The Port Washington Board of Education started the new school year with poor grades, and a vow to do better.
The board disclosed publicly for the first time that Port’s test scores for new “common core” standards were lower than surrounding communities in many cases, while in some instances Port students outperformed their neighbors.
For instance, Port performed below some neighboring areas in third grade math, coming in above Nassau County and Glen Cove, but below 10 other districts.
Conversely, in eighth grade math, Port outperformed all but one other neighboring district it compared itself to.
Superintendent Kathleen Mooney said Port Washington is a different demographic than neighboring towns. She also said Port test scores are in line with or above the state and Nassau County averages. And every district throughout New York state declined in its test scores for both English language arts and mathematics, which are the targeted areas for elementary and middle schools.
But that didn’t do much to appease residents at the meeting, or even board members. Member after member, including Mooney, said Port Washington has got to do a better job.
“There is always room for improvement,” Mooney said.
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Wafa Westervelt, who made the presentation of the scores, said: “We have some work we need to do, as does everybody.”
Last year was the first year that students in grades 3 to 8 were given state standardized tests based on new “common core” requirements in math and English language arts. “The state got it backward,” Mooney said, with students tested on information they weren’t really prepared for.
Board member William Hohauser put it most colorfully. Last year the hoop was 10 feet tall, he said. The new standards “have made it 14 feet tall and Shaquille O’Neal is guarding the basket,” Hohauser said.
But board members stopped short of what at least one resident in the audience wanted: a resolution against the testing, as some other districts have adopted.
“We need to push back,” the resident said. “I don’t understand why our district isn’t pushing back while other districts are.”
Board President Karen Sloan said the board is considering such a move.
Port Washington is not showing its best face with poor test scores and that’s dangerous, said resident Dave Sattinger.
“This is how our neighbors and people looking to come to the community are going to look at us,” Sattinger said.
Board members said a number of steps are being taken, including bringing in consultants to work with teachers and administrators to better prepare students for the more rigorous standards, and piloting two math programs that are in line with the higher standards and generally keeping the issue in the forefront.