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.