Bethel selectmen, superintendent talk THS grade
Bethel selectmen met Monday, at their request, with SAD 44 Supt. Dave Murphy to learn more about the “F” grade that Telstar High School recently received from the state.
Murphy outlined the criteria used to determine the grade, including 40 percent weight given to SAT scores from the junior class.
In response to a question from Selectman Peter Southam, Murphy acknowledged that for the past three years the SAT test has been given on the same Saturday as the Telstar prom takes place, and that timing may have a negative effect on the students’ ability to concentrate.
Such scheduling, he said, “will never happen again. The superintendent has issued a directive that that will not happen in the future.”
Southam, noting that “I’d like to not be in a town that has a failing school,” also asked if the district might establish required SAT test preparation classes for juniors.
Murphy said there are currently no plans to require such classes. “It would be cost, it would be time commitment,” he said.
Selectboard Chair Stan Howe said he does not have much faith generally in SAT testing, and asked about the possibility of other evaluation tools.
Murphy said in two years the state plans to get away from using the SAT.
He also said there is legislation pending to target schools that receive failing grades for two years in a row for takeover by the state, or at least more involvement by the state.
Murphy said the district will be looking at the test data to determine if students are not understanding the material taught, or if there are problems with the curriculum or the order in which material is taught.
Several of the Bethel officials agreed with Murphy’s view that to change the overall academic performance at the school, “the big piece is culture and climate. It’s an area the whole community has to be invested in.”
He also said the SAD 44 budget has been held at the same level as it was in 2007. But, he added, “I don’t think this is a question of dollars, it’s a question of allocating dollars appropriately to make sure we’re zeroing in on things that need to be identified.”
He said he would continue visiting district towns to explain the grades and what the district plans to do.
“We want to put the message out there that we know we’ve got some work to do,” he said.
Murphy also said he will provide updates on the district website about steps the district takes.