RANGELEY — Middle school teacher Lucy Simonds presented an analysis of the Northwest Evaluation Association’s assessment procedures to the School Committee on Tuesday.
The school has used the testing method in grades three through 10 for approximately 10 years.
Simonds outlined differences between the New England Common Assessment Program tests, which are mandated by the state, and the NWEA program, which is locally chosen. She began by describing her own assessment procedures, which include a lot of pre-testing to identify areas of either knowledge or misconception; quick checks to monitor progress on assignments and projects; and seminar discussions, in particular of reading assignments.
Simonds characterized the NWEA testing as growth-based, dynamic and interactive. It starts at the student’s own level and sets individual growth goals. Being administered by computer, the test goes back to an easier question if one is missed, and advances in difficulty for a right answer. The test is not timed, and students can break and come back to finish the next day. By contrast, the NECAP tests are grade-level specific and achievement-based. Every student starts in the same place to reach an arbitrary goal.
NECAP tests return data months later, while NWEA makes grades available in three days, or in some cases 24 hours.
“These tests meet struggling kids where they are,” Simonds said. “The data identifies gifted and talented kids as well as those who need remedial work. To me, as an educator, this data is very valuable.”
Superintendent Brian Foster reported that the school received approval for federal special education funds. He added that the school will find out this week how it will be affected by curtailments in the state’s education budget.
“But we don’t receive much from the state to begin with,” Foster said.
Principal Sherry Connally noted that choir students and Interact students had performed and served at the Rangeley Rotary’s annual Senior Luncheon that morning. She said Victor Borko hopes to start band lessons again with new kids from the fifth grade in January, possibly on Wednesday. Chris Farmer expressed concern for the health of music programs, and that the committee should look at the balance between sports and the arts.
Connally reported that the new portion controls at lunch, mandated by changes from the federal government, were implemented, and that the students are adjusting.
Several committee members expressed disapproval of the new rules, which limit high school students to two ounces of protein and middle school and under to one ounce. Foster said the new rules are causing controversy around the state.
Stephen Dudley reported that the Finance Committee has completed review of the budget’s line items, and has moved on to federal money and grants, checking who derives what support from federal dollars. The committee also looked at legal, nutrition and transportation funds, and started a discussion on the $3.4 million budget.
Chris Farmer reported that he, Tim Straub and Heidi Deery have completed drawing up 15 questions for a proposed survey of Rangeley Lakes Regional School graduates. They have also discussed security for the survey, which will be presented to grads online over the Christmas holidays.
Farmer was also contacted about a meeting Jan. 18 by a Chinese delegation that is looking for sister cities and also sister schools for intercultural exchange. The meeting will be held at Southern Maine Community College.
Farmer said this would be an interesting opportunity for local students to experience another culture.
Spanish teacher Kate Philbrick, present in the audience, who has engineered exchanges with students in Spain, agreed that travel and immersion in another culture is a wonderful learning tool. The board proposed sending someone to the January meeting to find out more information, but not necessarily to commit to an arrangement.