Test scores mixed for Oxford Hills students

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OXFORD — Major changes across the Oxford Hills School District in 2010-11, including staff and budget cuts, may have played a significant role in the district’s statewide tests results, which were released this week.

Curriculum Director Kathy Elkins said Wednesday that the New England Common Assessment Program test scores showed both improvements and decreases in specific grade scores.

While the results showed the majority of students in grades three through eight were proficient in reading and math, other scores were not so encouraging. The district saw a drop of five points in the grade three reading scores and students in grades five and eight failed to meet the proficient benchmark in writing.

The tests were administered in October but based on what students learned during the 2010-11 school year.

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“This was a huge change for us,” Elkins said, because staff and budget reductions.

There was a loss of 35.5 full-time teaching positions, an increase in class sizes and the move of many fifth- and sixth-grade classes to other schools. There was also a reduction in administration and a budget that reflected 12 percent below the state’s Essential Programs and Service mandate that determines what the state feels is an adequate budget for effective learning.

Additionally, the state significantly reduced the number of special education students who were allowed to take the Personal Assessment Portfolios tests. They were forced to take the NECAP tests.

The New England Common Assessment Program tests students in grades three through eight in reading and mathematics and students in grades five and eight in writing. The program report did not include the Adequate Yearly Progress analysis, which will be presented sometime in March.

The AYP report is based on the NECAP results but takes into account other data, such as students who took the test but were not in school for the whole year, the number of special education students and other factors.

The Adequate Yearly Progress component requires that 83 percent of students meet the proficient benchmark for reading and 80 percent for mathematics. Or, a school must show enough growth in test results from one year to the next to gain so-called “safe harbor.” The Annual Yearly Progress results will be out in March.

Elkins, who presented the 2011-12 NECAP district results to the Oxford Hills School District Board of Directors at its meeting Monday night, said the district must take responsibility for the test scores, but also should keep in mind that when significant changes take place, there is usually an implementation dip.

Principals are just starting to meet with staff to analyze the test scores, Elkins said. By receiving the information mid-year on the school calendar, the district is able to get a head start in trying to make adjustments and fix the problems, she said. It also allows the staff to review the information and make any data corrections to the state that may affect the district’s Annual Yearly Progress status in March.

“Each principal needs to study their own data,” Elkins said. Once the work is done at the individual school level, the leadership team will assemble to review it and report back findings.

The NECAP, which is being retired in the 2013-14 year, is only one of  many ways to analyze students’ progress, Elkins said. For the 2014-15 school year, students will be provided testing related to the state’s Common Core State Standards in reading, writing and mathematics, which she said, will be a truer indication of student’s knowledge of what they learn in the classroom.

Results are available at http://www.maine.gov/education/necap/results.html

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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