District earns high marks

The recent release of the New York State Department of Education’s (NYSED) report card for the Katonah-Lewisboro school district (KLSD) showed the district is in good standing when compared with past performance and peer districts.

At a recent school board meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Alice Cronin presented compiled data from the state’s report card for the 2011-12 New York State Testing Program (NYSTP) assessments. The Department of Education produces annual report cards for every district and individual school in the state.

NYSTP results

The NYSTP assessments evaluate students in grades 3 through 8 in English/Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics and are designed to see if students are on track to be college and career ready, Ms. Cronin said. The assessments grade students on four levels. According to NYSED, level one indicates a student is performing below the standard for the knowledge and skills expected at that grade level. Level two indicates the student has a partial understanding of the material and meets the very basic standard. Level three and four determine a student is either meeting the proficiency standard or exceeding it, respectively.

English language arts

In grades 3 through 5, between 80% and 88% of the district’s students are considered to be on track in terms of their ELA performance, far outpacing the state’s average performance levels.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Kreutzer has said that one of the most significant indicators to come out of testing is where KLSD falls among its peer districts. Compared with KLSD’s five comparable school districts — Chappaqua, Byram Hills, Bedford, Scarsdale and Harrison — the district fared well and placed in its usual ranking, Dr. Kreutzer said. The specific rankings of these districts as compared with KLSD were kept confidential in Ms. Cronin’s presentation out of respect for those districts’ rights to present their own data first, Ms. Cronin said, but their report cards are available at NYSED.gov.

In grades 3 and 4, KLSD students ranked fourth among peer districts and third in grade 5, with the largest difference in performance being 8.9 percentage points between fourth grade level students and the top performing peer district. The smallest difference was in the fifth grade, with the top performing district exceeding KLSD’s performance by only 1.9 points.

John Jay Middle School also far exceeded state performance levels, with at least 78% of JJMS students in grades 6 through 8 meeting ELA proficiency standards at level 3. Year to year, grades 6 through 8 all had improvements in the percent of students performing at levels 3 and 4, but also had slight decreases in the percent of students exceeding the proficiency standard at level 4, a trend Ms. Cronin said was consistent across the state and in other districts, as well.

When compared with peer districts, KLSD also performed at high levels, ranking second in grade 6, first in grade 7, and fourth in grade 8. The smallest gap in performance between KLSD and peer districts was 1.8 percentage points in grade 6, and the largest, 6.5 points, in grade 8.

Math

In math Katonah-Lewisboro again often outperformed districts from around the state. In grades 3 through 5, between 86% and 90% of students met or exceeded proficiency standards at level 3 or 4.

Grades 3 and 5 both had significant improvements in the percent of students reaching levels 3 and 4 compared with the previous year. Grade 3 rose from 74% to 86%, while grade 5 rose from 84% to 88% and also had a significant increase in the percent of students performing at level 4, rising from 9% to 16%.

Compared with peer districts, KLSD ranked third for grade 3 and fourth for both grades 4 and 5. Districts that performed better than KLSD did so by as little as 0.9 percentage point and as great as 10.2 points.

The middle school also received excellent grades in math, including some significant increases in performance. In the grade 6, students maintained similar performance levels from last year. Grade 6 students performing at a level 3 or 4 proficiency dropped only one percentage point, to 88%, but that was again significantly higher than the 65% of students throughout the state that reached level 3 or 4.

There were also significant year-to-year increases within the district. Grade 7 performance rose by three percentage points to 90% of students performing at a level 3 or 4. One of the single largest increases from year to year was also in grade 7, with 61% of students scoring at level 4, a 10-point increase over the previous year.

Grade 8 had an even better performance, maintaining the number of students performing at levels 2 through 4 at 98%. Students who scored at levels 3 and 4 rose by nine percentage points, to 91%, and students who exceed the standard rose from 37% to 48%.

When compared to peer districts’ math performances, Katonah-Lewisboro ranks a consistent fourth in grades six through eight, with the top peer districts performing between 3.7 and 6.8 points better than KLSD.

Science

Ms. Cronin’s presentation did not delve into the science results in the middle and elementary schools in as much detail as in math and ELA, but did provide an overview that showed moderate to good performances among fourth and eighth grade students, the only students tested by the state for science proficiency. The trend of outperforming the state continued in both grades; the eighth grade saw significant improvement in the percent of students reaching levels 3 and 4, rising from 82% to 91%. At level 4 alone, KLSD rose to 48% of students exceeding the proficiency standard, compared to the previous year’s 37%.

Areas of concern

Year to year the elementary schools saw general improvement and only slight declines of a percentage point or two in some areas. But one grade in particular experienced notable declines in performance when compared with the previous year.

In math and science, the entire fourth grade experienced across-the-board decreases in performance. The percent of students performing at either level 3 or 4 dropped from 93% in 2010-11 to 86% in 2011-12. The percent of students at level 4 dropped from 56% to 51%. The fourth grade had similar issues in science, dropping from 85% to 79% for students performing at level 4, including a decline from 98% to 96% for students performing at levels 3 and 4. For both academic areas, the percent of students performing at level 2 and above were between 97% and 99%, but both experienced single point percentage drops from the previous year.

According to the district’s public relations firm, Syntax, the district does not view the fourth grade results as a decreased performance. Syntax noted that the 2011-12 fourth grade students improved as a cohort from when they were in third grade the year before.

Overall

Among peer districts, the percent of students who are performing at level 2, or otherwise not on track for college and career readiness, differed from the district by between one and three percentage points. In ELA the district ranked third, with the top two districts having 1% and 2% fewer students at level 2. In math Katonah-Lewisboro ranked fourth, with its top peer districts having 2% and 3% fewer students performing at level 2.

“Of course we would love not to have any of our students who the state considers not on track, but it was good to look into that and see our numbers are consistent with how other districts are performing,” Ms. Cronin said.

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  • marion robinson

    Do the other districts spend nearly $33,000 per year to educate one student?

    And why are the tax payers paying for a PR firm so the BOE can spin the results to the community? Can’t the BOE and Administration just tell us honestly without us having to pay for the additional expense of a spin doctor? This is a ridiculous expense that needs to go!

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