Oceanside High School Evaluation Plan unveiledRSU 13 leaders talk about student test results
Rockland — Regional School Unit 13 administrators presented the Oceanside High School Evaluation Plan to school board members Sept. 6, providing a look at student achievement in a number of areas.
Superintendent Lewis Collins called the evaluation plan "revolutionary," noting he hasn't seen this comprehensive a look at student performance made public in other districts.
Director of School Improvement Neal Guyer presented the report along with Principals Larry Schooley of Oceanside West and Tom Forti of Oceanside East.
"This will be a guiding document for us," Forti said. "This is really taking this seriously and being transparent about what we are doing."
The report includes a number of assessments and test results for students from grades 8 to 12.
It showed that members of the class of 2016 (eighth grade last year) did better in reading than they did in math on state tests. In the state reading test, 66 percent of the students met or exceeded standards, compared to 77 percent of state students.
In the state math test, 49 percent met or exceeded standards.
In writing the results were more mixed. On the state writing test, 40 percent of students in this class met or exceeded standards, but on a district writing test 81 percent met or exceeded standards.
In terms of grades, 89.5 percent earned passing grades out of the 1,280 grades given, according to Schooley, and 10.5 percent failed.
The honor roll showed a steady drop over the course of the year for female students. Male students performed worse than females in this area, but showed a slight upturn from the third quarter to the fourth quarter of the 2012 school year.
The scores were fairly similar for the class of 2015 when they took the same tests in grade 8 (they were in grade 9 last year), with 68 percent meeting or exceeding standards on state reading, 38 percent on state writing, 53 percent on state math.
One of the most critical areas, the principals said, was the credits earned in ninth grade.
"RSU 13 archival research involving 10 years of historical data show that of students who earned three credits or less during their ninth-grade year, only 30 percent earned a regular high school diploma," the report states. "By contrast, students who earned 6-7 credits during their ninth-grade year had an 87 percent on-time graduation rate."
For the school year of 2011-2012, 11 students or 5 percent in grade nine earned less than three credits. Another 41 students (21 percent) earned between 3 and 5.5 credits. The majority, 74 percent or 147 students, earned 6-7 credits.
Forti also outlined the graduation rate for the school. As of Oct. 1, 2011, there were 157 students enrolled in grade 12, and 154 graduated on time for a 98 percent graduation rate.
School board members praised this result and Forti said it was nice to see.
Forti said the fact that grade nine is so critical was one of the reasons for consolidating and creating the Oceanside West grade eight and nine school, which allows the district to work on the transition from junior high school to high school work.
The evaluation plan also included a "college work readiness assessment." Schooley explained that this test looks at the needs of the present day college student and member of the workforce.
"One of the problems with the education field is that we are saying that we want to prepare kids for 21st century learning skills, which is problem-solving and analytical thinking," he said. "The problem is there's not a lot of tests around to really measure that."
He said that in this test, the students are given information including readings, charts and video clips. They have to preview the materials and then write a well-written paper taking a stance on an issue and backing it up by citing the material they reviewed.
"It was a daunting task," he said. "My staff and I weren't sure we were going to do that well if we took that test."
The students were graded on a number scale of 1 to 6, with 6 being the highest score and those performing over a 3 were considered to have done fairly well in terms of problem solving, analytical thinking and writing skills. These skills are seen as predictors of success in college.
Of the grade 9 students taking the test, 57 percent scored 3 or above in analytical reasoning and evaluation, 43 percent in problem solving, 76 percent in writing mechanics and 49 percent in writing effectiveness.
"We came out relatively well for the first time out," Schooley said. He said the teachers are adjusting their instruction now that they have seen the test.
"We're measuring two extraordinarily critical skills long-term for kids, analytical reasoning and problem solving," Collins said. "Think about that. It's great to say you've done wonderful on your math assessment, but to say you have the analytical skills and problem-solving skills to be independent, which is our only gift to kids."
Schooley said his daughter found that those were the key skills in the workplace, and that she did not receive enough training in that from high school or college.
In the workplace, "they put her in a pod, gave her a project, and said here's the deadline. Get it done with very little supervision," Schooley said.
"Local business people tell me this is what they want from graduates," said school board Vice Chairman Loren Andrews. "One person said don't give me someone who can quote Shakespeare. Send me someone who can solve problems and work with other people."
The report outlines goals for the district including a graduation rate that equals or exceeds 90 percent and preparing students to be successful in post-secondary options.
News Editor Daniel Dunkle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @DanDunkle.