Friday, February 22, 2008

NECAP math scores fall short

In the story below the Education Commissioner states. "We need to dig deep and find out what's happening here," when talking about the poor test scores of our 11th grade public educated students. 45% of these students tested "substantially below proficient." I will tell you what is happening. Our pubic schools are failing to properly educate our students and in turn jeopardizing the future of our country. Tenure, empty education degrees, legislators bent on kowtowing to the demands of teachers unions and useless educrats, teachers bent on protecting their special interests and the public education system as their own entitlement program. Between 1960 and 2000 education spending in the United States went up 240 percent adjusted for inflation yet proficiency on standardized tests have remained flat.

Our public education system does not work. It is time to fund the child and not the system. It is time for choice. If New Hampshire legislators truly care about our system they will fund the child, get rid of tenure and get rid of the useless requirement of a teaching degree. Scientist need to be teaching science, mathematicians need to teach math, english majors need to teach english, etc.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein, (attributed)
US (German-born) physicist (1879 - 1955)

The following story appeared in the Union Leader.

NECAP math scores fall short
New Hampshire Union Leader Staff

CONCORD – Education Commissioner Lyonel Tracy didn't try to put a good spin on test results that show a majority of the state's high school juniors aren't doing well in math.

"We need to dig deep and find out what's happening here," Tracy said at a Department of Education press conference yesterday.

Citing the fact that 45 percent of the state's 11th-graders tested "substantially below proficient" in math on a test designed by teachers and aligned with DOE-endorsed curriculum, Tracy promised "no excuses."

"It's impossible to accept that," he said.

The New England Common Assessment Program was given to New Hampshire 11th-graders for the first time last October. Results were made public yesterday.

Elementary and middle school students have taken the NECAP the past three years.

Scores are used to determine the status of schools and districts under No Child Left Behind.

Along with mathematics, students were tested in reading and writing, but it was abysmal math scores that drew most of Tracy's attention yesterday.

"No educator in New Hampshire should be pleased with these scores" he said.

Four levels
Four achievement levels are used in reporting NECAP scores: proficient with distinction, proficient, partially proficient, and substantially below proficient.

In math, 15,546 students took the test, and 7,026 of them scored in the bottom level. Just 244 students statewide tested at the top.

►Merrimack students do a little better than statewide average
►Click here to view NECAP results and analysis.

The news was nearly as bleak in writing, with 33 percent of the state's students testing at least proficient; just 3 percent, or 470 students, tested at the top.

Reading scores provided a bright spot, with 67 percent of students scoring proficient or better.

Deb Wiswell, who heads the DOE's Bureau of Accountability, said staffers will fan out across the state to talk with students and teachers about curriculum.

The NECAP has "a lot of algebra and geometry," she said, and schools need to make sure all students are studying that material.

The test also requires students to explain their work, she said, so teachers need to put more emphasis on writing.

"(Students) really need to write every day in all content areas," said Wiswell.

Tracy rejected the idea that the test was too hard.

"Our teachers set very high standards in New Hampshire, and they should be commended for that," said Tracy. "We're going to be looking for these scores to dramatically improve in mathematics next year."

The DOE polled students after they took the test. Forty percent said the math test was harder than their typical school work, and 17 percent said the same about the writing test.

Manchester's numbers
John Rist, principal of Manchester Central High, said it's self-evident the math test was too difficult when 78 percent of students statewide essentially failed.

"I know at Central we're doing better than that," said Rist.

Central's math scores mirrored state averages. The school's reading scores were slightly lower, but its writing results were higher.

Though just 39 percent of Central students passed the writing test at proficient or better, that was 13 percent higher than the district average and 6 percent higher than the state average.

Rist said Central places a priority on writing, with English teachers providing material to science, math and other disciplines to incorporate in curriculum.

Manchester Memorial High had the district's highest reading scores, with 62 percent of students testing at least proficient. But Memorial also had the district's lowest scores in writing and math.

District-wide, Manchester's scores were lower than state averages in all three subjects.

Acting Superintendent Henry Aliberti said teachers and administrators at the city's high schools will dig deep into the results.

"We have formed building-level data teams," he said. "Those teams of teachers and administrators will take a look at this NECAP information and analyze it."

The teams will identify students who need help and come up with a concrete plan to provide it.

"The same process started last year in elementary schools," he said, "and we're seeing the benefits of implementing those plans this year."

Tracy said every school needs to align its curriculum with "grade level expectations" established at the DOE.

Just 29 percent of schools have done so, 55 percent have begun the process, and 16 percent haven't started, according to DOE statistics.

Londonderry, Pinkerton
NECAP results for 11th graders in Londonderry and at Pinkerton Academy told a familiar tale: Students are faring well in reading and writing but have a lot of work to do in math.

In Londonderry, just 34 percent of high school juniors scored proficient or better on the standardized tests -- above the state average of 28 percent but not good enough for Superintendent Nate Greenberg.

"We're not particularly pleased with the scores as they came through, but at the same time I don't believe you can judge individual student performance by one assessment," he said.

In reading, 74 percent of students scored proficient or better, while 54 percent did in writing.

At Derry's Pinkerton Academy -- New Hampshire's largest high school -- NECAP scores settled right at state averages.

In reading, 67 percent of students were proficient or better, while 33 percent were proficient or better in writing.

Just 28 percent were proficient or better in math. School officials were not immediately available for comment.

Greenberg said while meaningful, NECAP scores are part of a larger picture when it comes to fully assessing student achievement.

"Obviously, any time you take a measure of performance, it may raise a red flag for you. And if you're testing the right way, you can use it as an assessment tool," he said. "We'll take a look at the test items, how our kids took the test and whether there's certain things we should make adjustments on."

Campbell High School
In Litchfield, Campbell High School students achieved only 20 percent proficiency in math and 27 percent in writing. Reading scores were slightly better, with 65 percent of Campbell students meeting requirements compared to a state average of 67 percent.

Principal Bob Manseau, who is new this year to Campbell, said he would've liked to have seen higher scores.

"I think we have some work to do in terms of student achievement," he said.

Test results were also reported based on different categories of students.

Female Campbell high school students achieved higher results in reading and writing -- 70 percent of girls met standards in reading compared to 61 percent for boys, while 35 percent of girls achieved proficiency in writing compared to 19 percent for boys.

The opposite was true of math scores -- only 11 percent of girls achieved proficiency in math, while 29 percent of boys met the standards.

Union Leader Correspondents Suzanne Bates and Adam Benson contributed to this report.

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