The addressed the matter of 11 area public schools that fell short of meeting federal No Child Left Behind proficiency standards for 2011 at its Tuesday meeting at .
Parsippany High School and 10 other schools—the district would not reveal which—failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks in Language Arts Literacy and Mathematics, according to Interim Curriculum and Instruction Director Ruth Anne Estler. At the meeting, she told the board that there are extenuating circumstances to consider.
And she insisted: "Scores didn't drop."
The problem, she said, is that NCLB benchmarks were raised significantly this year.
"The new benchmark makes it look as though we didn't make progress. We made progress, but not enough to meet the new standards required by NCLB," said Estler. "You can't compare how we did this year with last year when scores are a moving target."
As an example of the benchmark changes, the benchmark for the High School Proficiency Assessment in math was 74 percent proficiency. That standard was raised to 86 percent for 2011. The district's overall proficiency level in math for 2011 improved from 79.7 to 80.6 percent--higher than the state average--but still beneath the national benchmark of 86 percent. The HSPA is given to students in 11th grade.
Under the NCLB plan, public schools are tasked with achieving 100 percent proficiency in Language Arts Literacy and Mathematics by 2014.
Estler also noted that scores for educational subgroups--special education, minority group members, economically disadvantaged students--were mixed into the scores of the "general education" population, which also pulls the proficiency percentage downward.
The district will develop a number of action plans to help schools perform better on standardized tests. Strategies, Estler said, will include training staff members on the testing structure, formulating instructional strategies to help teachers teach to the tests, offering test simulations and writing exercises to students, presenting intensive training to at-risk students and putting more emphasis on non-fiction reading and teaching how to handle multiple-choice questions.
Representatives of Eastlake, Rockaway Meadow, Central Middle and Parsippany Hills High schools shared their institutions' ideas for improving test scores.
Superintendent LeRoy Seitz said he was confident Parsippany would prevail in the end.
"The difference between last year and this year is that the bar is set at an extremely high level," he said. "We won't allow our schools not to succeed."
Seitz said the district is looking at other resources and identifying needs. It is also considering ways in which the school day, week and year--and access to instruction and help--may be extended or made available using technology and the Internet.