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Letter: Science Underperforming

Recent articles in the Manhasset Press have highlighted some achievements by Manhasset High School science students that we can all be proud of. Some examples are the accomplishments of the students in the high school research program and the recent announcement that Bernard Liu is an Intel semifinalist.

But all is not going well in our science program. At the October meeting of the board of education Dr. Shine gave a presentation of student performance on the 2009 Regents exams. He presented a table that showed each Regents exam taken with the percent passing, the percent at mastery and other data. The percent at mastery indicates the percent of students that achieved a score of 85 percent or above on that Regents exam. The percent passing on all the Regents exams was excellent with all subjects having 96 percent or better of the students taking the exam passing. There were two exceptions. Physics with 82 percent of students passing and math B with 87 percent passing.

The percent at mastery tells a starkly different story. All of the non math and science courses had a percent mastery of 81 percent or above. English 81 percent mastery. Global history 82 percent. U.S. history 88 percent and Spanish 94 percent to name a few. The science mastery scores were abysmal. Chemistry 41 percent, physics 40 percent, living environment 66 percent and earth science at 70 percent. Math didn’t fare much better with math B at 46 percent. Geometry 58 percent and integrated algebra 74 percent. To be fair, many of the math subjects did not appear in the data and I suspect they would be higher. But, with science mastery scores in physics, chemistry, earth science and living environment lagging far behind the other academic subjects, there can be no question that something needs to be done if Manhasset wants to count itself among the high performing schools in the nation.

I raise this issue in a public letter because no one at the board meeting at which this information was presented expressed any concern about these results—not the public, the board, the parents, nor the superintendent. When this writer used his one comment allowed to criticize the science results the superintendent offered no response to the issue. If the citizens of Manhasset truly want schools of excellence they are going to have to speak up.

 William J. D’Antonio