Tax bills are rising an average of $52 for Rotterdam residents of the Mohonasen Central School District.
The Board of Education approved tax rates of $15.54 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for Rotterdam, $18.04 for Guilderland and $23.03 for Colonie. Rotterdam residents with homes assessed at about $150,000 would see their taxes rise to $2,303.
The rates are slightly lower than the district advertised when voters in May approved a $42.9 million budget with a 2.5 percent tax levy increase. The spending plan cut almost 35 full-time-equivalent positions including 19 teachers, four teaching assistants, nine support staff and 2.5 administrative positions. More positions had originally been slated to be cut but various unions agreed to temporary salary freezes to save jobs.
In other business, school officials are analyzing ways to improve students’ performance on the state English and math tests.
Patrick McGrath, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said Mohonasen did fairly well compared to nearby districts.
Because the New York State Education Department has made the tests more difficult, McGrath said it is difficult to make year-to-year comparisons.
For example, two years ago the passing mark was 660 raw score points. Now a student achieving that score would not even come close to the proficiency standard.
“You need to get many more points correct on these exams,” he said.
The state keeps changing the passing mark, McGrath said, adding, “It’s a moving target.”
On the English exams, only a few districts had more students passing than Mohonasen, including Niskayuna and Burnt Hills. However, he noted that because of state officials changing the passing marks, no district is above 80 percent.
Only a couple districts scored higher than Mohonasen in math for grades three, four and five. However, only 47 percent of Mohonasen eighth-graders passed, which McGrath found troubling and wondered if it was a mistake.
He said to improve its math scores perhaps the district should look to its neighbors in Schalmont, which outperformed Burnt Hills and Niskayuna. One handicap is Mohonasen no longer has a math administrator because that position was eliminated in the budget. McGrath said the district is looking at perhaps designating a teacher leader for math.
The district is also in the process of rewriting its math curriculum so it more closely matches up with the Common Core standards.
The district has also changed English instruction at the middle school so seventh-grade students will have English for 80 minutes a day just like in sixth and eighth grade.