To The Daily Sun,
As we look toward the conclusion of the 2016 – 2017 school year, especially at a time when budget realities are hitting home in our community, I feel compelled to share with the community the many things that continue to be "right" in Laconia around the theme of education.
Throughout each school year, I spend time talking with community members about how Laconia High School operates and how it serves its economically diverse population. It always surprises me when folks are surprised with the highly positive, data-based information. I guess the speed of the media sound bite also results in a short shelf life in our memory banks. I believe this information is extremely important to both our school and community's pride, and in an effort constantly present reality against negative perceptions, I am going to continue "shouting from the mountain top" about the great things that continue to happen around academics in Sachem Nation.
It remains true that any student who works hard in school will be prepared for college and career readiness; the inverse of that remains accurate as well. Students who choose NOT to apply themselves, fail to engage in the assigned work, reject the daily supports that are available to them around academics or simply refuse to show up to school will not be prepared for what lies ahead . . . it has always been thus. The difference now is that there are not many jobs out there for youth who make these decisions.
Over the last five years, Laconia High School has improved its literacy scores on state testing every year. In the final year of NECAP, Laconia High School met the state average for the first time since this assessment was administered. In the area of NECAP writing, our scores exceeded the state and were on par with the best schools in the state. Last year, the state moved over to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. On that test our students exceeded the state average in reading for the first time. In a district that has the third highest percentage of students coming from low socio-economic status, this is an accomplishment that breaks all the rules and research around demographics and educational performance. This year, the state of New Hampshire decided to move to the SAT as the instrument we will use to measure learning for state and national accountability at the high school level. We welcome this change as this assessment is far more meaningful and useful to our students as they prepare their post-secondary plans.
Math is the area in which Laconia has not performed as well as hoped for on national assessments. Unfortunately, the very same can be said about the state's overall performance in this important area on that singular assessment. It is interesting to note, that Laconia High School has the highest performance scores in math than any other cohort in the district. We also continue to get exciting news about student NWEA performance from each cohort (9 and 10th grade) as their scores indicate students are coming to LHS more prepared in math and demonstrating more growth in math over their first two years here. Additionally, we have seen growth every year over the last three years in our Calculus and Stats/Probability programs. This coming school year (2016 – 17), 70 students are currently signed up for a course in our calculus program and over 50 are signed up for our Statistics and Probability Program. We are also excited about our ability to offer Advanced Placement (AP) Stats and Probability for the first time ever to our students next year. These courses and new opportunities are the result of improved math fluency within our student body. In fact, if one looks at a three year progression in the area of scheduling at Laconia High School, we have increased the number of students participating in both Advanced Placement and Project Running Start (dual enrollment) classes every year over the past three years. We have also increased the number of students taking Advanced Placement exams each year in that same time period. Over the past two years our school has been recognized in U.S. News and World Report's annual presentation of the Nation's Best High Schools with a Bronze medal. Almost 70 percent of our nation's schools do not earn an award. Schools were awarded gold, silver or bronze medals based on their performance on state assessments, their graduation rates and how well they prepare students for college.
Laconia students who choose to perform at a high level (yes, it certainly does involve choice at many levels and more students are making those decisions every year) also receive opportunities to access tremendous learning opportunities outside of school. Each year, based on their own merit, our students access elite academic summer opportunities in the sciences, humanities and fine arts. Our instructional program has also evolved. We engage in far more rigorous instructional practices than we ever have and this has impacted student attendance and learning outcomes at LHS. This happens because Laconia offers an excellent educational program and students choose to aspire to excellence.
For our seniors, the truth is in the acceptance letters. Hardworking Sachems can go where they want to go based on their own merit and each year our kids end up in the best schools in New England and across the country. This year, students from LHS have been accepted to Rensselaer, Worcester Poly tech, Merchant Marine Academy, Boston University, Ole Miss, Lesley and Wellesley, just to name just a few excellent programs. This is not unique, it has been the norm for many, many years. You could name an elite school and there is very high probability that we have sent students to it. Obviously, this happens when a student makes good academic choices every day, builds positive supportive relationships with teachers and works toward a clear goal for a post-secondary opportunity. Our curriculum is now literally designed to make that happen.
Unfortunately, with the high cost of many four year schools, many students (and their families) from Laconia make the decision to attend two year programs to help lessen the cost/debt burden that post-secondary experience. We proudly support that direction as well and have built strong relationships with schools in our area to help get our students to these programs so the future they envision can be achieved.
Laconia High School is not an average school. It is a school that offers any student who wants to apply themselves the opportunity to access educational excellence. It supports students and families toward accessing post-secondary programming and it provides a very rich, well rounded educational experience. Yes, we have lost several positions and have had to realign how we deliver some of our programming BUT we are still going to ensure college and career readiness through the pursuit of academic excellence and the reality is we do far more than that every day . . . and we LOVE doing it!
GO SACHEM NATION,