Niagara Gazette

July 1, 2013

Middle school test scores on the rise at Lew-Port

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LEWISTON — New York state has adopted a new way of measuring student success. In the old days, the state simply looked at how many students were meeting or exceeding expectations.

It’s much more complicated now, as education has begun gauging student growth, rather than one-off success on tests, to determine who’s passing and who isn’t.

Lewiston-Porter’s Intermediate Education Center was under the state’s spotlight this past week as principal Andrew Auer delivered his school’s report card to the district’s school board.

“What you want to see is your ones and twos go down and your threes and fours go up,” Auer said, explaining the state tests each April are graded on a four-point scale.

Auer’s students each took state assessments in English Language Arts and mathematics, which are given annually to all students in grades three through eight. Additionally, a fourth grade science exam was also used in creating the report.

Data analyzed are from these tests taken in the 2011-12 school year, the most current information made available to the schools.

What sets these scores apart from previous years is the level of difficulty associated with the most recent examination scores. The 11-12 tests were the first based on more rigorous standards ushered in under the new common core education standards.

Looking at students who were in fourth and fifth grades at the time, successful ELA scores increased significantly from year to year, resulting in overall student achievement in the grade level. It’s the third grade scores which reflect lower success rates on the tests. Even compared to like districts like Clarence and Starpoint, Lew-Port lagged behind in students achieving threes and fours in third grade.

The gem of the district’s youngest students showed up on the fourth grade math exam last year, which showed a tremendous increase in mastery, or scores of four, from their third grade test results the year before. Scores of four jumped from roughly 12 percent of the class in 10-11 to 35 percent — 51 students — in 11-12.

The growth at the level brought praise from Superintendent R. Christopher Roser.

“There was huge growth from where these students were as third graders,” he said. “Last year’s results were average at best. These students have done exceptionally well in the new curriculum.”

With the common core focus on ELA and math instruction, standards and growth models have spent less time changing for science instruction.

Despite the alternate focus, the IEC’s science results last year also brought praise. Compared to like districts, Lew-Port was able to hold its own, recording zero scores of one and only eight twos, a total of 6 percent of the grade level. By comparison, 72 percent scored mastery level four as 104 students topped the charts.

“Science is probably our best subject in the school right now,” Auer said.

With all the success in students improving their scores and showing growth from year to year, the district still ran into a slight problem. According to results, the state’s sub-category of students who are economically disadvantaged in the district failed to make adequate yearly progress in math.

The school tested 114 students which qualify for the sub-category.

Though it won’t affect the district yet, there could be some ramifications in the long-term future if the figures remain below expectations. Auer said the solution will require implementing more intervention techniques to identify which students are struggling and maintain a consistent curriculum, thanks to the district’s new investment in common core-based programs.

The loss of a math specialist due to budget cuts doesn’t help, though.

“This means more responsibility on the classroom teacher to implement our intervention plan,” he said.

Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251, or follow on Twitter @timchipp.