Barry: Speaks with forked tongue

Barry: Speaks with forked tongue

The state Department of Education released the results of the Smarter Balanced Assessment which was given across the state between March and June of the last school year.  In a press release issued yesterday, Commissioner of Education Virginia Barry had some interesting things to say in light of the results which showed a dramatic reduction in the number of students who were competent in math and English versus the NECAP test which was previously used.

According to Barry quote

“The student results on the statewide Smarter Balanced Assessment establish a new baseline that enables educators and families to know where students stand on their path to success and measures progress going forward.  As such, the results of this assessment should not be compared to the previous NECAP test.  As with any change, there will be a period of adjustment, as teachers and students get used to the new standards and assessments.  Scores that appear lower do not mean schools are performing worse, or that students are learning less. Instead, this is a reflection of the higher standards NH adopted to ensure students achieve 21st century college and career readiness.”

This from the same person who spent the better part of the last two years telling parents, legislators and critics that there was virtually no difference between the Common Core national standards adopted by the state and its previous Grade Level Expectations.

MSD: Bad schools or bad test reflected in dismal numbers?

MSD: Bad schools or bad test reflected in dismal numbers?

In Manchester last night, school administrators presented the district’s scores to a special meeting of the Board of School Committee.  According to materials released by the district at four fifteen yesterday, the district’s stats are as follows:

Eighty-eight percent of Manchester students in grades three through eight and grade eleven completed the assessment, compared to 95% statewide.  (That number’s wrong, by the way, we’ll explain later.  If you use the numbers given by the district below, you’ll discover a 78.8% participation rate.)

  • Of 2,994 (92% participation) elementary students in grades three through five:

o   30% achieved scores of level 3 or higher in math

o   34% reached level 3 or higher in English language arts

o   The state percentages in those subjects are 48% and 58%, respectively

  • Of 2,287 (77% participation) middle school students in grades six through eight:

o   23% achieved scores of level 3 or higher in math

o   28% reached level 3 or higher in English language arts

o   The state percentages in those subjects are 47% and 59%, respectively

  • Of 576 (48% participation) grade eleven high school students:

o   28% achieved scores of level 3 or higher in math

o   54% reached level 3 or higher in English language arts

o   The state percentages in those subjects are 37% and 60%, respectively

The assessment was scored on a range from one to four, with four being the highest.

District officials blamed a number of factors for the city’s poor performance.  At first, they said teachers only had three weeks to prepare kids for the assessment because of the board’s late decision to take the assessment.  Later, they walked that back saying it wasn’t a failure to prepare students for the test so much as it was difficulty in readying things like computers and headphones for them to take the assessment.

Special meeting: Let the blame game begin.

Special meeting:  Um, why not question the test?

They said parental refusals were at fault too, stating that they prevented many of the city’s higher functioning students from taking the exam and that every student who didn’t take the exam gave the district a “zero” that factored into its overall scoring.

They said taking time to develop the Manchester Academic Standards that covers stuff not on the test and doesn’t cover other things that are, set them back a year that could have been used academically to prepare students for the test because they couldn’t work on curriculum.

The highlight of the night came when district officials said they “didn’t know” whether or not the scores represented the percentage of students who scored three or higher, which would exclude those who didn’t take the test, or whether or not the scores was an aggregate average score that included zeros for the kids who didn’t take the test.  This is why we used the stats from their press release in this news read because it made it clear that the percentages were of the kids who took the assessment and scored three or higher out of four.  Those who did not take the test did not affect the district’s scores.

The one thing they didn’t do is question the validity of the test, which they treated as Gospel, and that is the real issue.

News from our own backyard continues after this.

image009Congressman Frank Guinta announced his First Annual Congressional App Challenge for high school students in New Hampshire’s First District.  According to a news release, Guinta said the contest is quote

“open to any high school student with a great idea the public will love.  The object is to inspire greatness in our next generation of science and business leaders, many of whom live right here in the Granite State.”  

Guinta said he wanted to get students’ “creative juices flowing” and that some “friendly competition” was a good way to make that happen.  The contest runs through January 15th and culminates with a trip to Washington, D.C. for the winner, who will be chosen by a panel of local judges.  We’ve posted the link to the Congressman’s official website with all the necessary details.

Milford Oval: Site of big annual event

Milford Oval: Site of big annual event

The Milford Improvement Team and the town of Milford invite area residents and visitors to attend Milford’s Annual Holiday Craft Fairs and Events.  The events will take place in and around the beautiful and historic Oval in downtown Milford, on Saturday, December fifth.  Hosted by thirteen Milford non-profits, churches and community groups, fair hours will run from eight to three. The Milford Indoor Farmers’ Market will also be held in the Town Hall Auditorium from ten to one.  Adding to the event is the unique Holiday Shopping & Dining experience already found around the Oval.  And thanks to the Milford Lions Club, you can bring the kiddos to see Santa, on Sunday, December sixth from noon to two on the Oval.  Be sure to mark your calendars!

Rich Girard in purpleFinally this morning, it’s Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Day.  Please be sure to wear purple to help the folks at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network raise awareness of this cancer, which is one of the most lethal that exists.

That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next!