Certain student subgroups continue to struggle
Feb. 4, 2010
By Tim Simard
While students in the Williston School District and Champlain Valley Union High School scored above state averages on the New England Common Assessment Program exams, areas of concern still exist. The district and the high school continue to post low scores for economically disadvantaged and special needs students.
The above graphs show the percentage of students scoring proficient or higher on NECAP exams.
The Vermont Department of Education released the statewide assessment exam results, commonly known as NECAP tests, on Tuesday. The NECAPs examine student ability in reading, math and writing. Along with Vermont, students in Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island are tested every year, as mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind act. Students took the exams in the fall of 2009.
Reading and math tests were given to all students in grades three through eight, as well as students in grade 11. This year, only students in grade 11 received scores in writing. Although students in grade five and eight completed a writing exam, those results were not released. Instead, NECAP officials will use those scores to improve future writing tests, according to Jill Remick, communications director for the Department of Education.
NECAP exams also break down scores based on subgroups, grade levels and, for school use only, individual students.
With scores released on Tuesday, school administrators across Chittenden South Supervisory Union had little time to review results before press deadline. Superintendent Elaine Pinckney said she’d only glanced at the scores, stating that schools learn results at the same time as the public.
Williston students scored higher than state averages, with 80 percent of students scoring proficient or higher in reading and 78 percent doing so in math. Give or take a few percentage points, scores have remained at the same levels since 2005.
Compared to schools in Chittenden South Supervisory Union, Williston students scored lower than their peers in Charlotte and Shelburne. Williston scored on par or slightly higher than Hinesburg in math and reading.
District Principal Walter Nardelli said he’d only seen the overall test results and had not had a chance to review scores for student subgroups, such as economically disadvantaged and special needs students.
“I need to see those results first,” Nardelli said. “It’s hard to say anything at this point.”
Of the Williston students classified as economically disadvantaged — those on free or reduced lunch programs — 48 percent scored proficient or higher in reading, with 44 percent doing so in math. The results represent a drop of 6 percentage points for reading and 3 percentage points for math compared to 2008 scores.
For students with special needs, 25 percent tested proficient or higher in reading and 26 percent did so in math. Those results mark a slight improvement compared to the 2008 scores.
Williston’s struggles in both student subgroups have been noted by the state. In 2008, the district failed to meet federal Adequate Yearly Progress standards for the fourth year in a row. As a result, the district must provide supplemental outside services for extra help to students in the subgroups.
Adequate Yearly Progress reports are due for release in the spring.
In CVU’s third year of taking the NECAP exam, grade 11 scores declined across the board. In reading, 74 percent of grade 11 students tested proficient or higher; 44 percent did so in math and 59 percent did so in writing. Reading results experienced the largest decline with a drop of 5 percentage points.
CVU continues to score higher than state averages, but lags behind area high schools, including Essex, Mount Mansfield Union and South Burlington. Only in writing did CVU score on par with Essex and MMU.
CVU also saw a significant drop in scores for students classified as economically disadvantaged. In 2009, 25 percent tested proficient or higher in reading, 4 percent did so in math and 17 percent did so in writing. In all areas, CVU scored well below state averages.
In 2008, 45 percent of economically disadvantaged students at CVU tested proficient or higher in reading, 14 percent did so in math and 29 percent did so in writing.
In the area of special needs students, 21 percent tested proficient or higher in reading and 14 percent did so in writing. No results were released for math because the sample size of students was deemed too small. Compared to 2008 scores, reading declined while writing improved.
Principal Sean McMannon did not return phone calls for comment by press deadline.