October 21, 2014

Williston schools enter fifth year of ‘Corrective Action’

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By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

August 15th, 2013

Despite some progress, Williston School District failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress on standardized test scores, according to the Vermont Agency of Education’s accountability determinations, released Aug. 6.

Williston School District Principal Walter Nardelli said students are making progress, especially in literacy, though not yet to the point of making AYP.

“Most people want immediate results. It takes concentrated effort over a period of time to make the progress that we all want,” Nardelli wrote in an email to the Observer. Nardelli, who was attending a conference but responded to the Observer via email, wrote that it may take three to five years to see results from changes made to improve performance.

Williston is among 16 other schools to be placed on the list for Year 5 of Corrective Action.

Specifically, Williston did not meet the requirements in reading for students on free or reduced lunch and students with disabilities. It did not meet the requirements in math for all students, as well as the subgroup of free and reduced lunch students and students with disabilities.

The AYP benchmarks are intended to move Vermont schools toward the federal No Child Left Behind requirements. The No Child Left Behind Act mandates that all students be proficient in math and reading by 2014. Williston and Vermont use the New England Common Assessment Program, known as NECAP, for testing.

Williston is far from alone in its failure to make AYP.

Seventy-three percent of Vermont schools—219 schools—were identified by the Vermont Department of Education as not making adequate yearly progress.

The Agency of Education, however, also used the test results to recognize schools that were making progress.

Williston was placed on the list of schools “acknowledged for their commitment to continuous improvement,” demonstrated by an increase of 10 percent or more in student subgroups. Williston was recognized for improvements in the math scores of African-American students.

Nardelli, echoing many critics of the No Child Left Behind requirements, said test scores are just one measure of a school.

“If you look at the requirements of a (21st-century learner) by any measure, these tests do not measure all of the knowledge and skills a student needs to be a successful learner now and for the rest of their life,” Nardelli wrote. “They are a small part of a larger picture.”

Nardelli added that learning is based on the total number of experiences a student has, not just school experiences.

“Williston offers many opportunities. What we need to make sure is that ALL students get a chance to participate in these wonderful learning experiences,” Nardelli wrote.

Because it is in corrective action, Williston School District must work with the Agency of Education to develop an action plan for improvement.

Currently, Nardelli said school staff is concentrating on students who need help and providing additional small-group, targeted instruction to those students.

The school district has also purchased a new math series, which is now being implemented. Teachers have been in training for the past three years, learning the best ways to teach mathematics, a process Nardelli said takes time.

Champlain Valley Union did make AYP and is among 33 schools on the list for Year 1 School Improvement.

CVU Principal Jeff Evans could not be reached for comment before press deadline.

Congress has not yet reauthorized No Child Left Behind.

This school year will be the last time students see the NECAP exams. Vermont is one of 28 states preparing to make the transition to the Smarter Balance Assessment System in 2015.

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