The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

By JACKIE LUPO

Despite all the debate about the value of standardized testing in schools, such testing is a fact of life. It’s also one way to get an idea of how kids are doing in school and to put their achievements in some sort of perspective compared with other districts. To that end, New York issues “school report cards” each year for every district in the state. They’re exhaustive documents giving information about scores on state tests, graduation rates and post-secondary outcomes. But the New York state report cards for each school district tell only part of the story.

In a presentation to the board of education at its May 17 meeting, Alice Cronin, the district’s assistant superintendent for instruction, reviewed the numbers on the New York State report card for the 2010-11 school year (the report cards give details for the previous academic year). Then, to paint a more complete picture of what’s happening in the district, Ms. Cronin expanded her report to include accomplishments that are not included in the state’s document. 

Ms. Cronin began by explaining the value of state assessments in the primary grades.

“We should remind ourselves that the point of the grades three to eight testing is to make sure that students are going to be college and career ready,” said Ms. Cronin. “So even though they’re in third grade, the point of putting the test in is so kids didn’t get to high school and then we we’re just finding out that they might need some support. So these are supposed to be early indicators of students who need support.”

Ms. Cronin said that the recent tests issued by the state look for higher levels of performance.

“Two years ago after students had taken the test they changed where the cutoffs were in order to be proficient, and we actually support that move, because we don’t want it to be too easy to be proficient,” she told the board. “We really want to make sure that ‘being proficient’ means something, and kids will enter college or the workplace really ready for the demands. And then they also changed the test itself, and that’s going to happen for the next couple of years. The test is getting longer, they’re changing the kinds of questions and numbers of questions.” Ms. Cronin said that after analyzing the test results last year, administrators at each school were able to identify students who were in danger of not being proficient, and intervene with them early.


What the numbers say

On the elementary level English Language Arts test, 75 percent of third-graders, 85 percent of fourth-graders, and 84 percent of fifth-graders scored at Levels 3 and 4. At these levels, students are considered ‘proficient.’ Districtwide, 8 percent of third-graders scored at Level 4 and 67 percent at Level 3.  Among fourth-graders districtwide, 7 percent scored at Level 4 and 78 percent at Level 3. Among fifth-graders in the district, 9 percent scored at Level 4 and 75 percent at Level 3.

On the elementary math test, 74 percent of third-graders, 92 percent of fourth-graders and 86 percent of fifth-graders were proficient. Districtwide, 23 percent of third-graders scored at Level 4 in math and 51 percent at Level 3. Fourth-graders districtwide fared better, with 56 percent at Level 4 and 36 percent at Level 3. Of fifth-graders in the district, 38 percent scored at Level 4 and 43 percent at Level 3.

On the science test administered to fourth-graders, 98 percent scored at Levels 3 or 4.

A complete breakdown of test scores by school is available online at the website of the Katonah-Lewisboro School District. The data are available as a link within the agenda of the May 17 board of education meeting.

Similar tests were given to middle schoolers. On the sixth grade English test, 88 percent scored at proficiency levels, as did 82 percent of seventh-graders and 78 percent of eighth-graders. On the sixth-grade math test, 89 percent were proficient, as were 87 percent in grade seven and 82 percent in grade eight. On the science test, given only to eighth-graders, 94 percent of students were proficient.

On the Regents exams in English, global history and geography, integrated algebra, physical/earth science, and U.S. history and government, most students (between 97 and 99 percent depending on the exam) received a passing score of 55. Between 92 and 97 percent scored 65 or better on these exams. Results were more mixed at the highest proficiency levels. In English, 78 percent scored at or above 85 in English, 62 percent in global history and geography, 20 percent in integrated algebra, 22 percent in physical/earth science, and 73 percent in U.S. history and government. These resulted were superior to both New York State and national averages.


National honors

At John Jay High School, 412 students took a total of 818 Advanced Placement Exams, with 71 percent earning a score of 3 or better. The College Board recognized 118 students as AP Scholars.

Eighty-seven percent of John Jay High School students took the PSAT, regarded both as a practice run for the SAT and as a qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship program. Their average scores were 54 in Critical Reading, 55 in Mathematics, and 52 in writing, for a total score of 161. The national average for a total PSAT score was 142. At John Jay, two students became National Merit semifinalists and 8 students were National Merit commended scholar.

Eighty-four percent of John Jay students took the SAT. They scored an average of 560 in Critical Reading, 570 in Mathematics, and 560 in writing. Statewide, the average total score was 1459; nationally, it was 1500. Sixty-nine percent of John Jay students also took the ACT, receiving an average score of 26. Nationwide, the average score was 21, and in New York State, 23.4.


Beyond testing

“All that being said, that is part of what our kids do. But you know, that’s not all of what our kids do,” said Ms. Cronin. “It’s not all just about what we can capture in a test.” She presented an overview of some of the other accomplishments of students in the district last year.

John Jay inducted 97 students into the National Honor Society in the class of 2011. To earn this honor, students must have a 90-plus average and be outstanding exemplars of service, character and leadership.

Katonah-Lewisboro students won awards at several regional science competitions. At the Tri-County Science and Technology Fair, seven projects were presented by John Jay Middle School students, and two of the projects were first-place winners. Sixteen middle schoolers competed at the regional level of the Junior Science Olympiad. Twelve students won awards, and the team placed seventh overall. At the regionals of the Science Olympiad for high school students, John Jay’s A team came in at sixth place and its B team at 12th place. At the Westchester Science and Engineering Fair, one local student won a first-place award, with a total of five awards for the district. Katonah-Lewisboro had one student rise to finalist at the International Science and Engineering Fair. And at the Hudson Valley State Envirothon, district students placed first in forestry, second in aquatics and fourth in wildlife.

For the third consecutive year, John Jay students in grades eleven and twelve scored in the top 2.5 percent in the nation on the American Mathematics Contest. In the ninth- and tenth-grade division, the team had an outstanding score of 109.5.

The district also participated in humanities competitions. Seventeen students were recipients of the Humanities Book Awards, given to students with a high academic average, excellence in written and spoken expression, interest in the humanities, and leadership in character as well as in classroom and extracurricular activities.

A total of 108 students were inducted into the World Language Honor Society. These students were recognized for their character, leadership and service, and all had averages of 90 or above.

The New York Athletic Association presented Scholar Athlete awards to 21 varsity athletic teams at John Jay. Teams were required to have a GPA of 90-plus to qualify.

Forty-five students — soloists and members of the chorus, orchestra, and jazz band — participated in All-State and All-County Music Performances last year. At the prestigious Berklee Jazz Festival, local students placed fourth.

The John Jay High School Theatre Workshop produced two plays last year: “As You Like It,” and the musical “Footloose.” Middle schoolers also presented two plays: “Arsenic and Old Lace” and “Wonderland.”

Student artists participated in many local art shows: the Aldrich Museum, “A Rite of Spring/A Rite of Winter” at the Katonah Library, the Pace University “Small Works” exhibit, and the Westchester Land Trust photography show.

The school district does not require students to perform community service in order to graduate, but a significant number of students are involved in volunteer activities. Katonah-Lewisboro students give their time to charities such as Autism Speaks, Crutches 4 Kids, Neighbors Link and Friends of Karen. They volunteered at food banks, cultural institutions, local fire departments and libraries, at the Lewisboro Ambulance Corps and Northern Westchester Hospital.

“These are just a small sampling of the things that our students are involved in,” said Ms. Cronin. “So as much as we’re giving students great opportunities in the classroom, we’re also helping them to learn about and support the community in other ways.”



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June 1, 2012

By the numbers

Katonah-Lewisboro releases school report card