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District Aims to Bolster Student Testing Performance

A report on state standardized testing results draws a large crowd to the board of education meeting.

The Babylon School District is undertaking several initiatives aimed at boosting standardized test scores, specifically in the areas of English Language Arts and math competency, given the most current test results.

Two years ago statewide revisions to standards affected the numbers of students who were considered proficient, and Babylon saw numbers drop, in some cases, from a level of 90 percent of students considered proficient to 60 percent or below in some grades and subjects.

The statewide measure was adopted to more closely predict Regents and college-level performance.

For example, eighth graders who pass the proficiency tests have a 75 percent chance of testing "college ready" later in high school.

In Babylon 61 percent of students scored 75 or higher on the ELA and achieved 80 or higher on the math test, according to a report presented by Assistant Superintendent Daniel D'Amico at Monday night's school board meeting.

"We were a district very much affected by the change in proficiency scores," said D'Amico. "We have our work cut out for us."

Babylon, compared to all New York State schools, performs consistently higher in the the two areas. On a more local basis, when compared to Nassau and Suffolk County schools, the district performs either slightly better or slightly worse across the board.

Last year's Regents scores were considered "good" by D'Amico, who noted he would like to see improvements in how many students achieve "mastery" scores on the tests.

Initiatives to address the testing score results include increased class time on ELA and math in the middle grades; instituting an Annual Professional Performance Review-based rubric for measuring and modeling what D'Amico called "good teaching," and a push for professional development.

"It's not a gotcha," he told the large audience at the meeting. "Many in this community believe we can be better than this, but not by compromising all our ideals."

Several parents and board members expressed concerns over the current performance of older grades on standardized testing, inquiring what steps would be taken to address test results for students already in high school.

Board member Gregory Antolini asked if there was specific data from school districts already employing the extended ELA and math class time. "What are we losing, if anything, by extending these class times?" he said.

Representatives from the Babylon Academic Committee for Excellence, a committee of parents and taxpayers formed last year, cited the group has several areas of concern: Babylon's performance as compared to other socio-economic peer districts; outdated textbooks and technology; a lack of a consistent policy regarding teachers providing students with extra help; television and movie watching in the classroom; and the consistency of teaching quality.

The next district assessment report presentation will focus on high school indicators, such as Regents and SAT/ACT scores, and data on college and degree types acquired by graduated students, said D'Amico.

The next board meeting will be held October 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the high school library.

Alan Cook September 15, 2011 at 03:24 AM
National math test scores continue to be disappointing. This poor trend persists in spite of new texts, standardized tests with attached implied threats, or laptops in the class. At some point, maybe we should admit that math, as it is taught currently and in the recent past, seems irrelevant to a large percentage of grade school kids. Why blame a sixth grade student or teacher trapped by meaningless lessons? Teachers are frustrated. Students check out. The missing element is reality. Instead of insisting that students learn another sixteen formulae, we need to involve them in tangible life projects. And the task must be interesting. A Trip To The Number Yard is a math book focusing on the building of a bungalow. Odd numbered chapters cover the phases of the project: lot layout, foundation, framing, all the way through until the trim out. This type of project-oriented math engages kids. It is fun. They have a reason to learn the math they may have ignored in the standard lecture format of a class room. If we really want kids to learn math and to have the lessons be valuable, we need to change the mode of teaching. Our kids can master the math that most adults need. We can’t continue to have class rooms full of math drudges. Instead, we need to change our teaching tactics with real life projects. Alan Cook www.thenumberyard.com

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