State board approves area schools’ appeal

The state Board of Education approved appeals from five local schools, removing them from a statewide list of schools labeled as “in need of improvement.”

The board agreed Wednesday to eliminate the designation for Elm Street, Fairgrounds and Pennichuck middle schools in Nashua, Milford Middle School, and Pinkerton Academy in Derry.

The board also denied an appeal from Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston.

In August, 79 New Hampshire schools were classified as needing improvement under the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, based on students’ scores on the statewide assessment tests.

Last month, Education Commissioner Nicholas Donohue approved appeals from three of those schools – Nashua High School North, Derry Village School, and the Ossipee Central School in Center Ossipee – but denied other appeals. Schools could appeal Donohue’s decision to the state Board of Education.

Nashua school officials had complained about the inclusion of four schools on the list schools actually took the assessment tests last year.

That was true at Nashua High North, which had only 11th- and 12th-graders last year, and at the three Nashua middle schools, which were still junior high schools with students in seventh, eighth and ninth grades. Up until now, the tests have been taken only by students in third, sixth and 10th grades.

Those schools were tied to the performance of 10th-graders at Nashua High School South, which remains on the “needs improvement” list along with Amherst Street Elementary School, Fairgrounds Elementary School, Ledge Street Elementary School and Mount Pleasant Elementary School.

Schools are designated as in need of improvement if students did not make “adequate yearly progress” on the tests for two years in a row. In many cases, it is the performance of only a narrow subgroup of students that places a school on the list.