Williston looks for improvements
Feb. 16, 2012
By Steven Frank
Taken last October, Vermont’s elementary and middle school students (grades three to eight) were 65-percent proficient or higher in math. Proficiency dropped to 36 percent for 11th grade students.
Locally, NECAP math results featured the same trend. Students in the Williston School District were 75-percent proficient. It’s the lowest score among the four Chittenden South Supervisory Union districts by one percent (Charlotte’s 83 was the highest), but still 23 percentage points higher than the 11th-graders at Champlain Valley Union High School, which draws from CSSU’s elementary/middle schools.
According to CVU Principal Sean McMannon, the key to improved math scores on the high school level lies in an ability to get more students exposed to algebra and geometry by the beginning of their junior years.
“The reason (for the drop), to me, is very clear,” McMannon said. “It’s because the content that is being assessed in math requires that you had algebra I, geometry and algebra II. That would give you a very high probability of being proficient. When you haven’t had that content, your probability of being below or partially proficient is very high.”
McMannon said he has talked with colleagues across Chittenden County to figure out a systems approach to better prepare students for the NECAP math exams.
“I think there is some really good pilot work going on where they’re having students take more math in their ninth- and 10th-grade years, sort of doubling up,” McMannon said. “We’ve not done that yet — I’m waiting to learn from colleagues. When you take that approach, whenever you add something, you’re taking another opportunity away. … Those are choices that schools, parents and students are going to have to make.”
FACTORING IN WILLISTON
Math wasn’t the only NECAP exam taken in the fall. Mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, students in Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island were also tested in reading and writing. Schools test students on a science version of the NECAP each spring.
In Williston, 82 percent of students in grades three to eight scored proficient or higher in reading — one percent higher than last year and eight percentage points above the state average.
Compared to other CSSU schools, Williston scored two percentage points higher than Hinesburg, but was lower than Charlotte (the highest with 90-percent proficiency or higher) and Shelburne.
In terms of writing scores, 46 percent of grade five students tested proficient or higher, with 69 percent doing so in grade eight. Both writing scores dropped from last year — nine percentage points in grade five and 10 in grade eight.
Of the Williston students classified as economically disadvantaged — those on free or reduced lunch programs — 62 percent scored proficient or higher in reading (the second consecutive year of improvement), with 46 percent doing so in math.
For students with special needs, 34 percent tested proficient or higher in reading, with 27 percent doing so in math. Both scores are slight improvements over last year.
“Generally, we’re about the same as we’ve been in the past,” Williston District Principal Walter Nardelli said in regards to the scores overall. “But it’s not OK to stay in the same place. We’re in the process of digging (the results) down to an individual level, to see which students need extra help.”
Nardelli cited funding in the proposed school budget for 40 more hours of summer school instruction as one approach to improving NECAP scores.
“There are a lot of pieces that we are working on coming together,” Nardelli said. “I’d like to say we can fix it overnight, but it will take some time.”