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NYS Test Scores Reveal 'Concerns' and 'Strengths' For Local Districts

Malverne and West Hempstead schools struggle to meet and surpass Nassau County scores.

The results of the latest New York State assessment exams have parents and school officials in Malverne and West Hempstead concerned.

“Something is wrong,” Rener Reed, of Lakeview, told Malverne school officials earlier this month after the test scores for the district were published in a local newspaper.

Although Malverne performed above the average for New York State for the Math and English Language Arts (ELA) exams given in Grades 3 through 8, in all but two cases the district fell below the level achieved by Nassau County public schools as a whole.

On the Grade 8 Math exam 87 percent of Malverne students achieved a score of a 3 or 4, nine percentage points over the county average. Malverne sixth graders also bested the county figure by five points on their math assessment. However, on the rest of the tests, Malverne scored anywhere from three to 15 points below the county average.

“What are we going to do about it?” Rener asked school officials.

Deputy Superintendent Richard Banyon said the district is looking into ways to improve their test scores.

“Up until last year when the state decided to raise cut off scores...we had been rising steadily,” he said. “We’re starting to close the gap,”  he added, explaining that last year the district was further behind the county. “This year we scored 14th in the county for Math.”

West Hempstead parents and board members had similar reactions at the Aug. 16 school board meeting, where a school administrator presented the results for their district, and how it compared to others in Nassau County and the state.

Through a series of bar graphs, they learned that in some cases West Hempstead students were keeping up with or even out-performing the Nassau County average for the 2010-2011 Math and ELA exams, but there were also many areas where they fell short. There were stark differences between the achievement levels of the district’s two elementary schools - Cornwell Avenue and George Washington.

For instance, 66 percent of fifth graders in the district achieved a score of a 3 or 4 on the ELA exam, four percentage points below the Nassau County average and 11 points above the average for New York State public schools. However, if you break down the scores to see how each school performed, Cornwell Avenue fifth graders beat the county average by five percentage points while their peers at George Washington were 13 points below it. The Grade 4 E.L.A. exams had a similar result.

Cornwell also beat the County average in Grade 4 and 5 Math by two points, with 83 percent of students earning a 3 or 4, but only 54 percent of G.W. fourth graders and 65 percent of fifth graders achieved these scores.

On the flip side, George Washington fared better on the Grade 3 exams. Although ELA was a challenge for third graders at both schools, which came in under the Nassau County average of 71 percent, 67 percent of G.W. third graders scored a 3 or 4, while only half (52 percent) of Cornwell students met these levels, the one instance where the district did not meet the New York State average.

Both schools did better on the Grade 3 Math test, as 75 percent of G.W. students and 71 percent of Cornwell students achieved a 3 or 4, but they were still slightly below the county average.

The scores and the disparities among the two schools’ performances were a concern for Assistant Superintendent Ann Peluso, but she said the results also show the district has a number of “strengths.”

“We have strength on every grade level in every area throughout the district,” she said. “We have to discover and foster the potential of our staff.”

To do this the district will be focusing on growing best practices through monthly grade meetings that will bring teachers from both buildings together, and by visiting other school districts to see what is working for them.

West Hempstead will also be focusing on implementing core curriculum standards and creating more equity among the different classes in each grade to ensure that no matter what teacher a child has they will be learning the same lessons as their peers across the hall or on the other side of town.

“We want to encourage teachers to be creative while at the same time having a common core of knowledge,” she said.

Peluso said the district’s goal is to have all students score a 3 or 4, and have the district perform at or above the average for Nassau County, which she pointed out is the highest performing county in all of New York State.

To do this they’ll be implementing reading and literacy components into every class including art and gym. They’ll also be challenging students with more rigorous reading passaged starting from the beginning of the school year.

The district also hopes to improve the percentage of students achieving the mastery level, a score of 4. While in the past, they have monitored at-risk students, starting this year, they will also be paying close attention to the most gifted ones, hoping to hone in on what makes them successful.

"I don't think any of us can be happy about these scores," Board Trustee Cynthia DiMiceli said. "The datais telling us something...we can do better."

Peluso reiterated, “We have the answers in our district.”

The district will also be hosting a meeting on Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. open to the entire West Hempstead community to address raising student achievement. Click here for details.

The chart above represents the percentage of students in Malverne, West Hempstead, Nassau County and New York State achieving a 3 or 4 on the 2010-2011 Math and ELA exams.

Manny Martinez August 24, 2011 at 08:05 PM
The scores are not good but if I understand the data above and all the data from the NYStart 2009-2010 GW Comprehensive Information website, (https://www.nystart.gov/publicweb-rc/2010/19/CIR-2010-280227030006.pdf) the data seems to show that there are more students at GW with English as a Second Language and more Students with Disabilities when compared to Cornwell. Further, these students are now required to take the exams. If my understanding of all this is correct, more focus must be placed on helping these students understand English and the reading and writing portion of the exams.
Concerned Resident August 25, 2011 at 02:51 AM
Low tests scores reflect a districts non support of school libraries. A school librarian is also a certified teacher. Libraries support curriculum. Exposing children to the most current literature will encourage reading. Teachers are provided with exceptional databases, and literature to support the curriculum. Students are taught library skills starting in K. This enables them to use their public libraries and on to college libraries. Some administrators and BOE members do not support school libraries. They must be educated. Students are also taught research skills, notetaking and Internet skills. Support is offered for homework and projects before school, during the day, and afterschool. Please show support for school libraries!!!
Mike Scheuerman August 25, 2011 at 05:58 PM
Probably should pay the teachers more money. Isn't that always the answer?
Marshall W. Myers August 25, 2011 at 07:17 PM
Students' poor performance is a function of many factors...and I am convinced that the most important of these is attitude. The attitude of the school board, the teachers, the parents, and the community at large. If all of these set high expectations and demand that they be met, the children will be the beneficiaries of an outstanding school district. The money spent, in my opinion, is secondary to this. Lord knows we already spend enough money on the schools.
Gina Genti August 25, 2011 at 08:34 PM
Students performance is based upon the quality of the teacher, the quality of the curriculum and the support system in the home.
Marshall W. Myers August 25, 2011 at 08:50 PM
I agree with this statement as well. It seems though, that the amount of money spent in our school systems should assure us of quality teachers and quality curricula.
Gina Genti August 26, 2011 at 05:29 PM
Considering that curricula will shortly be of the common core standard across most of the country the only obstacle to your statement above would be the inability to remove/fire poor teachers from the classroom. As I am sure you are aware that tenor laws forbid schools from doing so currently.
Concerned Resident August 27, 2011 at 02:57 AM
The main problem with tenure in this district is how it is given. It is given soley on who you are connected to and not on quality. Also the reverse is true, beca use of the frequent turnover of administrators good teachers aren't given tenure because the administrators bring in there own people and when they leave you are stuck with poor teachers or administrators.
Lissa September 30, 2011 at 04:38 AM
How would one remove/fire an ineffective parent? There are so many out there that are not capable of raising a quality child. Oh, and I presume you mean tenure, not tenor.
Manny Martinez October 01, 2011 at 12:03 AM
Gina-Well stated and directly to the three key points.

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