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Local Schools Beating State Averages

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 12:19

Local students score high on English and math tests

Students in the East Hampton, Springs, Montauk, Sag Harbor, and Amagansett School Districts scored higher on state standardized tests, on average, than their peers throughout New York, data released by the state show.

The test results for English and mathematics are still affected, at some schools, by the percentage at which students opt out of the exams. Scores from smaller pools of students taking the tests may not be indicative of overall proficiency rates, school administrators have said. Results vary even more in some districts that have larger populations of students for whom English is not their native language, but who have to take the tests anyway.

The Springs School students largely performed at or better than state averages on the English tests. The highlight was 86.4 percent of the eighth graders scoring proficient or better than proficient — the best average between Hampton Bays and Montauk, data show.

“We’re proud of our test scores when compared to schools with similar demographics,” said Eric Casale, the Springs School principal. “There’s always work

to be done, of course, but I think we’re on the right track.”

He acknowledged that children who are still just learning English must take the tests if they have been here for more than a year, and said that also has an impact, but that they are doing well over all.

“The research says it takes 7 to 10 years to become proficient in a second language,” Mr. Casale said. “If a child is here two to three years and is taking the assessment, it can be a daunting task.”

The Montauk School saw some of the highest English test scores in the region. On the English test, 70 percent of the third graders scored at or better than proficient. For the third as well as the sixth and seventh grades, which reached 67 percent and 61 percent, respectively, Montauk students outperformed both the state average and other local districts.

Jack Perna, Montauk’s superintendent and principal, said the children and teachers there “are wonderful” but also said he thinks the tests “are ridiculous.”

“It’s skewed. It’s so unfair,” he said. “Could you imagine coming in from a different country and in two years you have to take a test in that language? It’s unfair to the other schools who have that population here right now. They’re trying as hard as they can.” He noted the Montauk School does not have a large population of English language learners.

East Hampton students also came in above average, with proficiency rates including 58 percent for the sixth grade, 57 percent for the eighth grade, and 53 percent for the third grade. Sag Harbor Elementary and Pierson Middle School students also registered some good results: 75 percent of the third graders and 65 percent of the eighth graders scored as proficient or better.

The specific state averages for English tests differ for each grade, from the third grade (52 percent), to the fourth grade (48 percent), fifth grade (38 percent), sixth grade (47 percent), seventh grade (40 percent), and eighth grade (also 48 percent).

Beth Doyle, principal of East Hampton’s John M. Marshall Elementary School, said progress has been made, and that the district’s opt-out rates are among the lowest on Long Island, making the results statistically significant.

“In English, it’s always an area we’re striving to do better in because if you are not a good reader then it affects you in all the other subjects as well,” she said. “I’m really pleased with our results as a building, over all,” said Charlie Soriano, the East Hampton Middle School principal. “While there’s always work to do, our jumps . . . in both English language arts and math are a testament to the conscientious planning and preparation of our faculty and to our middle schoolers’ commitment to their studies. It’s a reason to celebrate, but also to keep in mind that this is a one-time look at student performance. There are many measures, not just the state test.”

Students in some districts struggled more with consistency on the math tests, though Sag Harbor seemed to be an exception. In that district, 68 percent of third graders achieved proficiency or better in math, as did 66 percent of the fourth graders and 62 percent of the sixth graders.

Montauk’s proficiency rates in math ranged from 33 percent of the fifth grade to 65 percent of the third grade. In East Hampton, that range was 47 percent in the seventh grade to 58 percent of the fifth grade. In Springs, the lowest proficiency rate was 36 percent in grade six, and the highest was 56 percent in grade four.

The state averages for proficiency rates were 43 percent for the seventh grade, 47 percent for the sixth grade, 46 percent for the fifth grade, 50 percent for the fourth grade, and 55 percent for the third grade. Most eighth graders on the East End don’t take these math exams; instead, they take a Regents exam in algebra that will count toward their high school graduation requirements.

Most “cohorts” of students, meaning children who advance up a grade together, showed improvement from the 2018 tests to those given in 2019. It’s a good sign, some educators say, that students will be successful in higher grades and later in life.

“We want every child to be successful, and not just on tests,” Mr. Casale said. “We want to see it in all aspects. We want them to leave here being able to tackle the rigors of the high school curriculum. We want them to see themselves as lifelong learners and have critical thinking skills that will allow them to be successful. It’s about building a strong foundation.”

Administrators also say that reading into the test results can benefit the kids immediately. For instance, Ms. Doyle used the example of two English-language concepts, “point of view” and “perspective,” and how they are similar but also different. Now, she said, the teachers tell the kids the similarities instead of “teaching them in isolation.”

“We realized that most people and the state use them interchangeably,” she said. “That was an easy fix.”

The Amagansett School, which has among the smallest class sizes in the region, also achieved some sparkling results. All of the third and fifth graders scored as proficient or better on the English and math tests, and the sixth graders were 100 percent proficient in English and 92 percent proficient in math. Results for the fourth grade were not available because too few students took the tests.

Data for Bridgehampton School students were not available for some grades and may not be representative of other grades’ mastery due to very small class sizes and opt-out rates. Data were also not available for the Sagaponack and Wainscott School Districts.


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