CHESTER – Last fall, Chester Academy students took their final math, reading and writing New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) tests, and earlier this month the results released by the New Hampshire Department of Education indicate that Chester students perform on par or better than the state average in all categories.
According to the program, 2014 is the year in which the state hoped to have 100 percent of students proficient in the testing areas. By the tests’ parameters, statewide just 77 percent of students are deemed proficient in reading, 65 percent in mathematics and 58 percent in writing.
The state of New Hampshire has decided to move away from the NECAP after years of complaints by administrators on the quality of the tests and what the results say about students. In Chester, while administration reviewed the findings and worked with students to improve scores, there has always been the undercurrent that the tests aren’t as valuable as how much they’re focused on would indicate.
Superintendent Jim Gaylord has often questioned the benefit of the program, stating that the federal No Child Left Behind Act on which the program is based was a punitive model that would ultimately fail all schools, as all students were eventually required to be 100 percent proficient.
NECAP tests are administered to grades three through eight and 11 as part of the New Hampshire Department of Education’s (DOE) adherence to No Child Left Behind. The tests aim to provide a way to evaluate school and student performance in mathematics, reading, writing and science according to pre-determined frameworks.
The tests categorize scores in four levels of proficiency: level four, “Proficient with Distinction;” level three, “Proficient;” level two, “Partially Proficient;” and level one, “Substantially Below Proficient.” Schools aim to have as many students as possible in levels three and four.
Some concern over the test has been noted because all students in the school, regardless of learning disabilities, are required by the program to be proficient on the same test. In a small school like Chester Academy, a few students can sway the results significantly either way.
This year, of the 408 Chester Academy students who took the reading test, 95 students, or 23 percent, scored in level four; 223 students or 55 percent in level three; 67 students or 16 percent scored in level two; and 23 students or 6 percent in level one.
Statewide, 23 percent scored in level four, 54 percent in level three, 16 percent in level two and 7 percent in level one.
At Chester, 407 students took the math test. In math, 90 students or 22 percent were in level four, 193 or 47 percent in level three, 82 or 20 percent in level two, and 42 or 10 percent in level one.
In math, 21 percent of students statewide scored in level four, 44 percent in level three, 18 percent in level two and 17 percent in level one.
At Chester, 159 students were tested in writing, and 15, or 9 percent, scored in level four; 70, or 44 percent, in level three; 61, or 38 percent, in level two; and 13, or 8 percent, in level four.
State wide, 10 percent of students scored in level four of the writing assessment, 48 percent in level three, 34 percent in level two and 8 percent in level one.
The tests do not track students from year to year, so administrators and school boards have cautioned about comparing the data from year to year, when an entirely new group is taking a new test.
Scott Mantie, New Hampshire Administrator of the Bureau of Assessment and Accountability, said, “The test results are only one of multiple measures of performance that are useful in assessing student progress and school performance.
While students and schools have not reached the goals set out by the program at its start, DOE commissioner Virginia Barry noted that more students across the state are now reaching the grade level standards outlined in the program.
Chester results by grade level are as follows:
Of the 59 grade 3 students assessed, 16 were in level four, 34 in level three, 9 in level two and none in level one. In grade 4, where 49 students were tested, 9 were in level four, 31 in level three, 7 in level two and 2 in level one. In grade 5, with 81 students tested, 12 were in level four, 50 in level three, 13 in level two and 6 in level one. In grade 6, with 71 students tested, 28 were in level four, 35 in level three, 5 in level two and 3 in level one.
In grade 7, with 69 students tested, 10 were in level four, 39 in level three, 15 in two and 5 in level one. In grade 8, with 79 students tested, 20 were in level four, 34 in level three, 18 in level two and 7 in level one.
The students tested in each grade in mathematics were identical to the numbers tested in reading except for one less student in grade 5, making that tally 80.
In grade 3, 17 scored in level four, 29 in level three, 9 in level two and 4 in level one. In grade 4, 13 were in level four, 30 in level three, 5 in level two and 1 in level one. In grade 5, 12 scored in level four, 43 in level three, 17 in level two and 8 in level one. In grade 6, 22 scored in level four, 31 in level three, 11 in level two, and 7 in level one. In grade 7, 14 were in level four, 23 scored in level three, 21 scored in level two and 11 in level one. In grade 8, 12 scored in level four, 37 in level three, 19 in level two and 11 in level one.
The writing test is administered to grades 5 and 8. In grade 5, 80 students were tested. Nine scored in level four, 40 in level three, 24 in level two and 7 in level one. In grade 8, 79 students were tested. 6 scored in level four, 30 in level three, 37 in level two and 6 in level one.