DOVER - When the students of Dover School are taking the New England Common Assessment Program tests, there is a calmness in the air.
That's what Principal Bill Anton told the Reformer on Monday after receiving the news that his students scored 90 percent or better on their reading and math portions on Feb. 6.
"We don't do any pep talks," said Anton. "We don't do any special things on those days. I think the kids actually appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge because they worked very hard. And they have no reason to be nervous because they've done the work."
This is the second consecutive year that Anton's students had high scores in reading and math in tests that are taken by students in schools all over the New England area. In 2010-11, Dover School students scored 96 percent in reading and 86 percent in math. In 2011-12, the students received scores of 96 percent in reading again and 90 percent in math.
"We were really excited looking over last year's scores and this year, only 3 out of 280-plus (schools) scored over 90 in reading and math in two consecutive years," he said.
A press release from Laura Sibilia, of the Dover School Board, stated that, "NECAP data for our school in 2006 shows we had 71 percent meet the standard in math and 82 percent in reading -- we have shown a steady and consistent rise since then."
When it comes to preparing for these tests, Anton said his teachers do not focus on the NECAP tests. They are designing classes that fit the Vermont curriculum and tailor to the students as individuals.
"I think that our teachers focus on instruction," said Anton. "They are outstanding instructional designers. We do not adopt a particular text book or instructional method. I think when you empower teachers in that fashion, they will go above and beyond to make sure that their instruction is effective."
The teachers are proud of their students. Each day they demonstrate the ability to live up to their motto, said Anton, which is "work hard and be kind."
He believes that the NECAP scores have reflected just that.
"The teachers are proud because, again, they don't depend on a certain textbook. There's a lot of freedom in their classes. They design what the kids need," said Anton. "And along with that freedom, it is agreed upon the need that the kids can demonstrate their knowledge. So there's real economy and purpose for the kids to get that mastery."
Anton said the teachers are working before school, after school and on the weekends. He told the Reformer that with the amount of work they are doing, it "really shows up when you see the NECAP cores."
He said this helps make for outstanding test scores. But, not only are the teachers responsible for pitching in to raise standards. Anton attributes the success of his students to the parents and school board as well.
"Parents are very much a part of the school," he said. "They're here every day, volunteering in our classrooms, running after-school programs, developing winter sports programs and coming to the morning sing-along's every Friday. Parents are an integral part of our success."
The Dover School has the school board to be thankful for. Anton said the board gets the community involved. He mentioned that it has an ability to communicate with the community.
"When you have a strong school board, really good things can happen," he said. "We've been extremely lucky to have a really knowledgeable and future-oriented school board that allow me to have resources to allow the students to succeed."