BETHEL — School Administrative District 44’s Freshman Academy has resulted in better attendance and higher test scores, the school board was told Monday night.

Telstar High School Principal Cheryl Lang, Dean of Students Kristin Dacko and Ryder Scott, director of the 4-H Camp & Learning Centers in Woodstock, Blueberry Cove in Saint George and Tanglewood in Lincolnville gave a presentation on Telstar’s Freshman Academy.

The academy is an innovative model aimed at building engagement and academic success for freshmen, Ruth Kermish-Allen and Margaret Foster of the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance said. The entire freshman class goes to the 4-H Camp & Learning Center in Woodstock part of every day for project-based learning experiences, they said. 

The goals of the academy are to encourage attendance, student engagement and academic achievement.

Data collected from student focus groups, parent surveys, teacher interviews, attendance numbers, test scores and student surveys showed the academy achieved its goals:

• Freshmen in the 2015-16 school year had a 94.01 percent attendance rate, compared to 93.37 percent in eighth grade.

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• Of the freshmen last year, 6.12 percent had perfect attendance; none did in eighth grade.

• Freshmen test scores last year were above national averages in reading, language use and science. Before that, their scores were slightly below the national average in the Northwest Evaluation Association tests. The rise in scores was two to three times greater than predicted.

“I just think this is so awesome, and I think it shows what creativity, innovation and collaboration can do,” school board member Whitney Gray said. “I think (these improvements) are great and I’m really proud of our district.”

The academy is operating again this year, and Superintendent David Murphy said he hopes to see consistent improvement.

Also Monday, Murphy announced Linda Stowell, music teacher at Crescent Park Elementary, and Mary Richardson, math teacher at Telstar Middle School, will retire at the end of the school year. 

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