A Grand Day to be 100
by Lynne Ober
What a glorious day to turn 100 and share your birthday with all of Pelham. Pelham Old Home Day reached its 100th year. The day was sunny, warm, but not too hot and filled with lots of events that pleased young and old.
Friday evening organizers set up the grounds so that everything was ready when people arrived Saturday morning.
First to come were the runners and walkers who participated in the Old Home Day 5K Race and Walk. This was the biggest year ever for the event and proceeds benefit the Hojlo/Pace Scholarship Fund.
The booths were doing business long before the race was over and at 9:00 the ARNNE (Animal Rescue Network of New England) Pet Adoption Day began and continued until 1:00 p.m.
The Victor Spaulding Memorial Auction began at 9:30 and as usual the crowd had gathered early to preview the wares. People came and went all day as bargains were heartily fought over or deemed unworthy and sold for a pittance.
The ever popular Doll Carriage and Bike Parade began at 10:00 a.m. Some of the participants strolled or rode across the stage with great aplomb while others weren’t too sure that they wanted to be that far from mom’s friendly face. The judges had a hard time choosing the winners because they were all adorable.
Tickets were sold for the Penny Sale and participants began the choice of choosing which of the many items were the ones to take a chance on.
One of the key elements of Old Home Day is the plethora of free entertainment available to one and all. With chairs for weary feet, and diverse entertainment, you could sit in front of the stage from the time the Doll Parade starts until the Grand Parade started and just enjoy the entertainment.
At 10:30 the stage was filled with Ragg Mopps Dog and a Children's Wear Fashion Show.
Ken Dunne strutted his stuff in his crisp white tuxedo shirt from 11:00 to 12:00. The crowd loved the karaoke and Ken’s music. He’s a great DJ.
At noon Dance Concepts began their demonstration and as always the performers were entertaining and the music toe tapping. The chairs were filled for the dancers.
At 1:00 “Something Salty" Classic Rock Band played an hour-long concert. Although the seats were once again filled, you could enjoy the musical entertainment and still stroll among the booths and chat with friends and neighbors.
Just before the parade, there was a martial arts demonstration by Family Martial Art. High kicks, disciplined moves accompanied by toe-tapping music made for a lovely interlude before the parade began.
The Grand Parade kicked off at 2:30. People were spread all along the parade course to watch the floats, see who was marching, and listen to the music.
After the parade was over there was live country music by The Tom Dixon Band. The Tom Dixon Band is a combination of talents spanning several genres such as: country, rock, and jazz. Although they are a country band and stick to the roots of country music, they have created a truly unique sound. Tom grew up in Pelham and graduated from Pelham High School in 1997. Today he lives in Londonderry, but has never forgotten his Pelham roots.
At 4:00 p.m. the long-awaited drawings were made for the Penny Sale.
At the same time, the results from the pretty pie contest were also announced. This was the 18th Annual Pretty Pie Contest. According to the Old Home Day staff, “the best cooks and bakers in Pelham and surrounding cities and towns square off for the honor and distinction of making the "Prettiest Pie" in Pelham.” Once again the pies were delectable. It was a great time not to be a judge – how could they pick the winner?
As always the day ended with the famous Old Home Day Chicken Bar-B-Que Dinner. It’s a time to rest your feet, eat corn on the cob and barbequed chicken and just relax because another grand event has come to a successful conclusion. See you next year.
Parents Express Concern over SAT Scores
by Diane Chubb
The dreaded SAT. It used to be the sole determination as to whether a student would be admitted to the school of their choice, but should it ever be used as a criterion to determine school performance? That’s a topic being hotly debated in Pelham today.
This is the first of a series of articles discussing the SAT, its meaning in determining a school's performance, and possible curriculum changes to address low scores.
From recent articles in local papers, and information available from the College Board, the company that administers the test, it appears that SAT scores are on the decline nationwide. And it may be a reflection of this fact that many colleges and universities are no longer requiring the test for admissions.
