BRASHER FALLS - There was one common theme shared by administrators with St. Lawrence Central School Board of Education members Wednesday night regarding the recent results of the math and English language arts assessments.
Scores recently released by the state Education Department showed the number of students who were considered proficient in math and ELA based on those April 2013 assessments had dropped dramatically, following the introduction of the new Common Core Learning Standards.
As many education officials predicted, math and English language arts proficiency for the new, more rigorous Common Core assessment tests were lower than in the past.More than 70 percent of students from third to eighth grade in the north country were not proficient in either subject, according to the data.
In the St. Lawrence Central School District, 17.9 percent of third graders were considered proficient in ELA, 4.4 percent of the third graders were considered proficient in math, 16.4 percent of the fourth graders were considered proficient in ELA, 14.9 percent of the fourth graders were considered proficient in math, 11.3 percent of the fifth graders were considered proficient in ELA and 15 percent of the fifth graders were considered proficient in math.
At the sixth grade level, 16.5 percent were considered proficient in ELA and 39.6 percent were considered proficient in math. At grade seven, 18.2 percent were considered proficient in ELA, while 20.6 percent were considered proficient in math. And in eighth grade, 13.4 percent were considered proficient in ELA and 14.4 percent were considered proficient in math.
Superintendent Stephan J. Vigliotti Sr. noted that, until these assessments, St. Lawrence Central students had been making gains in moving to proficient status.
Last year we had success in building on the previous two years. The fact is, in 2012 you saw some nice gains in some areas that you previously didnt have, he said.
But their students, like others throughout the state, saw those gains go by the wayside with the most recent tests.
Things really arent comparable because of the switch to the new Common Core Learning Standards, Mr. Vigliotti said, echoing the sentiments of state Education Commissioner John B. King when the scores were released.
The number of proficient students as predicted by the commissioner is much lower than years past, Mr. Vigliotti told board of education members. Two years ago we had a change in the cut scores. Now we have the Common Core Learning Standards.
Now, instead of comparing how they fared in previous years, he said they needed to use the most recent results as a baseline and build on those. One of the ways they could determine how St. Lawrence Central students did would be to compare their numbers against students in other schools around the area and in comparable schools in the state, something they plan to do as they break down the data.
Obviously we knew this was coming, middle school Principal Christopher W. Rose said. Well all agree, its a new baseline, where were going from here.
He showed board members charts that indicated how the new assessments had severely dropped the number of proficient students in the district. In third grade math, for instance, Mr. Rose said 25 percent of the students were proficient in 2009-10, 37.5 percent were proficient in 2010-11 and 48.27 percent were proficient in 2011-12. Then, this year, that dropped to 4.40 percent.
It was the same in third grade ELA, where the number of proficient students from 2009-10 was 49.44 percent, followed by 37.50 percent in 2010-11, 44.78 percent in 2011-12 and 17.9 percent in 2012-13.
Fourth grade was no different, with the number of students who were proficient in math dropping from 48.15 percent in 2011-12 to 14.90 percent in 2012-13, and the number of students who were proficient in ELA dropping from 52.44 percent in 2011-12 to 16.40 percent in 2012-13.
And that trend continued up to eighth grade, according to Mr. Rose.
He also showed data that tracked how a Cohort group of students had done in third grade compared to their performance in fourth grade with the new assessment. In math, 48.27 percent of the students were considered proficient as third graders, and that number dropped to 14.9 percent as fourth graders. In ELA, the number dropped from 44.78 percent as third graders to 16.4 percent as fourth graders.
And although the number of sixth grade students considered proficient in math dropped from 75.90 percent in 2011-12 to 36.90 percent this year, this years number was the highest in St. Lawrence County, Mr. Rose said.
Thomas Morrison, president of St. Lawrence Central United Teachers Local -09-355, said they were standing ready to work with the district to improve student performance based on the most recent scores.
We are committed to seeing those scores rise in subsequent years, he said.
Like Mr. Vigliotti and Mr. Rose, he said the scores had to be looked at on their own.
These tests are a departure from previous years in terms of the standards they cover and the composition of the tests. They cannot be compared to previous ones. They are designed to establish a baseline from which to compare future tests, Mr. Morrison said.
He offered some suggestions to help the district raise the scores, including considering hiring teachers to provide more academic intervention services support to students needing it.
In previous years, we have nominally provided AIS by asking students to stay after school or by doubling them up in classes. This is not enough, Mr. Morrison said.
He also asked that teachers and students be given more class time together as many days as possible, and that the district look into ways to make parents more accountable for ensuring that their children are in school. The absentee rate is too high and we are prepared to assist you in lowering it.
Mr. Morrison also asked board members and administrators to involve teachers in the shared decision making process to come up with initiatives to address the concerns and provide us with the time and resources necessary to develop plans that are more than just shelf art.