Dover School students excel, again


DOVER -- When the New England Comprehensive Assessment Program test scores were released in Vermont, Dover School officials found that their students had another successful year.

Last April, when the students took the tests, was the last time the NECAP tests will be administered in the school. This year, Dover School will be one of 27 schools selected to try out the new Common Core assessment, which is known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, or SBAC.

"We ended on a really positive run," said Principal Bill Anton. "It's tough with the writing test and the science test. You only test one grade. You have to look over at least a few years."

Anton decided to review the last two years of testing, and he concluded that his students were consistently putting up numbers that were significantly higher than the state average.

The NECAPs are administered yearly in Vermont to fourth, eighth, and eleventh graders. The tests are meant to evaluate the performance of the students in a variety of subjects, such as science, reading, writing and math.

The Spring 2013 Science NECAP results showed that Dover School had scored at a 79 percent proficiency, compared to the state average of 47 percent.

"Including results from the beginning of 2011, the Dover School has scored an average proficiency of 91 percent in math, 95 percent in reading, 89 percent in writing and 80 percent in science," stated a press release from the school.

The high scores can largely be attributed to the instructional system in place at Dover School, Anton said.

In April, a group of students from the school will take the SBAC testing. The faculty won't be able to look at the individual scores for the students; however, they can get an idea of the test by listening to students' response to it.

"We'll be able to pilot what we've been teaching of the Common Core," said Anton. "We'll see how they're testing and ask them, ‘Are we preparing enough?'"

The SBAC is a newly designed test system, which Anton described as being computer enhanced and computer adapted.

"(The questions) will adjust to whether the kid got the (previous question) wrong or right," he added. "It's not just multiple choice."

Some questions in the SBAC tests will also involve previous questions.

"It really challenges kids' thinking in a way we want our kids to start problem solving," said Anton.

For this special initial round of testing, Dover School volunteered as did a number of other schools. But since students from Dover had previously taken NECAPs, the school was a more suitable choice for the SBAC.

"Those that they selected were not going to have the opportunity to take the NECAP," said Anton. "And that's important because if you don't take it this year, your annual yearly progress won't (be factored in). We made annual yearly progress, so it was unnecessary for us to do it again this year."

He told the Reformer that he wasn't entirely sure how the 27 schools were chosen but he was happy that Dover School was selected.

"The cool thing about the Common Core is that it is based on international benchmarks and they're going to test it in 44 states," said Anton. "So, for the first time, we're going to be able to measure ourselves based on other states."

When asked about how the students have reacted to their high score percentage, Anton said the faculty doesn't make a big deal out of it.

"I don't know that they know," he added. "Our kids just work really hard and achieve high quality instruction. That's what we focus on: kids making the effort. When you focus on the effort, the outcomes naturally come."

Since the Common Core has been part of the curriculum for the last year and a half, the Dover School faculty will not be changing any of its programming for the months leading up to the SBAC.

"I think it's an opportunity for us to get a formative measure of: ‘Are we teaching our students in a manner they are able to demonstrate their knowledge in a test like the SBAC?'" said Anton.

Although results won't be officially released until 2015, the faculty is excited to have the opportunity to make certain that the students are receiving the right emphasis on critical thinking and see if any improvements are needed, Anton said.

The tests will likely take place between a two and three week period. Currently, there is a testing zone set up in the computer lab where students have been practicing for tests by using Rosetta Stone, the software that assists users with learning a foreign language, and a similar interactive math program.

"I am just excited that Vermont is participating in the Common Core and the SBAC because I believe it will give us the opportunity to see how Vermont compares with the rest of the United States," said Anton. "And we can use that information to improve education in the entire state."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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