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Mineola School District Addresses State Exam Scores

District superintendent details assessment results

The Superintendent of the Mineola School District recently discussed state exam scores and was anything but happy with the end result.

“I’m not pleased with several of them,” Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler said, who was quick to add that in his mind as well as those of faculty they are not truly representative of the district’s achievements.

According to the results first published in the Aug. 9 edition of Newsday, Mineola is below the proficiency average for Nassau County in grade three and six and at or above the average in grades four and eight.

The results of each exam were broken down into several categories of students and how each of the groups performed: special ed, non-special ed,  gender, disabled, etc.

“It’s pretty interesting,” Nagler said of the scores during a recent board of education’s meeting at the Willis Avenue School, noting that the third grade has performed below the county average for the last 5 years. “It seems to be a trend and then when you look at the fourth grade for the same children, it seems to jump over the average.” In the math assessment tests the sixth and eighth grades are above average while the seventh is below average.

On the third grade English Language Arts (ELA) assessment, proficiency was at 65.3 percent. Dr. Nagler noted that of the 190 students in the grade, there is a high percentage of English as a second language (ESL) and special education students, which combine for over 36 percent of the entire grade.

“If you take out the general ed kids, you can see the passing rate jumps to 95 percent,” he said. “So the overall number of 65 accounts for 23 percent of the special ed students and 21 percent of the ESL students.”

Special education can mean a spectrum of impairments from a learning disability or a non-native English speaker, according to Nagler. He added that he did not want to excuse the results, but some of the numbers may be the result of third grade students taking an assessment test for the first time.

In the eighth grade, 13 percent of the grade is comprised of special needs children, which does not account for poor numbers of general ed students.

“I don’t know what the anomaly is, why this occurred, but these are not good numbers,” Dr. Nagler said.

The eighth grade as a whole was 58 percent proficient in the ELA exam while the same students posted an 80 percent on the math exam, according to the board presentation.

“It’s difficult for me to believe that all of these students are 20 percentage points higher in math than they are in English so there’s something going on here,” the superintendent said. “It’s not atypical for middle school grades to go down; across the state we do see that from third to fifth grade results but this we need further investigation.”

In eighth grade a different numbers of students took the English than the math because those students were exempt from the ESL test but not from math test. The determining factor for eligibility is the amount of time spent in the country.

Over the last two years, Mineola has experienced a trend in state exams where 90 percent of students were proficient but then dropped 17 points on subsequent tests.

“In every grade you see the same phenomena happening,” Nagler said, pointing out that in 2009 the eighth grade displayed 91 percent proficiency.

“So what would explain that? All of a sudden all of the children that we have lost every bit of knowledge they gained or there’s something odd with the exam or we’re not teaching something; they’re being tested on something and we’re clearly not teaching it because almost half of the children are missing what is being assessed.”

New York State has been in the process of changing the assessment tests as well as the cut scores, which are applied across the state to “control” how many students pass and fail. At one time Regents exams questions were assigned points, which added up to 100. Currently no points are given as the data is gathered and analyzed before the state determines a number where everything at or above passes.

“I don’t want to use the word ‘manipulation’ but it’s probably the correct word to use,” Dr. Nagler said.

Emphasizing that the numbers “do not define our kids,” Nagler related statistics about a neighboring school district where 97 percent of eighth-graders passed the math Regents while only 85 percent passed the state assessment.

“It’s either the children place a greater importance on the Regents then they did on this test or they’re not aligned; the curriculums are not aligned,” he said.

The state is currently undertaking a switch from Math A and B back to the core curriculum of Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus and the assessments at the same time.

Last year, the school district introduced the Northeast Evaluation Association (NWEA) exams as a better way to inform parents of a child’s growth year-to-year. A presentation on the results of the NWEA exams will be given at tomorrow’s meeting.

“I’m pleased with some and not pleased at all with others,” Nagler said of the achievement scores. “These numbers for every student, these exams, the NWEA results have to be examined by every teacher for every student in their class and the work has to be appropriate for where the student is. That’s what data’s supposed to do for us.”