More to excellence than academic achievement

Guest Contribution by Arthur Green

TRSD embraces the proposition that there is more to excellence than academic achievement.  There must be.  In evidence, here are the 2018 standardized test results posted to the NH DOE web site early last week.

I’ll focus primarily on the SAT (grade 11) results, as a proxy for the result of the students’ educational careers at Timberlane.

First the “raw” reported numbers:

  • In ELA (English Language Arts), 62% of grade 11 students met or exceeded the basic proficiency standard (compared to 67% last year).
  • In Math, 43% achieved or exceeded basic standards (compared to 45% last year).

I don’t know what the TRSD administration has to say about these results, as I don’t recall seeing their press release on this topic.

Now for context.

First, the percent of students meeting or exceeding the proficiency standard, with the state average shown for comparison:

Timberlane Raw SAT scores 2010-2018

Keep in mind that grade 11 has been using the (revised) SAT as a state-wide general measure only for the past 3 years, so these years may not be directly comparable to the prior years which used different tests.  We can work around that problem by showing the Timberlane result as a ratio compared to the corresponding state average.  On the next graph, the line at 1.00 represents the state average.  So, for example, in 2010 Timberlane’s ELA and Math results were both at about 0.9 relative to the state average, or in other words 10% below state average in the percentage of students achieving proficiency.

Timberlane SAT scores as fraction of NH average 2010-2018


  • Math achievement, the blue line, is up to 8% above state average.  This is an improvement over last year, which was 2% above state average, and matches the previous high point in 2013.  TRSD has certainly improved from 2015 and 2015 when the students scored only 90% and 80% of the state average proficiency.  However we also need to note that the number of students scoring proficient or better this year is actually down from last year, and the improvement on this chart is due to a big drop in the state average.  Was the math SAT harder this year than last?  We don’t know, but the cork should probably stay in the champagne bottle for now.
  • ELA achievement, the orange line, is stuck very close to the state average and this year dipped below, negative movement in both absolute and relative terms.  ELA is down by about the same amount that math is improved.

To get a view on whether TRSD is making tangible progress, I’ve put the result above onto a scatter chart.  On this chart the x-axis is ELA, the y-axis is math, the crossing point represents the state average in both ELA and math. The right-hand half of the chart is above state average results in ELA, the upper half of the chart is above state average results in math.

Timberlane SAT scatter chart 2010-2018


In only one recent year, 2013, has TRSD been clearly above state average in both ELA and math.  2015 represented a significant low point, following which the district has climbed back close to the state average, with math showing above-average results in all of the past 3 years, and ELA just below average in 2 years, just above in the third.

And for a different sort of context, let’s see the 2018 grade 11 result for the “comparable” NH school districts which have a similar enrollment, number of schools, and grade levels served.

This is another scatter chart with ELA on the x-axis, math on the y-axis:

Comparative SAT scatter 2018


  • 3 school districts, namely Bedford, Londonderry and Salem, have stronger results than Timberlane in both ELA and math.
  • 3 districts, Rochester, Concord and Dover, have weaker results than Timberlane in both ELA and math.
  • 3 districts, Merrimack, Keene and Hudson, have stronger ELA results and weaker math results than Timberlane.

Finally, let’s see how the TRSD class of 2019 has fared through their statewide test points over the years since they were in grade 3:

Class of 2019 Cohort test history


  • In ELA, the class of 2019 has scored above the state average at each evaluation until the SAT in grade 11.  This is a particularly noticeable falloff after the improving results shown in the grade 7 and grade 8 evaluations, at which point the students were scoring 10% above state average.
  • In math, the students scored most years very close to the state average.  The huge spike in grade 8, to 25% above state average, was due in part to a big drop in the statewide percentage of students scoring proficient compared to the same group measured in grade 7; the statewide percentage dropped from 68 to 44, while Timberlane dropped from 69 to 55.   So the good news is Timberlane students outperforming their peers in grade 8, and then leveraging some of that skill set in grade 11 to achieve 8% above the state average.


A school district cannot be described as “excelling” if it is at or below the average of the state or of its peer districts in standardized evaluations.  Academic achievement is part of excellence.

Parents and educators should want to know more about educational practices at the higher-achieving peer districts, all of which spend less per pupil than Timberlane.   (Bedford, $12,867, Londonderry $15,479, Salem $14,846 in the most recent available 2016-17 report.  Almost forgot, Timberlane was $16,780).

Memory Lane:

My commentary from last year on the 2017 SAT results.




1 Comment

Filed under Sandown Issues

One response to “More to excellence than academic achievement

  1. Pingback: Timberlane: doing less with more | timberlaneandsandown

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