Hannah Tello, a graduate of Pelham High School, has suggested that the SAT is simply not as critical as it once was for college admissions. Colleges and universities are relying less on SAT scores in the admissions process. She points to several schools, including her own, that do not require minimum SAT scores.
As colleges place less emphasis on the SAT, one has to wonder why the debate on the Message Board. Should the SAT be the determining factor for how well a student does or a school does or are there more important factors that are being tested by other tests?
The SAT is a test designed to measure aptitude and likelihood of a student’s success at college. It was never intended to be a measure of what a student learns in high school.
This past year reflected changes in the SAT from the prior format. The dreaded “analogy” section was eliminated, the math portion of the tests reflects higher level courses, and there is a new writing section in which students must write an essay pursuant to the test’s instructions.
Nationally, there was a drop in reading scores by five points and two points in math. Because the test was different this past year, however, merely comparing scores from past years is not an accurate measure of performance.
There is also a drop in the numbers of students who take the test more than once. “Repeated test-taking has shown that scores can boost as much as 30 points combined in reading and math,” according to the College Board website.
Despite the low scores, records show that 75 – 80 percent of Pelham High School graduates are going on to post-secondary education on a consistent basis.
Nevertheless, SAT scores remain a priority for some parents, who want to know why students at Pelham High School performed at a lower level than students at surrounding schools on the SATs. And they want to know who to hold accountable.
Dana Ventolieri posted to the Pelham Message Board recently asking others to discuss the fact that Pelham High School students scored lower than the state average on the SATs. She hopes others are as concerned about the decline in scores as well, and she asked the Pelham School Board to take a more active role in addressing the problem.
School Board Chairman Mike Conrad responded, pointing out that the majority of the schools with higher SAT scores did not make Adequate Yearly Progress and are listed as schools that need improvement. “PHS did make AYP in all areas. Not to mention our NHEIAP scores continue to improve.”
When asked about the low scores, Conrad stated, “You have to look at test scores as a whole. You can't just pick out the SAT scores and say, we are failing our kids. It is remarkable how the test scores have been around the same for the last 10 years. However in that time we have we have made AYP, and have tested very well on the NHEIAPs. It's time we may have to consult a specialist on the SATs to see what we can do to help increase the scores.”
Conrad also suggested that the curriculum needs to be strengthened before anyone can expect higher scores. “You want higher SAT scores, strengthen the curriculum so our brightest students are not leaving PMS and running to private schools. Let’s put our curriculum against all the schools the article mentioned and see how we look. If you want to strengthen the curriculum you need the proper teaching space, not just throwing up some classrooms and saying, ‘here you go, deal with what you have.’”
However, he added that when he has tried to address some of these issues, “the same people show up to fight to lower it.”
Brian Mahoney, whose wife Linda is on the Pelham School Board, believes administrators are responsible for the low scores. “This current administration has had three years to come up with a plan and start turning things around and to date, there is no plan, progress and all there is, is more of the same,” Mahoney posted to the Message Board.
Mahoney added, “My wife and others have questioned our SAT performance on numerous occasions over the past three years.” In another post, he continued, “On every occasion she gets, she raises the question and continues to try and open dialogue to the issue and on every occasion, the blank stare comes back and hits her right in the face.
Linda Mahoney was asked to comment on specific initiatives she has personally taken to study or address the SAT scores.
Although she did not provide any examples of specific initiatives, she stated, “Over the past one and a half years, I have initiated several discussions with the board regarding our consistently poor performance on the SAT and I provided research on many other high schools in New Hampshire that achieve higher results than Pelham. Unfortunately, those discussions never resulted in any action by the board or attempt to examine methods in which to improve our student's performance. It is the school board's responsibility to develop performance expectations and goals and to direct our administration to meet those expectations and goals. Up to this time, there have been lots of rationales given, however, there have been no plans put in place or a timeline to improve results."
Brian Mahoney also claims that, “up until this point, nothing has been done by either our school board or our administration to address and fix our problem.”
However, according to the school board minutes from December 2005, administrators and school board members, have been discussing the issue.
