Test scores tell tale of one city, several towns
Test scores also show that Manchester High School West lags significantly behind Pinkerton Academy, even when factors of race and affluence are taken into account. But SAT scores, which measure the performance of college-bound students, show West the best of the three schools.
Educators say the data are useful, but not the complete package when it comes to choosing a high school.
"Imagine you're studying the history of the Middle East or Asia, and you have the opportunity first-hand to hear about it. That exists at West and Central," said David Ryan, assistant superintendent at Manchester.
But that narrows to a 7-percentage point gap when white students at Pinkerton and Central are compared. The gap remains significant — 19-percentage points — when reading scores of white students at West are compared to Pinkerton.
Manchester school officials say they are looking to increase test scores by adopting a district-wide curriculum that will be taught consistently throughout city schools. Ryan said the district also has to elevate the expectations of all students.
"Education is much thicker than that," Ryan said. He added that Hooksett students do well in Manchester schools. At West, for example, 60 percent of Hooksett students scored proficient or better in the most recent NECAP test. Three Hooksett students were among the top West graduates last year.
• Per-pupil spending. Superintendent Debra Livingston said a community makes its decision on how much to invest in its schools, and she knows of no study that says what the correct number should be. "Certainly it's about a wise use, making sure the dollars are going as directly as possible to the classroom.
• Teacher pay. Livingston said more than half of Manchester teachers are at the top of their scale, so salaries are higher. Anderson said Pinkerton Academy teachers are not unionized; raises are based on merit. About six years ago, many long-term Pinkerton teachers retired and have been replaced, which would tend to lower the average salary.
• Anderson said she can't explain the lower average combined SAT scores for Pinkerton. Ryan said it may be that more Pinkerton students take the test, which would lower the average score.
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