Schools aim to measure academic progress

MANCHESTER - An assessment test administered to assist local school administrators to determine achievement levels of local students has shown that virtually all the schools in the BRSU have not met the desired academic targets.

The results are based on testing conducted during the 2012-13 school year. The Dorset School was the only one of the supervisory union's schools to meet a standard of compliance.

However, the test is not a state requirement and has no impact on the school's rankings as measured by the assessment tests known as NECAPS. The NECAP tests are being phased out and will be replaced by a new battery of tests known as the "Common Core."

In the fall of 2012, the Bennington Rutland Supervisory Union implemented the Northwest Evaluation Association [NWEA] MAPS test. MAPS stands for Measures of Academic Progress, an adaptive test that measures students growth. The test is aligned with both national and state standards. The results of the test were released at the school board meeting on Nov. 5.

In a memo to the school board, Dan French, superintendent of BRSU said that they felt it was necessary to have a valid external measure of student learning in place while they made the transition from the industrial model of schooling to personalized learning systems.

"We believe NWEA MAP supports personalized learning by measuring student growth on a equal increment scale irrespective of assigned student grade levels," he said.

Sarah Merrill, principal of Manchester Elementary Middle School said in an interview this is a formative assessment that is used to both inform instructional steps for teachers as well as student growth.

"In each category [that we test] - reading, language usage and mathematics - there is a projected growth pattern for students," she said. "Regardless of where you score, we get the information and share it with parents. It doesn't matter where you are academically, we want you [the student] to make progress."

Jason Mendenhall, vice-president of test publishing at NWEA said in an e-mail the test is adaptive, meaning the difficulty of the questions are based on the student's answers to determine each student's achievement level. This, he said, helps to keep the test from being too easy for some students and too difficult for others.

Merrill said the MAP test will be administered three times a year - September, January and May. The results are used in conjunction with local assessment points in the larger content areas, like reading and math, as well as state standardized tests to see how both the school and students are doing. Students took the first round of the test this past September at the start of the current school year.

"To get an idea of the whole child, we triangulate data to see each students next learning step," she said. "We look at this as one component. It is just another part of each students profile."

The test is scored using Rit Ranges, a score that makes it possible to monitor student growth.

In other news, the board will seek voter approval to use funds to implement the RELIGHT program at Manchester Elementary-Middle School. This program through Efficiency Vermont helps businesses with lightening design on upgrades, but also maximizes efficiency.

The Kiley Company will supervise the implementation of the program. In a letter to Dan French, Burlington-Rutland superintendent, Efficiency Vermont estimates this program will save Manchester Elementary-Middle School approximately $11,196 a year at current energy rates. Based on the estimated cost of the project, Efficiency Vermont will be able to offer a $39,831 "cash incentive." The cost of Manchester Elementary-Middle School would not exceed $9,000.

The tax implications of the education budget for the coming year will be made clearer at the next school board meeting Dec. 19. The draft budget is projecting a 3.7 percent increase from last year's budget.


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