NORTHSHIRE -- Results of the New England Common Assessment Program -- or NECAP -- tests were released last week by the state's Agency of Education. The performance of area schools roughly mirrored that of the state as a whole. This will be the last year the NECAP is taken in Vermont. Next year, the Smarter Balanced Assessment System will be implemented, which is aligned with the common core.

At the press conference where the scores were released, Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe said the test scores show as a state, students have made gains, but could still do better.

"In particular, we need to do better with young men from low-income backgrounds," Holcombe said. "We need to make sure they have the skills they need to thrive in the workforce or pursue post-secondary opportunities." Dan French, superintendent of the Bennington Rutland Supervisory Union, said that BRSU students seemed to have the same low scoring groups as the rest of the state.

"I think BRSU students score well on the NECAP, although we continue to see significant differences in how various subgroups perform on the assessment," he said in an e-mail. "For example, girls continue to outperform boys, and students eligible for free and reduced do not do as well as their peers on the tests. These trends also exist at the state and national level."

When looking at the test results and data, it seems as though many schools, but not all, did not perform on the tests as well as in previous years. For example, the Dorset School last year had 85 percent of students in grades three through eighth tests above or at proficiency in reading. This year, that percentage dropped to 81 percent.

Rosanna Moran, principal of the Dorset school, said she was very pleased with the results. "We remain at or above in most areas [tested]," she said. The small dip in students testing at or above proficiency was also seen in math, with 78 percent of students last year in grades three through eight testing at or above and 74 percent this year. Moran said this change shows the school where their strengths are and in what areas more focus should be given.

Manchester Elementary Middle School also saw their scores fall some. Last year, 71 percent of students were able to score proficient or above in reading, but this year only 69 percent were able to do so. Math scores stayed the same this year as they were last: 60 percent of students scored proficient or above.

Sarah Merrill, MEMS principal said that NECAP scores are just one variable in documenting students achievement.

"NECAP scores are just one piece of a child's educational puzzle -- we analyze multiples data sources to view student achievement from all perspectives," she said. "These data sources inform instructional next steps."

Along with state standardized tests, there are individualized learning plans, local assessments, district assessments and norm referenced tests, like the NWEA MAPS test (Northwest Educational Evaluation Association - Measures of Academic Progress).

The NWEA MAPS tests were introduced in the BRSU last school year and results were released in the past fall. This particular test helps to create personalized student learning plans as well as can help predict how students and districts will do on tests like the NECAP. French said that the initial review of MAPS is that the results will correlate well with NECAP results. Manchester Elementary Middle School saw a correlation overall between NECAP and MAPS scores, Merrill said, but there were some discrepancies in the results in certain grade levels.

With schools all over Vermont leaving the NECAP behind next year, educators are preparing for the new test. Moran said the SBAC test is aligned with the common core and will therefore give teachers more of a chance to apply more depth in the classroom, as well as teaching the real life skills students need to succeed in today's world. French said that current projections at the state level indicate that 70 percent of Vermont students will score "not proficient" on the SBAC.

"I think this might be true since the SBAC is based on the Common Core standards, and it will be several years before our curriculum is aligned to those standards," he said. "I feel it is immoral and irresponsible for the government to implement these new tests before schools have had a chance to modify their curricula accordingly."

For the results for all area schools, as well as those statewide, visit education.vermont.gov/data.