LACONIA — Students in the city's public schools are becoming increasingly proficient in mathematics and reading, according to standardized test results.
Assistant Superintendent Kirk Bleiter gave the School Board an overview of the latest results from the Northwest Evaluation Assessment tests to the School Board Tuesday evening.
Bleiter and other district curriculum specialists told the board that overall Laconia students are performing better than the national average in the reading and mathematical skills.
NWEA tests are being administered three times a year to Laconia students in the third through 10th grades, Bleiter said.
The assessment tests, which are built on Common Core State Standards, are designed to allow teachers and administrators to assess students' learning levels on the new standards and monitor students' development on a continuing and ongoing basis.
The results show that Laconia students are more proficient in math when compared to results of the New England Common Assessment Program — or NECAP — tests which were administered under the federal No Child Left Behind education program. Proficiency in reading also increased significantly, the board was told.
The data collected from the assessment tests also reveal that students are doing better in retaining what they learn from a prior year. One area of concern, however, is that sixth-graders score below the national average in reading. Bleiter said part of that may be that students often experience difficulty in making the transition from the smaller elementary schools with one teacher for all subjects to the larger middle school with different teachers for differing courses.
Bleiter said that giving the NWEA test three times a year allows teachers and administrators to make changes or corrections to their instructions in order to better ensure that students will be able to master the material of a particular course.
School Board member Scott Vachon said that the NWEA tests are a valuable tool because "students are getting real intervention (from teachers) in real time. This will make them more successful in school and more successful after they leave school."
Referring to those Common Core critics who have alleged that collecting data on students is an invasion of privacy, Vachon said, "People who are afraid of data collection should look at what we're getting out of it."
NOTE: Superintendent Teri Forsten told the board that she is looking at the possibility of filling the Elm Street School principal vacancy with someone already working in the school system. She said she has identified some internal candidates and recommended delay starting a full-fledged search process until the middle of the month by which time she would have the opportunity to talk with the internal candidates. Jim Chase is serving as interim principal.