At the December 7, 2005, Pelham School Board meeting, Dr. Dorothy Mohr, Principal at Pelham High School, was asked to discuss the record regarding SAT scores.
She indicated that SAT test scores had remained relatively unchanged for Pelham High School over the years, but for the past four to five years, students have been taking the PSAT, a practice SAT test that gives students a feel for the SAT. Though optional, Dr. Mohr said that they have always strongly recommended that all the students take the PSATs.
According to the meeting minutes, Mrs. Mahoney stated that she noticed that the SAT scores were higher if the test was repeated frequently, and that she was pleased to see that Pelham High School is addressing the situation by assisting a greater number of students with practice toward the SAT through the exposure to the PSAT.
But the SAT is only one test. Administrators say that they also have to keep in mind the needs of the entire district with respect to all testing.
Assistant Superintendent Roxanne Wilson acknowledges Pelham's scores on the SAT are low. But she’s not casting blame or making excuses.
“We have to understand what this test (the SAT) is designed for. It is a standardized measure of a student's college readiness, of cognitive abilities. It is much broader in scope and includes questions not found in the grade 10 GSE (HS has Grade Span Expectations for 9 and 10 and one for 11 and 12).”
At Pelham High School, the Guidance Department looks at SAT scores in more detail. Because the College Board does not distribute “released questions” as does NHEIAP and NECAP, Wilson says that teachers and administrators do not have a sense of the content being asked in a given year. The only thing available to students and teachers is a study guide and on-line practice test to help prepare students.
Moreover, although Pelham High School has offered SAT preparation courses in the past, the courses were poorly attended. Nevertheless, a SAT preparation course was offered this past summer, according to Assistant Superintendent Roxanne Wilson. “I think we can help students by offering an SAT prep course, but students need to come,” said Wilson.
Administrators are focusing more on testing done on the state level. “The statewide tests are a measure of our curriculum according to the standards that have been developed through the State of New Hampshire. The questions are designed to test the knowledge and skills of those GLEs (grade level expectations) that can be measured by a paper and pencil tests. It tests students on an accumulation of knowledge and skills up to the grade they take the test.
Since the statewide tests have been in existence, we have been looking at the results and adjusting our curriculum and instruction to continuously improve, which is what the test was designed for - curriculum improvement. It is not a measure of mastery of skills, but rather a test of randomly selected GLEs, so we can see if our instruction is on target.
What the No Child Left Behind law added to this test was an accountability system with sanctions and consequences if certain mandated targets are not met. Schools focus more on the statewide tests because of the accountability system and because it is a test in which all students participate.”
Wilson admits there does need to be some conversation related to curriculum as it relates to the SAT. “This conversation is not just a high school one, it needs to begin at the Memorial School, as students are learning the foundation skills there,” she said.
Wilson has been working to institute a more district-wide view of curriculum to ensure consistency and cohesiveness to the R-12 curriculum. “We have created a Math Task Force and Literacy Task Force with representatives from each school. They are working on aligning the curriculum to the GLES and GSEs that were just approved last year. This year, the Literacy Task Force will focus on writing as a response to our low scores from the NECAP. So there are some structures in place where the conversation about SATs can be had. There are many variables as to why students do well or don’t do well, and we need to isolate what some of them are. This will be an ongoing conversation.”
Curriculum also has an impact. “If students cannot take algebra because we don’t have space or the number of instructors needed to handle all the requests, then they take the test without the opportunity to learn some of that material,” said Wilson. But she acknowledged that the same could be said about the NHEIAP test, where students do perform at the state average.
Conrad concluded, “We have an assistant superintendent who is focusing on curriculum. She is a specialist, working with specialists to develop a solid curriculum. School board members with no formal training in education shouldn't be making curriculum decisions. We can recommend items, but we need to let the people we hired to run the schools do just that.”
The next articles in this series will continue this discussion about the SAT and what is it specifically designed to test, what other tests are administered to students to measure performance, and whether Pelham schools should modify the curriculum to improve SAT scores.