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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Student scores must improve

Comment: Up until I viewed the New York State Report Card for our high school students today, I was all for getting more money from the state and keeping our school open. Given the predominately white, wealthy and English proficient demographics of our studen body, our report card should be gleaming. After all, according to the report card, our average class size is 16. I was shocked to see that just over 50 percent of our students are getting an 85 in most classes, but I was floored when I saw the scores for our special education population--almost none of our special education students are passing their high school classes with an 85 or better. Even more special education students fall below the 65% passing level. Shameful! If we cannot do better for ALL of our students--including the students WITHOUT disabilities, how dare we ask for more money to remain open?? It is time our teachers and educators start to prove they are worth it. I personally no longer endorse our school wasting taxpayer monies if we not even 60 percent of our English-speaking students achieve proficiency in English. Possibly it is time to close the doors. This report card is just an embarrassment to the taxpayers of this school district. It is one thing to say: Pay your taxes, this is our future. It is another thing to say: Pay your taxes because we are going to squander the money and not give our students a future. This report card is just disgusting!

Answer: I 100% agree that, as a district, we need to do a better job of meeting the needs of our students. But I also want to help you put some things into perspective.

The problems you mentioned in your comment do not just apply to B-P -- these are problems facing school districts across New York State and indeed the entire country. They are the result of unrealistic expectations under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, which calls for (among other things) 100 percent of students reading at grade level by 2014. This goal includes students with moderate to severe learning disabilities, who are held to the same standards as their non-disabled peers.

The situation we're in is best illustrated by the fact that 700 schools in New York State did not make "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) toward meeting the goals set out by NCLB during the 2010-11 school year. To put that in perspective, there are about 700 school districts in all of New York State -- so, on average, one school per district is not meeting AYP (that is, not meeting the goals set out by NCLB).

Just to clarify, the scores you see on school districts' state report cards are student scores on standardized tests -- Regents exams and state exams given to students in grades 3-8. They are not the grades students earn through regular school work over the course of the year that test a greater variety of skills and competencies than are measured on state exams. Over the past several years, New York State has been raising the bar on these exams, making it increasingly difficult for students to show proficiency in a given subject. That being said, I agree: We need to do a better job of helping ALL of our students meet these high standards.

- answered by Stephen Tomlinson, Superintendent of Schools

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