Written by Jill Nossa Friday, 08 October 2010 00:00
It was standing room only in the North Shore High School Alumni Room at last week’s board of education meeting, where Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick presented his report on student performance, quality instruction and test scores. The topic drew attention from the public after the test results were published in local newspapers, and the superintendent said he was prepared to decipher the numbers.
Dr. Melnick said that North Shore Schools is focused on continuous improvement, and he presented a report representing how North Shore compares to other high performing school districts in Nassau County. He said that, over a five-year period, the district’s efforts of improvement have had a positive impact. He said that SAT scores, Regents exam scores and college admissions have improved, and that most graduates feel that they are well prepared upon entering colleges. The question he raised was: “How much focus should be put on test scores and rankings?”
In his report, he showed a chart of test score results from grades eight-11, and went over each subject and its ranking on the Regents exams, providing the public with a demonstration on how “statistics can be misleading.”
For many of the eighth-grade exams, he explained that other school districts test eighth-grade honors students or ninth-graders, while North Shore tests all eighth-graders.
“Every child in the district deserves an equity of opportunity,” he said.
He made a point of stating that some districts only accelerate honors students, and some districts have their A.P. students retake the Regents, which would make their scores higher. He acknowledged that there is room for improvement, and suggested several ways of increasing the percentage of students scoring mastery on the exams. These would include reinstating midterm exams, embedding Regents-type questions into the coursework, and providing an additional opportunity for ongoing reviews of the course material. Unannounced learning walks to collect data on classroom instruction and Regents review courses close to exam time are also steps that could be taken for improvement.
“We need a major philosophical discussion in this community regarding homework and summer reading…we need to be less schizophrenic in our philosophy and perhaps the culture should be shifted to good is good, but…we’re striving for excellent,” Dr. Melnick said.
The meeting was videotaped for a podcast, and both the podcast and the report should be available at www.northshoreschools.org.