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News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, May 9, 2013
School report cards
Adams School class size too small for data to be valid—until now

by Anne Berleant

The C grade Adams School received from the Maine Department of Education last week raised several issues addressed at the May 1 school board meeting.

“In my 10 years on the board, we’ve always been in the top 10 or 12 schools in the state,” said board member Joe Spinazola. “Now, it’s a different way of measuring.”

Schools across Maine were graded according to how third- through eighth-graders performed on the New England Common Assessment Program tests given last October. Schools found out they were being assigned grades based on those test results last month. The NECAPS test proficiency in reading and math.

“I see this completely as a push to justify a political agenda,” said Chairman Kathy MacArthur.

Schools were graded on a bell curve on overall results, overall student improvement from the previous year’s tests, and improvement of the “bottom” 25 percent. (See related story in Compass, page 1.)

“Up until now, our scores haven’t been published,” said Principal Katie Frothingham, because of class sizes NECAP considers too small for the data to be valid—and for privacy reasons. In classes of under 10 students—the NECAP cut-off—it is easy to identify low performing students. Frothingham said eight students in Adams School make up the lowest performing 25 percent; a total of 32 students participated in the NECAPs this school year.

Adams School received a 64.5 percent proficiency score in math and a 74.2 percent score in reading. Growth for all students in math was 58.3 percent; in reading it was 71.7 percent. For the bottom 25 percent, growth in math proficiency was 25 percent; in reading it was 58.6 percent.

“We have to create an environment…where NECAPS are important,” said Superintendent Mark Hurvitt. “It’s a bad way to run a school system, a bad message.”

Frothingham stressed the strong RTI program in place, that identifies students having trouble in English and math early in the school year and addresses their learning issues in a three-tier system.

“As a staff, we’re very pleased about our students’ proficiency,” Frothingham said.

“What’s the impact of getting a C?” asked parent Christine Spratt.

“We’re going to hear from people not in favor of this school at town meeting,” replied board member Temple Blackwood.

George Stevens Academy Head of School Paul Perkinson, who was in attendance, addressed the board on the C grade given to GSA. High school grades were based on three years of SAT test scores, and while GSA’s scores should have earned it a B grade, it was penalized for having under 95 percent student participation in the test. Perkinson said GSA’s participation rate was 94.2 percent, translating to five students not sitting for the test, in 2012, for reasons including a death in the family, illness, participation in an out-of-state learning program, previously withdrawn from the school, and not granted time off from a job.

He described the grading system as “inappropriate.”

In other business, Sergeant Greg Roy of Troop J discussed the school security assessment issued by Maine State Police.

“This school poses a unique challenge,” Roy said, because it was built (circa 1860) as a community center.

He advised installing an electronic buzzer for the front door, which is part of the 2013-14 budget, as are external PC-based security cameras.

This type of camera system, Roy said, allows the sheriff’s department to access the system, if needed, by its IP address.

He also advised lock down drills, that with “planning and practice don’t have to be traumatizing” to younger children.

Frothingham, Roy and Castine Fire Department Assistant Chief Jack Spratt are working on a security plan, which will be ready for board review in August.

The April 1 enrollment report lists 51 pre-K through eighth-grade students at Adams School and 13 at GSA. Six elementary students attend Bay School and nine receive home schooling. Twelve high school students attend Bucksport, John Bapst, other area high schools or are home schooled.

Two summer camps were approved by the board: a garden camp run by school secretary Elaine Bertrand and teacher Heather Trainor, and a two-week literacy camp that will “provide motivational and technical support for young readers and writers,” according to material prepared by Union 93 curriculum coordinator Rachael Kohrman Ramos.

Finally, Frothingham reported on Boston’s Channel 5 “Mystery Main Street” segment featuring Castine, which included a visit to the school. “They did a nice job highlighting the community-school relationship,” Frothingham said.

Castine School Board

Next meeting: June 5, 5 p.m.,

Adams School