The word NECAP, an acronym for the state testing that public schools take part in during the school year, causes many students, teachers and administrators to shudder. However, at Edgewood Highland Elementary School, NECAP is a cause for celebration.
A NECAP Celebration Day was held at Edgewood Highland recently, honoring all third, fourth, fifth and sixth graders who took the test, took it for the first time or made improvements to last year's score.
"Out of 144 students taking the test, 110 showed improvement," said Kathleen Cook, part-time Project NECAP coordinator for the school and retired educator.
According to Principal Marlene Gamba, she and Cook did not let the students go into the NECAP testing year blindly. They sat individually with each student who had taken the test last year, and showed them their scores. They explained to the students what the scoring categories were (Proficient, Partially Proficient, Proficient with Distinction, and Substantially Below Proficient) and let the students know that even just a point or two higher on the test could move them up into the next category.
"We sat with them and explained things to them in a supportive way," said Gamba. "Even if they had scored last year in the higher ranges, there is still room to improve and sometimes that's hard to do.”
And they didn't stop there.
"I worked with many of these kids in school, after school, in small groups and one-on-one," said Cook. "I was thrilled to see them excel and improve. It showed that their hard work paid off."
The NECAP Celebration Day was split into two sessions: one for grades three and four, and one for grades five and six, because of the large amount of students who achieved awards.
"We had so many students who improved, we had to have two sessions," said Gamba.
At the event, certificates and prizes were given out to students in different categories.
"We want to celebrate them, showing that growth of any kind, even one or two points, is reason to celebrate. It's an even playing field with this test. No matter what your score was, what level you were in last year, you can still improve," said Gamba. "Some were only one or two points from the next level, but they didn't realize it. We explained that to them and encouraged them.”
Once the test data came in, Cook and Gamba took a look to see how the students had done, and when they saw that such great strides had been made, they decided to plan the celebration as a means of following through with them.
"We have a certificate for the 23 first-time test takers who scored in the areas of Proficient or Proficient with Distinction. We are also giving out improvement awards and recognition awards if the students in any grade did something exceptional," Cook said.
She explained that some of the fourth graders were also first-time test takers because they had not been at Edgewood before and had not taken the NECAP at their previous school last year.
"Now, next year, all of you who took this test for the first time this year can get achievement certificates for improvements, too," Cook told the students.
According to Cook, "exceptional" included the students who increased their math or reading scores significantly, such as the student who progressed two levels from last year or the student who increased 33 points – multiple levels from the prior year. It also included students who, as first-time test takers, scored Proficient with Distinction in both reading and math.
"We really pushed hard on improving our math scores this year," said Gamba. "We wanted to show high growth and we spoke about our goal for improvement at our school report night last year. We really worked hard on that."
Each student receiving an award or multiple awards each got to choose a bookmark. Everyone was treated to outdoor activities in the afternoon and refreshments at the end of the day. Gamba thanked the PTO for supplying the prizes and bookmarks for the students.
"This is such a special day," said Gamba. "It's very exciting and I'm so very proud of our school."