Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, September 8, 2011
Low SAT scores disappoint DIS principal, board
Board discusses goals, planning and budget schedules
by Jessica Brophy
At the September 6 meeting of the CSD Board, high school principal Todd West shared the results of the SAT taken by juniors in May. The results were the “lowest in years,” said West.
West said he was surprised by the test results, as there was “an indisputable feeling among the students that they were more prepared.” The results are particularly surprising since Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) test results from around the same time showed a substantial portion of students performing at or above grade level, and several at postsecondary levels.
In all four testing areas, only 24 percent of students scored proficient or better. West told the board it was not the same students in each area. The testing areas include critical reading, math, writing and science.
For comparison, in 2008-09, 40 percent of students scored proficient or higher in critical reading. In 2009-10, that number was 30 percent, and this year only 24 percent.
West said the results are troubling, given the amount of preparatory effort and support given to students before the test.
“There’s something going on,” said West.
West did note that in a small class, the difference between 24 percent and 40 percent is only four students.
Board member Linda Nelson asked what the difference is between the NWEAs, on which the class performed well, and the SATs.
“The SATs are designed to sort students into who might be good for postsecondary school,” replied West. “The NWEA measures where a student is in a way that allows us to gauge the potential for growth.”
The “universe of questions” available in the NWEA makes a difference as well, said West. The SAT has a much more limited test question bank.
Board member Andy Vaughn said the board shouldn’t spend too much time “explaining away” the SAT results. “What I see the scores saying is that we’re not meeting the benchmarks we need to meet,” he continued.
For the first time, the school will receive a sample of questions and student responses, which may shed light on what kinds of questions students get right or wrong. West said that other efforts to support and improve student performance on the SATs would continue.
“I’m not sure if every kid can get over a 460, but I know more than 24 percent can,” said West.
For more information about the SAT results, see Todd West’s Mariner Moment column on page 6 of this week’s Island Ad-Vantages.
In other business, the school board approved Mark Churchill as a part-time French teacher, a .33 full-time equivalent appointment, at $18,970. Leslie Billings was hired as .75 FTE special education teacher at $22,032. Christine Colwell, a veteran special education teacher who moved here from Vermont, was hired for a full-time position at $50,222.
Board member Skip Greenlaw asked why, if student enrollment has dropped substantially in the past five years, so many special ed staff were still needed. “The number of staff we have is inappropriate,” he said.
Joshua Nichols, the new special services director, pointed out that Billings’ position is only partly special ed—she also teaches alternative education and service learning courses. The special ed staff was reduced by .25 FTE this year.
The board also discussed two different schedules for itself for the coming year: one schedule for developing and determining a strategic plan for the school board, and the other, the budget schedule. The strategic planning will, they hope, be complete before the bulk of the budget work in 2012.
This year’s budget discussions will begin in October with a community discussion of priorities, realities and enrollment, and begin in earnest in early 2012. The board will hold its next regular meeting on Tuesday, October 4, at 6 p.m. at the elementary school.