Saturday, March 17, 2012

Congratulations ORCSD on the 2011 NECAPs

Did anybody else see newly elected board member Dr. Ed Charle's face about 4 feet high on the side of a COAST bus?    Perhaps I've just been thinking about the election way too much.

Anyway, the election is over.   We won.  Why are you people still reading?

Actually, I'm surprised and happy people are still tuning in.  I guess I had better write something new.   I chose the snooze-inducing topic of the NECAPs.    Those are the tests we do for No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Fun factoid:  Measured Progress in Dover coordinates production, administration, scoring and reporting for the NECAPs all over New England.  I've been wondering about that Orwellian sounding name for years.

At the March 7th school board meeting there was a presentation on this year's NECAP results.  The district overall showed a very impressive improvement.  The students, teachers, and administrators all need to be congratulated for what appears to be a very impressive year.

We don't know yet whether we've made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) or are still are District in Need of Improvement (DINI) with Schools in Need of Improvement (SINI).  They have to crunch the data and we find out next month.

I don't want to get too deep into NCLB here.   Most of what was reported at the meeting was the percentage of kids Proficient with Distinction or Proficient.    These are the top two grades -- if a kid gets either one he is considered proficient in that subject, in other words, not left behind.   Each kid tested gets a separate grade for reading and math, and for older kids, writing too.

Let's go right to the charts.  I got these from the PDF of the meeting agenda PDF of the report.  Now that I loaded all this in it occurs to me you should just watch the video of Prinipal Gallo, Director of Instruction Bolduc and Director of Instruction Schlicter, who (unlike me) all actually know what they're talking about and gave an excellent presentation.   Here's the video -- the talk starts about 36 minutes in.  Unfortunately the quality of the image makes it difficult to read the graphs.  The speakers also directed people to the state's education website for more graphs.

Let's look at school by school.   At the talk Principal Gallo warned about just looking at the improvement over last year, but that's what I'm going to focus on anyway.  First Mast Way:

That's an 8% increase in math and a 10% increase in reading.  That is huge -- congratulations Mast Way!

The lags are such that the results we just got in March 2012 are the 2011 NECAPs; testing was October 2011, so the test reflects teaching in the 2010-2011 school year.  So there's a two year lag and a three year cycle -- we presumably got 2009 results (reflecting 2008-2009 teaching) in March 2010, which the teachers and administration used to change how they taught in 2010-2011, which then gets reflected in the results we see in March 2012.  Any steps we take now based on the 2011 test will affect the 2012-2013 teaching year and we won't see the results until 2014.   I  think 2009-2010 was Principal Gallo's first year at Mast Way, which makes these results the first NECAP report that measures planning and teaching that occurred under her guidance.    Very impressive, Principal Gallo.

Here's Moharimet:

Moharimet, starting from a higher level than Mast Way, rose  3% in math and 6% in reading -- way to go!

Here's Middle School:

Middle School is up 5% in math, 8% in reading, and 14% in writing.   Incredible!

Probably here is a good place to point out the the tests are given in grades 3 through 8, and grade 11, early in the school year, so mostly reflect the previous year's teaching.   In particular, the middle school hasn't really had much time with the grade 5 kids being tested, and there's some indication those results are included in the elementary school averages.  But that would require knowing which school each student attended the previous year, which seems overly complicated, so I'm not sure.  At this point, my best guess is the elementary school score measures teaching in second, third, and fourth grades, the middle school score, fifth, sixth and seventh, and the high school score measures tenth grade.

High school:

I suppose this is the sad news.  In the high school we went down 6% in math, up 5% in reading, and down 6% in writing.  The overall level on math (58%) is worrisome -- apparently this is (at least) a statewide problem they're looking into.   For the HS, there are a few mitigating factors.   First, each year tests a different sets of kids, so they're not necessarily comparable.  There's only one year of data for high school compared to three for middle school and three for elementary, so the high school average is going to be more volatile.   You can see that in the series for math and writing.   The mediocre results could be just the luck of the draw.

Of course, these are all averages across entire grades (entire schools, really) and those numbers look good for us.  What made Mast Way a SINI is what's called the educationally disabled cohort - kids with IEPs - they failed to make AYP twice.   (A test monitor made a mistake that caused three MW kids with IEPs to officially score zero on the math NECAP, so we may have difficulty this year too.)  This doesn't affect a lot of other schools because there's a rule that if any cohort has fewer than 10 kids it doesn't count.  Mast Way had more, so tickled one of the more ridiculous aspects of NCLB, that the special education population had better perform as well as any other group, or you're leaving them behind and you need improvement.   By 2014 we'll have reached the obvious conclusion that either we're still leaving kids behind, or we're measuring the wrong things.   The answer: both.

If anybody actually reads this I'll write more when the AYP results come out.

Great job on the NECAPs, Oyster River.

- Dean

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