Schenectady County

Students improving on state math, English examinations

Local students improved their scores on math and English Language Arts tests as did students across
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Local students improved their scores on math and English Language Arts tests as did students across the state, according to data released Monday by the state Education Department.

More than 80 percent of students in grades three through eight achieved the math standards, which is an increase from 73 percent last year. The number of students meeting English standards increased from 63 percent to 69 percent.

These standardized tests are taken by students during the school year and are graded on a scale of one to four with three considered proficient and four above average.

In the Schenectady City School District, the scores were about 10 percent higher on the math test and about 5 percent better on the English Language Arts test. Superintendent Eric Ely said the district also saw a 2 percent drop in the number of students that scored at level one.

“We’re having more and more students getting closer to proficiency,” he said Monday.

Ely attributed the better increase in math to the fact that it is more fact-based. “It’s much more concrete for kids,” he said.

In an urban environment, Ely said, students are not being exposed to reading and writing at an early enough age. Also, English is a second language for some students. The school district is stressing reading and writing, even in music and gym. “We are so focused on literacy across all of our content areas,” Ely said.

Also, starting this fall the district will extend the school day by 30 minutes at all grade levels. However, he said improvements from these changes may not be noticed right away.

Even with this progress, Ely said, only 47 percent of the students have achieved at or above grade level results for the English tests and only 59 percent in math.

“It’s better than it’s been but it’s not good enough,” he said.

All of the city’s three middle schools are on the federal “needs improvement” list. Ely said they all showed dramatic improvement in their test scores. However, they will not get the schools off the list because the district is having difficulty in raising the scores of students with special needs and those who speak English as a second language.

The International Charter School of Schenectady, which is closing its doors Thursday — after the SUNY board of trustees did not renew its charter — had a larger percentage of its students achieve a three or better than the district in all but sixth grade in math. It also outperformed the district in grades three, four and five for English.

Peter Murphy of the New York State Charter Schools Association said it is a “travesty” that the school faces closure, given these numbers.

“The Charter Schools Institute really made a bad call here and they need to take a serious look at this fatally flawed review process that has taken away a successful option for the students of Schenectady,” he said.

The board of trustees used test score data from 2007 to justify its closure decision.

In Scotia-Glenville, Superintendent Susan Swartz said she is still studying the numbers, but said the district showed a slight uptick in English scores for some grades, as well as some nice gains in mathematics. Swartz said more than a year ago, the school implemented a new math curriculum and teachers have received professional development. She said these test scores tell them what the educators could do differently and identifies students who might need more services.

However, they are only one piece of the puzzle.

“These really are snapshots in time. I try to look at them, not as the only measure, but of part of what we look at to make sure we’re making the best possible decisions for instruction of our children,” she said.

AMSTERDAM

The Greater Amsterdam School District also improved its math scores by an average of 7.4 percent and its English scores by an average of 2.6 percent.

Superintendent Ronald Limoncelli said he was pleased with the results and said that the district’s middle school may be removed from the “needs improvement” list with these math scores. He said the scores were a result of a team effort between the teachers, administrators and students.

“They knew what they had to do and they did it,” he said.

ALBANY

The Albany City School District also saw gains. Overall, for grades three through eight, 14 percent more students achieved level three or four on the English test and 21 percent at the two highest levels in math.

“We’re extremely pleased with the results we’re seeing,” said district spokesman Ron Lesko. “While we’re not where we want to be, we made strong gains.”

Lesko attributed the improvements to the district’s partnership with the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education — in its second year of implementation — which has provided professional development for teachers. The district has had math coaches working with teachers for three years, and starting this year it implemented literacy coaches. In addition, the district has assessment teams in all of its elementary schools that can spot much earlier students lagging behind.

GLOVERSVILLE

Gloversville school officials said their middle school special education students did “remarkably well” on the English language arts test and they anticipate an announcement from the state removing the middle school from the list of schools in need of improvement.

The special education students raised their ELA index score from 92 last year to 113 — above the state threshold of 106.

“It’s been a three-year journey,” said Assistant Superintendent Roger Rooney, the school official charged with restructuring the curriculum after the special education test scores triggered the “in need” designation.

Superintendent Robert DeLilli said the state may not remove Gloversville from the list until October — too late to save the district from the cost of instituting the state Education Department’s Contract for Excellence program. Students in the program receive extra aid to implement new programs aimed at improving performance.

Because Gloversville had a school in need as of April 1 and then was earmarked for at least 10 percent in additional state aid, the district was targeted as a Contract for Excellence participant.

School officials protested the compulsory enrollment in the contracts program in anticipation that the January 2008 test results would remove Gloversville from the “in need” list. Legislators sponsored a bill that would remove the district, but after passing in the Senate it stalled in committee in the Assembly.

Rooney, who announced his retirement Monday, said the district’s own restructured curriculum already addresses what the contracts program would impose on Gloversville.

ALBANY CHARTERS

Albany’s charter schools scored the highest on the tests. They earned seven first-place rankings in math and English, according to a press release. The Brighter Choice Charter School for Boys had a 97 percent rate for third grade, which is more than 20 points higher than the Albany district average and a 95 percent pass rate in fourth grade. The KIPP Tech Valley charter middle school swept the top spot in grades five, six and seven and the seventh grade had a 100 percent pass rate.

For the English Language Arts test, the Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls had a number one rank in fourth grade and a 75 percent pass rate. For seventh grade, KIPP Tech Valley middle school had a 91 percent pass rate.

State officials were also pleased with the gains made by black and Hispanic students statewide. The number of black students achieving the English language standards increased from 45 percent last year to 53 percent this year. For math, it increased from 55 percent to 66 percent. Hispanic students meeting the standards increased from 46 percent to 53 percent for English and from 61 percent to 71 percent for math.

Education Commissioner Richard Mills said schools showed progress.

“Successful schools applied effective methods: stronger curriculum, extra help for kids who needed it, continuous professional development to support teachers, and a clear message from leaders at every level — the children can learn these concepts,” he said in a press release.

Categories: Schenectady County

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