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October 17. 2012 12:13AM

Adequate education report targets 4 Manchester schools

CONCORD — The first reports on whether the state’s nearly 500 schools provide students with an adequate education were released this month and eight of the state’s nearly 500 schools failed.

Four Manchester elementary schools are among the eight that are failing.

The reports, which are required under a 2009 law sought by the state education adequacy commission, use school self-evaluation and student performance to determine if a school provides an adequate education.

High schools are automatically adequate if they are fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges or if they are chartered public schools.

The reports are intended to ensure that each of the state’s schools provide students with an opportunity for an adequate education under state law.

The Department of Education issued the “2012 Adequacy Report” on its Oct. 1 deadline and posted the results on its website but did not announce its release. Instead the report was sent to the governor and legislative leaders as required by the law and to school superintendents.

Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Paul Leather said “This is a first-year report and we’re still working it through. Since it is new information, we responded to the requirements of the law and we’re working to perfect the system.”

Under the new program, schools have two ways to meet the adequacy requirement through what is called an “input-based accountability system” or through a “performance-based accountability system.”

Under the input system, school principals have to fill out surveys identifying how each school meets the state’s minimum standards, mostly in content areas such as English, math, science and technology education.

According to Keith Burke, a department consultant in the areas of accountability and adequacy, the department reviews the surveys and discusses areas that may need to be addressed with school administrators.

If the schools do not meet that standard, then they can still qualify under the performance-based system that relies on student performance on the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) and other criteria such as the dropout rate, according to Burke.

A third avenue to adequacy is available to high schools, that being full accreditation through the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

“This is our first time through this and we’re still picking our way through a couple of things,” Burke said.

The eight schools that failed to provide adequate education under the program are Wilson, Hallsville, Beech Street and Northwest elementary schools in Manchester, the Woodsville Elementary School, Paul Elementary School in Wakefield, Croydon Village School, and Brown Elementary School in Berlin.

Of the state’s 448 public schools, 212 schools met the input-based standards while 398 met the performance-based standards.

Manchester Superintendent Thomas Brennan said his office is developing a plan to address the problems and will be submitting it to the Department of Education.

He said the biggest shortcomings for the four elementary schools that failed were the information and communications technology requirements.

Manchester Assistant Superintendent Michael Tursi said that, under the standards, elementary students have to be able to develop an electronic portfolio of documents using elementary level computer skills.

He said some of the elementary schools have more technology than others due to donations or through grants.

Tursi questioned if the standard should apply to kindergarteners and first graders and noted three of the elementary schools failed because of that standard.

He also said some principals did not complete the survey in the math area and that also was an issue.

Brennan said he intends to “spend time with the principals and their survey responses so we have a clear understanding of what the question is.”

He said the first report has been a learning process for school administrations and the Department of Education.

“We have 22 schools and four were identified. We’ve talk about this for a period of time,” Brennan said. “On balance this is a significant move in the right action. We will have corrective action in place to reduce that number to zero.”

Leather acknowledged this is the first report and some changes are likely in the future for the annual reports.

He noted the state’s minimum standards have to be reauthorized in the upcoming legislative session.

The input requirements are tied to the minimum standards, he noted, and the department will work closely with lawmakers to revise those standards.

“On the first run through it could be clearer,” Leather said. “The relationship between the adequacy standard and minimum standards could be better defined.”

Individual school reports can be found at: www.screencast.com/t/MsLZHCHih

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Garry Rayno may be reached at
grayno@unionleader.com.


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