(This story was first published in the March 20, 2014 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
By Katy Savage, Standard Staff
Part of the reason Reading Elementary School’s budget increased could be the cost to educate students following the Common Core State Standards, the new education initiative that defines what knowledge and skills students in grades K-12 should have.
John Philpin has gone through the budget line by line ever since it failed in a 54-40 vote two weeks ago at Town Meeting. From purchasing new English textbooks to testing materials and computer software, Philpin says the cost to make the switch shows up everywhere in the Reading school budget, which rose about 17 percent this year.
Philpin doesn’t know the exact cost of the Common Core to the school, but said, “It’s way too much.” It’s “horrible.”
Next year will be the last year students take the New England Common Assessment Program — the yearly national test that measures student’s proficiency in reading, writing, science and math.
Beginning next year, schools will administer the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium. It’s a computer-delivered test designed to measure critical thinking skills. Unlike the NECAP, it measures knowledge of the Common Core.
The test doesn’t have a significant direct cost difference to the NECAP test, according to Hartland Principal Jeff Moreno.
“The indirect costs are what seem to be the trouble, especially for smaller schools,” he said.
Hartland is fortunate to already have a computer lab capable of administering the test but “for schools that are not tech-ready, the upgrades necessary for the SBACs can be quite costly,” Moreno said in an email.
Twenty-seven schools in the state will get a taste of what the test will be like this spring.
The schools, which include Hartland Elementary School, Albert Bridge School, Woodstock Elementary School and Woodstock Union Middle-High School, were granted a waiver to take the SBAC in lieu of the NECAP.
“It gives us, as a school, the opportunity to test out our students here,” WUHS-MS Principal Greg Schillinger said.
The test questions get progressively harder or easier depending on how well the student does on the previous question.
The school won’t receive test results for taking the test — instead, the results will be used by officials only.
Hartland Elementary School is piloting the test this year to give students an extra year of familiarity with it.
Moreno said the move will be “interesting,” but he’s supportive of the test, which gives results almost instantly, unlike NECAP scores.
“I think it’s great, I think it’s a move in the right direction,” he said.
For those schools not part of the pilot program, local NECAP results were positive.
The Pomfret School was one of two schools in the state where 100 percent of its students scored above proficient in reading. Ninety percent of Pomfret students also scored proficient or proficient with distinction in math.
Principal Tom McKone attributes the school’s success to the teachers and the positive attitude of the students.
“We don’t teach to the test,” McKone said.
Fifty-two percent of Bridgewater Elementary students scored proficient or better in reading and 75 percent scored proficient or better in math. Barnard students scored 82 percent in reading and 75 percent in math while 94 percent of Killington students scored proficient or above in reading and 94 percent scored proficient or better in math.
Reading Elementary School also had strong results. Ninety percent scored proficient or better in reading and 92 percent scored proficient or better in math.
They had an increase in the number of students from proficient to proficient with distinction, “which was very pleasing to us,” Principal Lou Lafasciano said.
Statewide test results weren’t so positive, however. State results show significant gender and income gaps between that correlate to student achievement. Female students not receiving free and reduced lunch, for example, scored 36 percent higher than male students receiving free and
See TEST COSTS – Page 6A
From Page 3A reduced lunch in reading and in math, the females scored 28 percent higher.
“If you combine students family income with their gender, they see the biggest gaps,” Agency of Education Director of State Assessment Michael Hock said.
The lowest performers are males that come from lower income families.
“We’re very concerned about the fact that there are gaps and they seem to be greatest when you add gender into the situation,” Hock said.
The state sees the same gap between students who graduate high school and who go to college “As long as were in a situation where 10-15 percent of our kids aren’t meeting standards, we’re going to be concerned and we’re not going to be satisfied,” Hock said. “We are never happy. We always want to see students do better.”
Despite the different format in next year’s test, Hock believes the results will be similar.
“I think the gaps are real and the tests are showing it,” Hock said. “I’d be very surprised if we don’t see the same thing with smarter balance than we are with NECAP.”