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February 09. 2014 10:09PM

Manchester math scores take a dip in NECAP test

MANCHESTER — Manchester students in every tested grade level scored lower in math on standardized tests last fall compared to the prior year.

Eighth-graders scored sharply lower in writing on the most recent test while 11th graders improved considerably, according to results released Friday.

These results mark the final year that New Hampshire students will take the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) test, which is given to students in grades three through eight as well as 11.

The NECAP's replacement, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test, will be required in 2015 as part of the Common Core standards. Manchester officials previously said they will consider seeking a waiver to use a different assessment test.

NECAP results showed 32 percent of 987 Manchester eighth-graders tested last fall were deemed proficient or above in writing, compared to 54 percent of eighth-graders the prior year, a 22-point drop.

At the Henry J. McLaughlin Middle School, 26 percent were found to be proficient or above in writing compared to 57 percent the prior year, a 31-point decline.

Superintendent Debra Livingston said year-to-year comparisons of the same grade involve two different groups because students move up a grade.

"The important thing for us to do is break down and compare the same pool of students year to year and see what their growth has been over time," Livingston said.

But when the state Department of Education issued a news release Friday on statewide results, it compared like grades from year to year.

In Manchester, Grade eight math scores dropped by eight points, while grades three and five each dropped by seven points.

A statement from the Manchester school district released Friday made no mention of students faring worse in any area.

Overall, Manchester students scored lower than the state as a whole in all three subject areas tested: reading, math and writing.

For reading, 59 percent of Manchester students scored proficient or better in reading versus 77 percent statewide. For math, 45 percent of city students were deemed proficient or better compared to 65 percent statewide. And for writing, 41 percent of Manchester students were proficient or above compared to 58 percent statewide.

Asked about the disparity between the city and state results, Livingston said: "I think that's probably early for me to comment on. We have a lot of work ahead of us to dig down into the data to see what it tells us."

The city's students saw large improvements in some areas. At Parker-Varney School, writing proficiency improved. The fall 2011 testing showed 28 percent of fifth-graders tested in writing showed proficiency, compared to only eight percent in 2012 and 35 percent last year.

At Webster Street School, writing for fifth-graders improved from 39 percent in fall 2011 to 51 percent in 2012 and 64 percent last year.

"Our teachers have worked hard to shore up the weaknesses in classroom writing instruction and improve the elements that needed to be stronger," Principal Christine Martin said in the school district statement.

For 11th-grade writing, Memorial High School made the biggest gain, 13 points, to 52 percent proficient or better. Central High School gained nine points, to 50 percent overall. And West High School rose four points, to 25 percent.


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