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Potsdam Central principals present test scores

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POTSDAM - Larry B. Jenne and Jamie Cruikshank stood before the board of education this week to present their 2011-2012 math and ELA (English Language Arts) test scores.

But as Mr. Jenne, who serves as elementary principal, and Mr. Cruikshank, who serves as middle school principal, went through the results they made one thing clear, there is room for improvement.

Mr. Jenne was the first to present his results, starting with third-grade math, where they had 98 students take the test. Thirty-eight of thost students, including eight special education students, didn’t meet the state’s proficiency level.

“Last year this grade was number one in the region,” Mr. Cruikshank said, referring to the batch of third-graders who took the exam last year.

Among the reasons cited for the drop was simply the fact that this year’s group of third graders struggles more academically last year’s class.

“There are kids who are average students who have fallen below proficiency on these tests,” Mr. Jenne said. “Do they get nervous with those tests? We don’t know.”

In addition to the variables that come with having a different group of kids taking the exams every year, Mr. Jenne said the students themselves aren’t the only variable.

“There’s a lot of variables that go into how kids score on the tests including the development and contents of the test,” he said.

Mr. Jenne had 97 third graders take the ELA test last year with 33, including eight special education students, not meeting proficiency.

He noted those scores were also down from last year, but compared to other schools in the areaPotsdam results weren’t that bad.

“Compared to others in the region and the state we’re doing quite well,” he said, noting their 66 passage rate was second in the region and 10 percentage points higher than the state average.

“As well as we did, we could do quite a bit better,” he said.

The fourth graders led the region in both math and ELA test scores with an 86 percent passage rate in math and a 76 percent passage rate in ELA.

“This fourth-grade cohort is a very strong cohort,” he said. “From grade level to grade level those are the variables we are going to have.

The district had 99 students take the math exam with only 14 not meeting proficiency. Of those 14, six were special education students, he said.

One hundred children took the English exam with 24 not meeting proficiency. Of those 24, eight were special education students.

After seeing his test scores ,Mr. Cruikshank said he was admittedly disappointed, however after looking at the comparative state and regional data, the scores didn’t seem to be as bad as he had first thought.

“We scored respectably in the region, but we didn’t score as well as we could have or should have,” he said.

In fifth-grade math, 98 students took the exam with 73 percent earning proficiency. Of the 26 students who did not, Mr. Cruikshank noted 13 were special education students. He also noted 14 arned scores that would have been considered passing before the state raised the score needed to pass from 650 to 676. On this exam, Potsdam finished third in the region, behind schools with passage rates of 75 and 74 percent.

On the ELA exam, 98 fifth graders took the test with 40 not meeting proficiency. Of those 40 though, 15 were special education students and 26 would have passed the test in the past, earning what he called a “High 2.” In order to pass, students need to earn a level 3 score.

In grade six math, 88 students took the exam with 69 percent meeting proficiency. Of the 27 who did not, he said 12 were special education students and 17 earned a high 2.

On the ELA exam, 88 students took the test with 24 falling below proficiency. Ten, he said, were special education students and 13 earned high 2s.

The district had 78 students take the seventh-grade math exam with 31 not earning proficient scores.

“We regressed sharply,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve ever been near the middle of the pack regionally.”

Their 61 percent passage rate was eighth among the 18-school BOCES district.

He added 23 of the students earned a high 2, with 11 of the students scoring below proficiency being special education students.

Superintendent Patrick H. Brady also noted that last year the district had a new seventh-grade math teacher.

“That could have been a factor,” he said.

Despite the struggles in seventh-grade math, the 79 students who took the ELA exam scored second best in the region with a passage rate of 64 percent.

Of the 28 students who didn’t earn proficient scores, Mr. Cruikshank said 20 earned high 2s and 11 of them were special education students.

Mr. Cruikshank noted the district’s scores on the eighth-grade math exam have also slipped.

“They were in about the same position last year,” he said. “But two years ago we had a phenomenal cohort and was tops in the region by far.”

Their 62 percent passage rate ranked them eighth in the region, but ahead of both the state and regional average. Of the 32 students who didn’t earn proficiency, nine of them were special education students and 24 of them earned a high 2. The district has 85 students take that test.

On the ELA exam, the district was again near the top of the region, ranked third locally with a 61 percent passage rate. Of the 84 students who took that exam, 33 did not gain proficiency. Nine of them were special education students, with 16 students earning high 2s.

“They’re near the top,” Mr. Cruikshank said. “There’s not much deviation in the top three.”

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