SAD 44 teachers dig into test results
To the casual observer, the presentation of annual school testing results may seem like a class in statistics.
But as Woodstock Elementary School Principal Jolene Littlehale demonstrated at Monday night’s SAD 44 School Board meeting, the arrival of the results means much more to the teaching staff.
Following consultant Lee Graham’s presentation on 2011/2012 Grades 3-8 and 11 results, Andover Director Keith Smith asked for specifics on how teachers use them.
Littlehale said her staff spent two days evaluating the results by individual student and by individual test question.
“We went through our item analysis kid by kid by kid, and question by question by question,” she said. “We read the questions out loud, and we’d say, ‘We did really great on that one. How did we teach that?’ … and then we’d get to one we didn’t do well on and we’d say, ‘How do we teach this now, and what’s missing?’”
She gave an example of a math question that provided an illustration of a set of 24 items and asked how many of them would represent the fraction 1/3.
‘We do so much with fractions in the shapes of pies or squares. We weren’t thinking fractions of a set,” she said.
Littlehale also described how fifth-grade science scores had improved this year.
“We sat down with the science tests over the last two years and went over what was on the test. It’s been heredity and cells, which haven’t been in our curriculum because it wasn’t in the [Maine]Learning Standards, but they put it on the MEAs [tests] every year. So last year I really drilled my fifth-grade teacher on teaching heredity and cells, and it changed the scores.”
That prompted Bethel Director Tim Carter to wonder about the approach. “Are we teaching for the test, or are we teaching for people to learn?” he asked.
Graham replied, “If the tests are based on the Maine Learning Standards, and we’re teaching Maine Learning Standards, then I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Having the teachers and students know what to expect does not hurt.”
As for the most recent SAD 44 test results, Graham provided breakdowns by subject, grade and school, and also presented a “bigger picture” summary by grade. (Science and writing are only tested in Grades 5, 8, and 11.)
The percentage of students by each grade deemed “proficient” in the subjects tested were:
Third Grade – reading, 84 percent; math 64 percent.
Fourth Grade – reading, 69 percent; math 64 percent.
Fifth Grade – reading, 75 percent; math 58 percent, science, 70 percent; writing, 46 percent.
Sixth Grade – reading, 72 percent; math 52 percent.
Seventh Grade – reading, 76 percent; math 65 percent.
Eighth Grade – reading 81 percent; math 69 percent; science 67 percent; writing, 57 percent.
11th Grade – reading 31 percent; math 23 percent; science 44 percent; writing 26 percent.
Graham praised improved scores at the middle school, and said SAD 44 students have done “pretty well up until 11th grade, and then there’s a significant dropoff in 11th grade. It drops off across the state, but the past couple of years Telstar has been even lower than the state. We are concerned, and we are beginning a much more in-depth process of looking at why.”
THS Principal Dan Hart said a curriculum review is underway, and the staff is looking for gaps in instruction.
For the district as a whole over the past six years, Graham said scores have been “pretty uniform,” with some variations by year, which she said is common with relatively small class sizes.
Among other business items at Monday’s board meeting, directors:
Approved the following personnel appointments: Leann Caruso as special education/Andover Elementary School teacher; Norm Greenberg as long-term TMS social studies substitute teacher; Jim Rose as long-term part-time THS math substitute teacher; Paul Condello as AES Grade 2/3 teacher. Because a teaching principal could not be found for AES, said Supt. Dave Murphy, other SAD 44 principals will provide assistance.
Approved the following facilities projects: Bus Garage furnace replacement ($19,500); WES roof repair ($12,500); Maintenance Garage roof repair ($4,000); CPS office carpet replacement ($3,800).
Changed graduation requirements for THS to drop a lifeskills course because of problems with scheduling and staff assignments.
Scheduled a special board meeting for Sept. 24 to discuss details of options for an energy and air quality improvement project at the Telstar complex, with the possibility of scheduling a referendum vote on it for November.
Heard Part 2 of a presentation by Newry director Deb Webster on the Mass Customized Learning philosophy, which SAD 44 staff members are studying for possible incorporation into their teaching methods.