Rockland-area schools fail to make the grade

Students perform below average in assessment tests
By Kim Lincoln | Feb 11, 2014

Rockland — Most schools in Regional School Unit 13 performed below the state average in reading and math on recent assessment tests.

Students in third to eighth grades took the New England Common Assessment Program or NECAP in fall 2013.

Exceeding the state averages in both reading and math assessments are Cushing Community School and South School third-graders, fifth-graders from Owls Head Central School and Thomaston Grammar School and Rockland District Middle School seventh-graders. Fifth and eight-graders are also tested in writing.

Failing to meet state averages in both areas were Lura Libby third-graders, Owls Head third-graders, St. George fourth, fifth and sixth-graders, South School fourth grade, Thomaston Grammar and Rockland District Middle School fifth grade and Oceanside High School West eighth-graders.

"It’s tough to realize that not even half of our classes in grades 3-8 scored in the proficient range in reading and math," said Superintendent Lew Collins by email Feb. 10. "We need to do things differently in RSU 13 and adopt curriculum and teaching approaches that work for all kids."

In 2012-2013, Lura Libby third-graders and Thomaston Grammar School fifth-graders exceeded the state average in both reading and math, but this year failed in both areas. Third-graders at South School, who failed in both areas last year, exceeded the state averages this year.

For the last several years, St. George students have performed below average in math, with this year being no different. When the St. George Education Committee noticed a deficiency in students' test scores, the town provided $13,300 from its annual budget to fund remedial and enrichment instruction during the summer. Twenty-nine students, in grades first through seven, enrolled in the program, which was held for the first time in summer 2013.

"We have pockets of excellence, but we certainly need to do better by those students who are not demonstrating proficiency in the skills they need," Collins said. "Hopefully, our teaching methods will be retooled and our move to proficiency-based learning will be the remedy for the future."

Board chairman Esther "Tess" Kilgour said the low scores are not a new problem for the RSU or the former School Administrative Districts. Even though testing is not the only indicator of student success, the NECAPS have been a consistent method of measure for quite some time.

"It is really disturbing that not even half of the students tested met the standards," Kilgour said by email. "When we merged the school districts one of the intents was to deliver a higher quality education to all students. Every year we are asked to be patient that it takes several years of data to define a trend. Clearly doing things the 'way we always have done them' is not proving to be an effective approach to educating our children. Our students cannot wait any longer for us to collect data, it seems that we are data rich and outcome poor. I am confident that a strong history of outstanding student achievement will be high on the list of qualities the board will be looking for in their next superintendent."

Oceanside High School West Principal Larry Schooley said last year's eighth-graders were only in that school for six weeks before taking the tests so it's difficult to compare the scores year-to-year at this point for his school. However, he said, the students were just about in line with the state averages in writing, reading and math.

He also said there is a movement to change the testing from fall to the spring, when the students have been in school for a longer period of time and that may improve scores.

"My feeling is that it is a ton of weight given on one test," Schooley said.

He said students also take the Northwest Evaluation Association test, which is a computerized test to evaluate math and reading taken two times each school year. This test tracks student progress all the way through school, instead of comparing grade levels to grade level as the NECAPS do.

Schooley also touted the benefits of proficiency-based education, which establishes learning targets for specific skills in each grade level.

At Oceanside East, he said, there are a number of programs set up to help students improve. They have team-taught English classes, an Academy period where all students in the school are involved and can use that time to seek out help from a teacher in a subject they are struggling in. They also have coaching periods, which have fewer students in the class and a mentor to help students in areas where they may be having difficulty, be it how to study, getting homework done, etc.

Cushing Community School

Grade 3

Reading: 92 percent meet or exceed (68 percent state average)

Math: 86 percent meet or exceed (59 percent state average)

Grade 4

Reading: 58 percent meet or exceed (66 percent state average)

Math: 67 percent meet or exceed (63 percent state average)

Lura Libby School

Grade 3

Reading: 58 percent meet or exceed (68 percent state average)

Math: 52 percent meet or exceed (59 percent state average)

Grade 4

Reading: 51 percent meet or exceed (66 percent state average)

Math: 67 percent meet or exceed (63 percent state average)

Owls Head Central School

Grade 3

Reading: 65 percent meet or exceed (68 percent state average)

Math: 55 percent meet or exceed (59 percent state average)

Grade 4

Reading: 67 percent meet or exceed (66 percent state average)

Math: 60 percent meet or exceed (63 percent state average)

Grade 5

Reading: 82 percent meet or exceed (71 percent state average)

Math: 78 percent meet or exceed (63 percent state average)

Writing: 60 percent meet or exceed (50 percent state average)

St. George School

Grade 3

Reading: 83 percent meet or exceed (68 percent state average)

