- Associated Press - Thursday, February 6, 2014

BARRE, Vt. (AP) - Vermont school testing results released Thursday showed some slight decline, results that state officials say might be due to a reduction of high-performing schools in the testing pool.

Seventy one percent of Vermont’s public school students rated proficient in reading in results from the New England Common Assessment Program test administered in 2013; 67 percent rated proficient in math. The state did not figure overall totals for 2012 test results.

The results were announced at a news conference at the Barre City Elementary and Middle School. Michael Hock, state assessment director, described the results as “flat.”

This was the last year for NECAP scores. Vermont will switch next year to a new computer-based test that aligns with the Common Core standards. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted Common Core.

Vermont Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe highlighted gaps in achievement among both male students and students receiving free or reduced lunch, and said closing achievement gaps is “a critical state priority.”

When broken down by grades, the raw data Thursday showed 11th grade math results remained low. Scores were down slightly to 35 percent proficiency in 2013 from 38 percent in 2012. Math scores also ticked downward for students in third through eighth grades from 65 percent in 2012 to 62 percent proficiency last year.

Reading proficiency remained high, although students from third through eighth grades dropped three percentage points from 2012 to 70 percent. Seventy-four percent of Vermont high school students were proficient in reading, the same as in 2012.

Writing improved for fifth graders by two percentage points and for 11th graders by seven percentage points but declined more than 10 percentage points for eighth graders. In fifth, eighth and 11th grades, the majority of students scored below proficiency in science last year.

Hock said the decline in some subjects could be due to a 5 percent drop in participating schools.

More than two dozen schools are part of a field test for the new testing system being rolled out across the state next year. The field test schools generally perform higher on tests and their removal from the NECAP pool might have affected the test results, Hock said.

The NECAP test in reading and math was given to third through eighth grades and to 11th graders. Fifth, eighth and 11th graders are tested in writing and science. The tests also are used in Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

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