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The New York State Department of Education (NYSED) has released the results of the academic year 2006-7 Mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA) examinations for third through eighth grades. These tests measure student performance against standards that educators expect students to master in each of the grades from three through eight. At a recent board of education meeting, Interim Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Dr. Charles Piemonte reported that the Port Washington district exceeds all of the federally mandated benchmarks. He said, "In general, the overall passing and mastery rates continue to increase."

The standardized tests are mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act and administered by the NYSED. Proponents of the law say that it was designed to provide a higher level of accountability, and in doing so can "close the achievement gap, offer more flexibility, give parents more options, and teach students based on what works." (Language paraphrased from the U.S. Department of Education's description.) The mandated "school report cards" are a critical part of implementing the law's accountability requirements. Critics point out that standardized testing is an imperfect indicator of both school and individual performance, provides a limited view of the whole child and the classroom experience, encourages teaching to the test, discourages creativity, and does not incorporate all (or even most) of the components that lead to success in school and in life. In spite of their limitations, however, the test results have become very important to the schools' constituencies.

Following are the district results, by school. Table 1 shows the scores for mathematics and Table 2 for English language arts. Note that this is only the second year that third, fifth, sixth and seventh graders are being tested; previously the tests included only fourth and eighth graders. Also note that the state raised the test standards this year, and because of changed federal regulations, more ELL (English Language Learners) took the regular tests. For these reasons, comparisons from this year to last are not valid.

Third Fourth Fifth Sixth Seventh Eighth
District Overall 92 90 90 90 90 81*
Guggenheim 87 94 87 n/a n/a n/a
John J. Daly 97 78 83 n/a n/a n/a
John P. Sousa 96 97 91 n/a n/a n/a
Manorhaven 81 87 92 n/a n/a n/a
South Salem 98 92 96 n/a n/a n/a
Weber M.S. n/a n/a n/a 90 90 82*

The source for all data is the New York State Department of Education web site. n/a=not applicable. *The difference between these scores is not explained.

Third Fourth Fifth Sixth Seventh Eighth
District Overall 83 89 85 83 82 81*
Guggenheim 75 90 84 n/a n/a n/a
John J. Daly 96 77 76 n/a n/a n/a
John P. Sousa 87 95 94 n/a n/a n/a
Manorhaven 72 83 85 n/a n/a n/a
South Salem 87 97 85 n/a n/a n/a
Weber M.S. n/a n/a n/a 83 82 82*

The source for all data is the New York State Department of Education web site. n/a=not applicable. *The difference between these scores is not explained.

Tables 3 and 4 compare the Port Washington School District's results with the county and the state as a whole.

Third Fourth Fifth Sixth Seventh Eighth
District Overall 92 90 90 90 90 81
Nassau County 95 93 90 86 83 79
NY State 85 80 76 71 66 59
Mathematics results for Port Washington exceeded those for the state as a whole. In general, our district's results were comparable with the county as a whole. According to New York State Education Commissioner Richard Mills, the statewide achievement in Mathematics Grade 3 through 8 has improved this year, most notably in middle school, and among black and Hispanic students, as well as those with disabilities.
Third Fourth Fifth Sixth Seventh Eighth
District Overall 83 89 85 83 82 81
Nassau County 83 87 83 80 75 77
NY State 67 68 68 63 58 57

Port Washington scored significantly higher than the state as a whole in the ELA tests, and in all but third grade somewhat higher than the county. (Editor's note: The state does not provide information as to the statistical significance of score differences, but it is likely that a difference of one or two points is not statistically significant.)

Because the community has in the past expressed strong interest in how Port Washington test scores compared with neighboring schools, the Port News depicts these results in Table 5. It must be pointed out, however, that differences in schools' ethnic and socioeconomic composition make comparisons somewhat invalid. Dr. Nicholas Stirling, recently appointed assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment, said that the Port Washington results were comparable to "similar schools." ("Similar schools," as defined by the NYSED, are schools that are deemed similar on important variables with respect to the school population.)

School Third Fourth Fifth Sixth Seventh Eighth
Port Washington 92 90 90 90 90 81
Great Neck 94 97 96 92 91 88
Herricks 95 97 94 95 95 92
Manhasset 97 94 94 96 94 91
Roslyn 97 96 89 91 92 87
School Third Fourth Fifth Sixth Seventh Eighth
Port Washington 83 89 85 83 82 81
Great Neck 87 89 91 91 87 90
Herricks 87 96 86 87 86 89
Manhasset 91 89 93 94 90 90
Roslyn 88 90 84 89 88 88

Stirling, who came to the Port Washington School District from Westchester, told the Port News, "In general I am pleased with the overall school report card showing improvement in a majority of areas and comparability with 'similar schools.'" He added, "That is not to say that there are not areas where we could improve. There is always room for improvement." Specifically, he mentioned that more work may need to be done with the ELL students. Very recently appointed, Stirling said, "I expect that my first year will be a 'learning year,' to question and continue to 'think outside the box' for the benefit of the kids and to continue the good work that has already taken place." In response to a Port News question about the sometimes marked differences between one grade and another and from one school to another, Stirling said, "A lot of the difference depends on the cohort of students. We are only testing a particular school and a particular grade. We are really comparing general performance, not individual performance." He added, "The results show how the school program is working."

Stirling added, "For someone new to the district, I am not surprised that the scores are very good. This is a district with strong parent involvement, good district support, highly qualified teachers, and a supportive administration." In particular, he credited the board of education as a strong contributing factor to the strength of the schools. He said, "I have had experience with many boards, and this is a very strong one. I am pleased to work with them."

A detailed list of test results for all New York State schools for this and for prior years is posted on the NYSDED web site at http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/irts/.htm.


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