By Robert Finn
On Wednesday April 10, the Common Topic presentation to CSSU member school boards was “Comprehensive Assessment.” Molly McClasky, the Supervisory Union’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, presented the latest NECAP results for the five schools comprising our SU. As the same NECAP tests are taken by all public elementary and secondary school students in Vermont as well as New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island, they provide a common assessment tool and data to track student performance and measure the effectiveness of instructional methods. Test results show percentage of students testing Proficient, Proficient with Distinction, Partial Proficiency, and Below Proficient. Subjects tested are mathematics, reading, science, and writing.
Compared over time, the results reflect instructional, cohort, socio-economic, and other trends and initiatives, and can be used to inform and fine tune decisions at District and SU levels. The following results for fall 2012 show the percentage of 8th graders testing proficient and proficient with distinction:
Math performance of CSSU 3rd-8th graders on IEPs exceeds the state average by five percent points and improved slightly over last year. In a separate assessment, the number of students completing Algebra I by eighth grade has increased by 12 percentage points over four years. On the most recent science NECAPS administered last spring, CSSU 8th graders testing as proficient or better have improved by 18 percentage points over four years.
At the Shelburne School District meeting that followed, NECAP results were also discussed. One example of how SCS uses this data to measure the efficacy of its programs is in the 6th grade cohort results. Three years ago 73 percent of our 4th graders scored proficient or better on the math NECAP. Last fall, of those same students, now 6th graders, 88 percent scored proficient or better. These are the first students to have had three full years of focused math instruction under the Bridges curriculum, and also the first group of students for whom all teachers have completed at least one year of in-depth professional development and math coordinator coaching in Math Best Practices. Although it is still too soon to attribute cause and effect to this 15 percentage point increase, it is the trend we were hoping to see come from these investments.
Next fall marks the final administration of the reading, writing, and math NECAP. As Common Core is implemented, SBAC will become the common assessment tool for the 46 states that have adopted the Common Core curriculum. It will be administered in the spring of each year, and for the first time in 2015. With Common Core and SBAC, our schools’ performance will no longer be measured regionally, but will be compared to schools nationwide.
By Robert Finn