouse moved that the Capital Reserve Budget of $170,911, funded through Capital Reserves, be approved in three parts: $105,100 for capital improvement, $44,900 for technology improvements and $20,911 for capital equipment. The motion passed 5-0.

The next meeting of the Jamestown School Committee is tonight – Thursday, March 17 – at 7 p.m. at Melrose Avenue School.

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