7,167 Students Return to School in White Plains. Work Cut Out for Them

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WPCNR SCHOOL DAYS. News and Comment by John F. Bailey. September 9, 2013:

An expected student body of 7,169 students returned to the 5 elementary schools, 2 middle schools and White Plains High School this morning as the 2013-14 school year began for public school students. The day will be officially capped by the first meeting of the Board of Education this evening at 5 Homeside Lane.

To date there has been no statement from the Board of Education on how the district will address the  unprecedentedly low number of students who passed the state assessment tests last spring, which saw 37% of Eighth Graders (who are now entering high school) pass the English assessment and 34% of them pass the math assessment.. On the Grade 5 levels, 29% passed English and 28% passed the mathematics assessment. Official explanation for this drops of passing rates by 23% in English   and 40% in Math is that the State Education Department did not get the new Core Curriculum standards to the district in a timely manner, though core standards were posted in on the SED website at the beginning of the school year.

After raising test scores respectably the last two years on previous assessment tests, the district now finds itself at a stage of identifiying exactly where students went wrong: comprehension of basic concepts, reasoning, basic skills, or lack of communication skills. and the sobering realization that  two thirds of students entering high school today are considerably behind where the district thought they were, or the State Education Department has a near-sighted idea of what kind of comprehension skills in English and math a ninth grader should have.

White Plains parents have been remarkably silent on the test score shock at the decline in White Plains assessment scores. The demographic breakout of performance by ethnic groups in the White Plains district has not been addressed publicly. That is traditionally made available in the school district report card issued by the state in April. The predicition here is, that White Plains African-American and Hispanic students will be shown to be behind substantially their progress as recently as four years ago when the gap in performance between Hispanic and African-American students on assessments had been narrowed to approximately 10%. That has got to be significantly more this year.

Nevertheless, even the so-called high performing districts with a predominantly white population of students have experienced sobering drop offs in passing rates on the 2013 assessment tests, the first under the new Core Curriculum standards.

Chappaqua district saw the number of  8th Grade English students (entering high school this year)  passing drop from 85% passing in 2012 down 14% to 71%. In 5th grade results the students fell 17% to to 72% (down from 89%).

Scarsdale dropped in 8th GradeEnglish scores, too, down from 88% of 8th graders passing in  2012 down to 70% passing in 2013. In Scarsdale’s 5th Grade last year, the students were down to 73% passing in 2013 compared to a lofty 89% in 2012. In Math in the Scarsdale district, the performance when down approximately a third. Only 61% of Scarsdale Eighth Graders entering high school this week passed the 2013 Assessment in Math.

The blame is being placed by educators on the content of the tests being too tough.

But what is the real reason? In the weeks ahead, every school district, not only White Plains has to address where their students are at and bring up up sharply, without banking on a watered down test.

The district has let its students down for a decade, especially Black and Hispanic students.

A great line comes to mind that is so true that ran in a public service commercials in the 1950s:for I believe the United Negro College Fund:

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

 

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