Houlton High School off state’s watch list

Posted Oct. 07, 2010, at 11:29 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:50 a.m.

MONTICELLO, Maine — Students in SAD 29 have made considerable strides based on this year’s Scholastic Aptitude Test scores.

Houlton High School Principal Marty Bouchard informed the SAD 29 school board Monday evening that scores from the May 1 SAT tests showed a significant increase from the previous year’s exams. And because of the good scores, the district is no longer on the AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) watch list for performing below the state average.

“Testing has become a focal point for schools for many reasons,” Bouchard said. “We try to balance test preparation with our everyday curriculum so that our children have a well-rounded education.”

Houlton High School has been on the watch list, along with half of the other schools in the state, for the last several years for not meeting adequate yearly progress in its test scores.

“We have been working with the state for several years trying to get off this list,” Bouchard said. “Based on our recent SAT scores, I have been told that we are off the AYP list.”

Bouchard’s announcement drew a round of applause from the school board and members of the public in attendance at Monday’s meeting.

“It came with a lot of hard work from our kids,” Bouchard said. “They dug in and really made a difference. Last year, when we were designated [as a low-achieving school], we were cautiously optimistic that we would do well. The kids’ pride took a hit.”

Houlton High School was second in Aroostook County for reading (53 percent) and fourth in math (53 percent) for meeting or exceeding AYP. In comparison to some of the other Aroostook County school’s, Caribou scored a 56 percent in math and 44 percent in reading; Presque Isle was 52 percent in math and 51 percent in reading. The state average for math was 46 percent, while reading was 48 percent.

Among the many changes the district has implemented over the years to help improve its test scores, according to Bouchard, was to require all freshmen to take college preparatory level courses in English and world geography.

“We eliminated a lot of the lower level math classes to keep kids from taking the easy road,” he said. “This is the first group to take the SAT since those changes.”

Prior to the most recent SAT tests, HHS had a -0.217 growth, which resulted in the district being classified as one of 10 Low Achieving Schools by the state back in March. Based on the recent testing, HHS gained 12.5 percent on the AYP list. Only seven schools out of 125 in the state had a higher growth rate than HHS.

“That’s a huge difference,” Bouchard said. “It’s great news for our district. I hope people will look at this and see the improvement we have made.”

Traci Wilde, a teacher at HHS, told the board this good news was merely the first step toward an attitude change at the school.

“We couldn’t put a Band-Aid on the designation we received,” she said. “Changes have been a long time coming, but I love that we have maintained the integrity of our programs. We refused to sacrifice just to teach this test. I would hate it if we were just teaching the test.”

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