GUILFORD -- Standardized-test scores are declining at Guilford Central School, and members of the town school board want to know why.
The board has formed a special committee to take a focused, in-depth look at why scores on the New England Common Assessment Program have been slipping for several years.
While officials are aware that the so-called NECAP test soon will be phased out in favor of a test based on new "Common Core" standards, board member Steve Redmond successfully pushed for the new committee to examine only recent scores on the current test.
"I think it should be just really focused on one thing, which is to gather facts about what the problem may be in a variety of areas and then write a report," Redmond said.
The discussion came a few weeks after board members heard a presentation detailing the school's generally downward trends in standardized testing.
The data stretch from 2008 and 2009 through 2012 and 2013, depending on the subject matter. But most of the news was not good, including:
-- The number of students in grades three through eight who were deemed "proficient and above" in reading declined from 75 percent in 2009 to 67 percent in 2012.
-- There was a steeper drop in math scores among those same students, with those deemed at least proficient declining from 72 percent in 2009 to 52 percent in 2012.
-- Guilford's reading proficiency was 6 percentage points under the state's in 2012. And the school's 52 percent math proficiency was far below the state average of 65 percent.
-- Writing scores in grade five and science scores in grade four also have dropped.
Writing and science scores among Guilford's eighth-graders have improved in recent years. As of this school year, though, Guilford no longer educates seventh- and eighth-graders, who have been tuitioned to Brattleboro Area Middle School.
That likely would be immaterial to the review Redmond requested. At this point, rather than recommending solutions, he's more interested in determining what caused the scores to drop.
"The function I'm suggesting is not planning or an administrative function, but an oversight, fact-finding investigation by the board," Redmond said.
Calling the school's scores "disturbing," Redmond suggested that the committee should look at all aspects of testing -- including the NECAP test itself.
"I don't want to prejudge what the causes are. I want to find out what the causes are," Redmond said.
"I expect it not to be one cause," he added. "But I would like to have a report out of this which delineates these various factors so that we can understand where are problems are."
Other board members agreed, with Vice Chairwoman Alice Revis noting that "if we don't understand the problem, we can't solve any problems."
The board voted unanimously to create an "Assessment Study Committee." Members includes Redmond and board member Beth Bristol.
Bristol was appointed to Guilford School Board in September to serve the remainder of Tara Henry's term. Henry had resigned in August.
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.