Tuesday November 6, 2012

DOVER - Dover's science curriculum "used to be a mile wide and an inch deep. Now, it's an inch wide and a mile deep."

That's how fourth-grade science teacher Michael Degnon sums up the changes to his program at Dover School.

The school announced last month that its students have an 85 percent proficiency in science, well above the state average of 53 percent. The results come from three years of testing.

"We're making sure science is as interesting, engaging and relevant to the students' lives as possible," Degnon said. "Science is everywhere. Students are breathing, eating and wearing it, so they might as well know everything there is to know about it."

The Department of Education does not release a school's data for individual years if less than 10 students take it. These results were from 2010 to 2012; 23 out of 27 total students took the test over the past three years. Students at Dover have to be there for the full year in order to take it.

"I think that this is even more compelling evidence of a successful instructional program, as it occurs over a number of years with a different set of students each years," principal Bill Anton wrote in an e-mail to the Reformer.

The tests reflect skills from the scientific process such as the abilities to engage, inquire, experiment, reflect and demonstrate.

The Common Core Standards raise the standard in key content areas, said Degnon. He wants students to not only be able to go through the scientific process but to be able to explain it in a way that anybody walking into the school could understand.

Degnon teaches fourth-grade science this year. Last year, he taught fourth and fifth-grade science.

The NECAP testing puts some pressure on educators to find ways to improve scores and encourages new methods for classroom learning.

Recently, there has been a focus on PowerPoint presentations and engaging in digital formats. The school has a subscription to a Discovery Education product called Science TechBook that gives students videos with narratives and ways to work hands-on in the classroom.

"I could not be more proud of the students and my colleagues," said Anton.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com