Schools still struggling in certain areas
Feb. 5, 2009
By Tim Simard
Although the Williston School district is scoring higher than the state average on the New England Common Assessment Program tests, it still struggles with improving scores for economically disadvantaged and special needs students.
The same can be said for Champlain Valley Union High School. While students scored higher than the state average, there were struggles in the same student subgroups.
The Vermont Department of Education released results from the statewide assessment tests, commonly known as NECAPs, last week. The exams test student aptitude in reading, math and writing. Students from Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Maine are tested every year. The tests are mandated as part of the federal No Child Left Behind act.
The tests for reading and math are given every fall to students in grades three through eight, as well as grade 11. Students in grades five, eight and 11 are tested in writing. A science NECAP exam is given in the spring.
NECAP exams also break down test results by different student subgroups, such as economically disadvantaged students and students who receive special needs services.
Overall, the Williston student body performed better than state averages, with 80 percent of students scoring proficient or higher in reading, 79 percent doing so in math and 64 percent doing so in writing. Scores have hovered at about the same levels for reading and math in Williston since the NECAPs were first given in 2005. Writing scores have seen a steady improvement every year.
Despite outperforming the state, Williston generally scored lower than its peers in the Chittenden South Supervisory Union towns of Charlotte, Hinesburg and Shelburne.
District Principal Walter Nardelli said he was pleased Williston beat the state average, but said writing scores need to be improved. Administrators from CSSU did not return phone calls in time for press deadline Wednesday.
Last year, for the third year in a row, Williston failed to meet federal Adequate Yearly Progress standards, which are assessed through NECAPs, for economically disadvantaged and special education students. As a result, the district must provide supplementary outside services for extra help to students in the subgroups.
Adequate Yearly Progress reports for 2008 will be released in April, according to Jill Remick, communications director for the DOE.
In the area of Williston’s economically disadvantaged students, 54 percent tested proficient or higher in reading, 47 percent did so in math, and 34 percent did so in writing. Williston either matched or fell below the state averages. The figures were also on par with last year’s scores, although 2 percentage points lower in math.
For students with special needs, 21 percent tested proficient or higher in reading, 25 percent did so in math, and 7 percent did so in writing. Williston was above the state average in math, but below average in reading and writing scores. Results were similar to last year’s scores.
District Principal Walter Nardelli said the school is taking proactive steps in helping students from both groups. Last year, the district started quick response programs, which test students on progress made on a weekly basis. The idea is to improve student learning and prevent them from falling behind, Nardelli said.
“In general, we have more data to help us target students who are in need and to put interventions in place for them,” Nardelli said.
CVU’s grade 11 also struggled in the subgroups of economically disadvantaged and special needs students. And while CVU as a whole scored ahead of the state average in all subjects, it fell behind area high schools — including Essex, South Burlington and Mount Mansfield Union — in reading and math, though it outperformed those schools in writing.
At CVU, 79 percent of grade 11 students tested proficient or higher in reading, 46 percent did so in math, and 64 percent did so in writing. Last year, the first year high school students took the NECAPs, CVU did 1 percentage point better in reading. Scores stayed the same in math, but improved 9 percentage points in writing.
For economically disadvantaged students, 45 percent tested proficient or higher in reading, 14 percent did so in math, and 29 percent did so in writing. The high school was 10 percentage points below the state average in reading, and 3 percentage points below in math. Writing scores were slightly higher than the state average.
In the area of special needs students, 26 percent tested proficient or higher in reading, 6 percent did so in math, while no students tested proficient or higher in writing. CVU scored ahead of state averages in reading and math, but below averages in writing, where the Vermont average for proficient or higher was 7 percent.
Principal Sean McMannon did not return phone calls or e-mail requests for comment in time for press deadline.