Schools enter second year of Corrective Action (5/13/10)

District doesn’t make Adequate Yearly Progress

May 13, 2010

By Greg Duggan

Observer staff

Despite making what District Principal Walter Nardelli called “great leaps,” two groups of Williston students again failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress on standardized test scores.

Students identified as low income and disabled did not score high enough as groups on standardized tests, as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Williston and Vermont use the New England Common Assessment Program, commonly known as NECAP, for testing.

Nardelli and Lisa Lovelette, who works as Williston’s school support coordinator for the Vermont Department of Education, said students — particularly those in the disability subgroup — are improving their scores.

“They are making steady progress,” Nardelli said. “That’s good news. But the problem is they’re not making the plateau that says they made adequate yearly progress.”

No Child Left Behind requires a certain percentage of students in every school district to score at least proficient on standardized tests. By 2014, the target is 100 percent of students scoring proficient or higher.

Williston’s scores on the 2009 NECAP tests resulted in the district’s failure to make adequate yearly progress in the student subgroups for the fifth straight year.

“They are seeing gains, which is great, said Jill Remick, communications director for the Department of Education. “But in a lot of cases, it’s not enough to make (adequate yearly progress) two years in a row, which is what they need to do to come off the school improvement list.”

The district was one of 16 in the state to be placed on a list for Year 2 of Corrective Action. Ninety-four schools in Vermont were identified by the Department of Education as not making adequate yearly progress on some level.

Because it is in Corrective Action, the Williston school district works with the Department of Education to address its areas of need and implement an action plan.

Nardelli said Williston has three full time reading recovery teachers working with students in first and second grade who need the extra help. A math recovery teacher focuses on first and second grade students. Another reading specialist works with students in grades five through eight who need extra teaching.

Nardelli also said that kindergarten students, who now attend school all day, have higher scores than their predecessors in half-day programs.

Third grade is the first level at which students take the NECAP tests, and Nardelli expects to see improvements when the younger students reach that point.

Furthermore, the district is spending more time on data analysis to make instructional decisions, Nardelli and Lovelette said.

Lovelette mentioned other steps taken by the school district, including training all math teachers in a course called “Best Practices in Teaching Mathematics” and offering students a three-week summer support program in literacy and math.

“We have more in place now for supports than we’ve ever had before,” Nardelli said.

Remick also noted that No Child Left Behind was passed by the administration of former President George W. Bush. With President Barack Obama now in office, the federal government may change education requirements and standards, Remick said.