Math: 56 percent meet or exceed (59 percent state average)

Grade 4

Reading: 62 percent meet or exceed (66 percent state average)

Math: 48 percent meet or exceed (63 percent state average)

Grade 5

Reading: 62 percent meet or exceed (71 percent state average)

Math: 44 percent meet or exceed (63 percent state average)

Writing: 44 percent meet or exceed (50 percent state average)

Grade 6

Reading: 67 percent meet or exceed (70 percent state average)

Math: 33 percent meet or exceed (61 percent state average)

Grade 7

Reading: 76 percent meet or exceed (69 percent state average)

Math: 55 percent meet or exceed (59 percent state average)

South School

Grade 3

Reading: 75 percent meet or exceed (68 percent state average)

Math: 62 percent meet or exceed (59 percent state average)

Grade 4

Reading: 46 percent meet or exceed (66 percent state average)

Math: 51 percent meet or exceed (63 percent state average)

Thomaston Grammar School

Grade 5

Reading: 54 percent meet or exceed (71 percent state average)

Math: 42 percent meet or exceed (63 percent state average)

Writing: 34 percent meet or exceed (50 percent state average)

Grade 6

Reading: 81 percent meet or exceed (70 percent state average)

Math: 49 percent meet or exceed (61 percent state average)

Grade 7

Reading: 84 percent meet or exceed (69 percent state average)

Math: 64 percent meet or exceed (59 percent state average)

Rockland District Middle School

Grade 5

Reading: 53 percent meet or exceed (71 percent state average)

Math: 49 percent meet or exceed (63 percent state average)

Writing: 23 percent meet or exceed (50 percent state average)

Grade 6

Reading: 58 percent meet or exceed (70 percent state average)

Math: 65 percent meet or exceed (61 percent state average)

Grade 7

Reading: 76 percent meet or exceed (69 percent state average)

Math: 74 percent meet or exceed (59 percent state average)

Oceanside High School West

Grade 8

Reading: 68 percent meet or exceed (72 percent state average)

Math: 53 percent meet or exceed (56 percent state average)

Writing: 49 percent meet or exceed (47 percent state average)

Courier Publications Copy Editor Kim Lincoln can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at klincoln@villagesoup.com.

Comments (3)
Posted by: Barbara G Roscoe | Feb 12, 2014 16:52

I have a grandchild in the RSU 13 school system and while I certainly agree that parents need to be more involved so does the schools.  It should be a 50-50 partnership.  I have struggled trying to make sense of how to keep my child on task with completing assignments and learning what needs to be learned.  While my situation is unique in a sense, I believe some things are problem areas for all parents.  I have called, emailed and asked for meetings to address missing assignments with just generic responses.  Don't get me wrong the school staff has been great.  I have been told to utilize the infinite campus website to keep track of missing assignments.  A prime example of this problem was just a week ago when I checked the site and only found 1 or 2 missing assignments.  This week there is 10 times as many entries than last week and many more missing assignment.  It is very seldom correct or up to date,  This causes frustration on the parents part trying to keep on top of work that is due.  I have spent many weekends helping my grandchild get caught up on 15-20 math assignments that were never done and never addressed until the end of the trimester.  These are 3 eight hour days.  Not good!!!....And while I am on the topic of math, what is with the new fangled way of teaching math to our kids.  What was wrong with the good old fashioned math that we learned as kids.  It got me through college with a 4 year degree just as it will our kids.  Another sore subject is Book Reports (6 of them in a single trimester) .  Couldn't our kids writing skills be better put to use.  I can understand maybe 2 book reports but 6.  Really??????  I am 100% behind my grandchild learning and being an active partner with the school system, however they need to meet me halfway.  It only took me from Kindergarten to sixth grade to get the additional assistance she needed to achieve.  Parents should not have to fight so hard to help their children achieve in life.



Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Feb 12, 2014 12:41

Children must want to learn and parents must see that they do. Teachers have an impact but I believe it starts at home. If they don't meet the standard then keep them back. Who knows, the fifth grade may be the best three years of someone's life.



Posted by: robert garcia | Feb 11, 2014 18:22

Maybe someone should explore why Cushing manages to do so well, instead of bemoaning the poor performance of the other schools. Those "pockets" of excellence are not accidental, and the district should spend more time trying to understand what can work right in their own backyard.

 



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Kim Lincoln
Editor
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The Camden Herald editor Kim Lincoln has worked for Courier Publications since 2003.

During her time with the company she has worked for each of the three newspapers, The Courier-Gazette, The Camden Herald and The Republican Journal.

When she is not in the newsroom, Kim likes to be outside, whether it be gardening, swimming, hiking or just enjoying the sunshine.

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